"Say Cheese" London, Ont (moved from Ontario board)
This post was a very fortuitous find! I am writing a fictionalized story and the opening scene takes place at Say Cheese. My first readers are clamouring for more details about the "place." Does anyone know what year it opened? Also, was it close to the Latin Quarter in London? Any details you can remember about what it looked like inside, please share them. It was over forty years ago that I was there. I seem to remember yellow painted walls, a large open space, huge windows trimmed in a light coloured wood, a high ceiling. Last thing, was the ?French onion soup on the menu in the summer time? If not, what were the summer highlights? The main thing I remember is the French onion soup with long stretchy mozzarella cheese. Thanks. Love all these details. I wish there was a cookbook for Say Cheese, kind of like the Horn of the Moon Cookbook. Lorraine.
I can't believe I have found this post. I've lived in London Ontario most my life and every year, this time of year, I too think of Say Cheese's cheese soup. Last weekend I was at a gathering, where everyone started talking about Hilary Alderson and her cheese soup. One of the guest said that they were at a party recently where she was one of the guests. People were talking to her about her cheese soup and now in her 80's mentioned that the recipe has never been shared and has decided to leave it to her son. Such drama for a cheese soup....love it!
Anyway, I was looking through one of my Silver Spoon cookbooks and found a recipe for cheese soup that I think I will try. It has beef stock and beer in it as wel. I'll come back and let you know how it turns out.
I wonder if Hilary really knows the impact her cheese soup has made on so many people. :-)
Dear Chow Hounds,
Hilary Alderson here! Thank you all for your interest and for remembering ‘Say Cheese’!
It is such a joy to read peoples’ fond memories of the restaurant and food that served London and community for over 30 years. Our family also holds sweet memories of dedicated customers and staff close to our hearts.
The Cheese Soup recipe has not been shared publicly. Maybe someday . . . . . and if I don’t publish it , it will be left in the family Will !!
I think that one of the secrete ingredients of the ‘Cheese Soup’ and many of our other favourite dishes like Shropshire Stew and Fisherman’s Pie, was the special dining atmosphere. From the carefully-chosen music, to wine tastings, food festivals, the in-house bakery and cheese store, and many little creative touches as we wanted the restaurant to be like no other. We worked over many years to create a warm, relaxed, unpretentious place where regulars were recognized and families could entertain. Where famous and infamous people found a haven from their brightly lit lives, and ordinary folk like us were our VIPs. We were also lucky to have a team of dedicated, inimitable staff (yes, like the late Terry Preston – a waiter who was was loved by hundreds of customers who called him friend)
As for the Cheese Soup: The ‘secret ingredient’ in this recipe is a principle I cook by: Only the very best ingredients - no compromises, and freshly made from ‘scratch‘ every day. No secrets there! The difference between “real” versus “processed cheese, real whole vegetable stock versus pre-made soup bases, slowly cooked for hours versus zap heated, hand stirred versus machine whipped…at every step, I believe it makes a difference to the final taste.
I’ve often been asked to re-create the Cheese soup, but the price of cheeses today, together with the quantity of cheese our recipe calls for, makes it prohibitive to make, especially in smaller quantities.
When I am too old to enjoy going out to parties any longer, I may sit down and write a book about our years growing up with 'Say Cheese' - the wonderful moments, the people, and of course, the recipes.
A little note for ‘Justcallmemartha’ (someone in the know: Nov 2008 ) - the beef bone stock you refer to was actually the base for our classic French Onion Soup. The Cheese Soup was 100 % vegetarian (not Vegan) - developed especially for the big swing to Vegetarianism in the 70’s.
For franca50 - like you, I smile about the myths, the legends and drama this soup, and 'Say Cheese' itself, has generated. Still, at parties, and when we are out-and-about almost anywhere, people often share all sorts of stories they have about the restaurant, cheese shop, wine events, catering, staff, and parties. I continue to relish the positive impact and happy memories that that funky Cheese Place still holds. I smiled hugely when reading that I was recently spotted at a local party and am apparently now in my 80’s (a ways to go until that!)… if that’s how I appeared, it’s obvious it was well past the time that I should have gone home to bed!
Good Luck with your soup recipes - Hilary Alderson
re: HILARY ALDERSON MOON
Hi Hilary I' ve often thought of you and the wonderful time I had working at Say Cheese. I guess I am one of the few people that has the recipe for the cheese soup and the only thing I would verify is that it is vegetarian and expensive to make. I too worked with Terry as well as Josie and most importantlyNigel. Your secret is deffinately safe with me; for to really enjoy the soup it had to be eaten at Say Cheese. P..S. I don't miss the heat of the old bread oven. Adrian Forbes-Leith
re: HILARY ALDERSON MOON
I thoroughly enjoyed working at Say Cheese in the mid '80's. I have lots of memories connected with it, starting from my mom taking me to the first location when I was a little girl, to chasing a thief up the stairs from the Cheese Shop. I think the Fisherman's Pie was one of my favourites. And I still have a scar from the pasta machine. :) I loved the atmosphere in cheese shop, when it was busy, and when it was slower, puttering around putting out samples for customers. I also enjoyed the early Saturday morning meetings. Good memories!
I hope you are well.
re: HILARY ALDERSON MOON
Hello, fellow Chowhound friends. Ok so let's summarize what we do know. We know that the recipe needs only the best, freshest ingredients, real cheese, real whole vegetable stock cooked for hours slowly and hand stirred. So let's get out there and search for a recipe that comparable and share it with everyone.
I tried the one from silver spoon, it was just ok. There must be one out there that at least comes close. Looking forward to hearing from you.
As someone in the know , the following was the stock secret ingredient in the infamous dish that made " Say Cheese " an outstanding restaurant.
The base broth is beef, beef bones bought at the Market and brought back to simmer ( for a day )with garlic and bay leaves. The stock is then set aside in the cooler for three to five days
and stirred occasionally.
Beer is the other key ingredient which is added during the regular cheese soup process.
The above special ingredients make the soup , The Say Cheese signature dish.
Broccoli Chedder soup base was made with chicken base and white wine.
My sister and I have a tendency to cook as did our grandmothers, i.e., no measurement. Tis is my sister's response:
Oh the Say Cheese version was my inspiration for the one that I
generate. I make a roux, to which I add chicken broth and a couple of
cloves of crushed garlic that are easily retrieved. Then some milk, a
whack of cheese and very carefully add just enough beer so that it
doesn't split. I simmer it with cilantro left whole and then I eat it.
Quantities generated vary depending on my craving.
I, too, loved Say Cheese when I was living in London many years ago. That cheese soup...oh man, so good!
As a lover of cheese soups, I have tried many. The recipe for the soup I'm attaching is not the same as Say Cheese's but it satisfies my craving whenever I have it. This has become my go-to cheese soup recipe for the past few years and is as good as any I've tasted. I have no idea where this recipe came from; it was hand-written for me by a relative. The soup is not fancy, just flavourful and a snap to make:
Stilton and Cheddar soup
Saute for 8-10 minutes:
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup chopped carrot
1/2 Cup chopped celery
1 clove of garlic, diced
3 Cup chicken stock
1/2 Cup crumbled Stilton
1/2 Cup diced Old Cheddar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 Cup heavy cream
1/2 Cup white wine
dash of cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf, purée and serve.