Best Bets: Hot Ham Croissant, portobello mushroom soup

Tavern on the Green Hot Ham Croissant and Portabello Soup at Serendipity Tea Room.

Photo by Michael Donahue, MIchael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal // Buy this photo

Tavern on the Green Hot Ham Croissant and Portabello Soup at Serendipity Tea Room.

You can find all kinds of pairs -- andirons, bookends, vases, statues -- at Antique Gallery, but the best pair I found recently was the Tavern on the Green Hot Ham Croissant and Portobello Mushroom Soup at Serendipity Tea Room inside the Bartlett mall. The combination was delicious and just the right thing for lunch when there's a chill in the air. Theresa Shute, the restaurant's owner, and cook Johnny Mainor sat down to talk about the popular soup and sandwich combo.

Shute said her restaurant has been at the mall for 16 years. Prior to the restaurant, she owned Simply Elegant catering company.

The sandwich was named after the now-defunct Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York. It's made of ham and Swiss cheese and a special mustard sauce that includes Worcestershire sauce and poppy seeds.

Mainor used to offer several of his soups, including French onion and cabbage beef, as the soup du jour, but the portobello was so popular as the soup of the day that it became the soup every day.

It was based on a soup created by Shute's daughter, Teri Lambuth. Instead of using big portobello mushrooms, Mainor uses baby portobellos or "portobellinis," which he said are more tender and don't have a "mushroomy" taste. "Instead of chopping them up, I put them in a food processor and ground them real fine," he said. "It just looks like pepper in the soup."

Mainor uses a French cream soup mix made by LeGout as his base and adds black pepper, garlic salt and basil.

Brenda Bowers, who lives in Millington, stops in once a week for one or two bowls of the soup. "You can't find it anywhere else," she said, adding: "It's just right."

Sam Bomarito, owner of Pete & Sam's restaurant, is another fan. Mainor brings him a container of soup every week. "It's not overseasoned," Bomarito said. The soup also makes a great au jus for roast, he said.

Serendipity Tea Room is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday inside the Antique Gallery at 6044 Stage Road; (901) 383-1799.

-- Michael Donahue: (901) 529-2797;

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