Five judges, ranging in age from 21 to "bubbe-in-residence," chose a traditional matzoh ball soup over Stopsky's trendy version at the deli's matzoh ball contest this week.
Admitting his kitchen was struggling to master matzoh balls, Stopsky's owner Jeff Sanderson canvassed the community for a better matzoh ball soup. He invited local matzoh ball makers to enter their best recipes in a "Great Matzoh Ball Showdown," pledging the winning soup would become a menu fixture.
Mercer Island's Paul Sommer won the contest, beating eight competitors--including a team led by executive chef Shane Robinson.
"The panel was seeking their roots," Sanderson says. "We expected that would be the case."
Judges rated each entry for flavor, texture, and visual appeal. They awarded an honorable mention to Robinson, who submitted a dark soup made with roasted chicken broth and spiked with truffle oil.
"We'll probably serve that as well," Sanderson says.
Sommer learned his winning recipe from his grandmother, who died in 1996 at age 100. His matzoh balls were "light and fluffy, on the smaller size," according to Sanderson.
"We had an incredible variety," Sanderson says. "We saw the entire variety of sizes and shapes." One entrant submitted a cakey German-style matzoh ball made with matzoh instead of matzoh meal. "As a former math teacher, I'd call it a rectangular prism," Sanderson says.
Sommer will now work with the kitchen to rescale his recipe for restaurant use. Sanderson anticipates putting the new soup on the menu this fall, when the deli debuts a new menu and adds dinner service.
Sanderson says he was very pleased with the contest. "We came together with each other as a community, as we aim to do," he says.