You Say Tomato, I Say Birley’s Tomato Bisque!

April 17, 2019

When I lived in San Francisco in the early 2000’s, there was a lunch spot at 100 Pine St in the Financial District called Birley’s Café. They served sandwiches, salads and sweets but what I consistently went back for was the SOUP! Even when the takeout soup joint Soup Freaks opened, they still couldn’t hold a candle to Birley’s Tomato Bisque Soup. That, along with a crispy, melty grilled cheese sandwich surpassed the definition of comfort food beyond my wildest imagination!

One afternoon, full of soup, I decided I needed that Tomato Bisque recipe for myself and was scheming about how I could obtain it…sweet talk the chef? Offer the owners an exorbitant amount of money to get a copy or perhaps just some old fashioned on my knees begging?! As I researched how to locate the victims of my scheming, low and behold THE RECIPE WAS ON THE WEBSITE!!! I felt like I’d just hit the Spectacular Soup JACKPOT!

With my ego intact and no shameful activity to report, I printed the recipe, gathered the ingredients (don’t skimp on the marjoram) went home and made the soup. It was delicious and the recipe makes A LOT so you can enjoy it for days or even freeze half for later.

Sadly, Birley’s Cafe is no longer and I have coveted the recipe throughout the years and hope you find it as delightful as I have. It’s meant to be paired with a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich for the ultimate comfort food or enjoyed by itself any time of year. Bon appetit!

Tracey Bartel


Ultimate Comfort Food

Birley’s Tomato Bisque

(Serves 6-8)
¼ pound butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrots
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, quartered
or 2 (1 pound 12 oz cans) whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup marjoram or oregano
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock or veggie stock or cold water
1 pint whipping cream
½ teaspoon paprika
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt, pepper to taste
Melt butter in a large saucepan. Sauté celery, onions and carrots until tender. Stir in flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add your tomatoes, sugar, herbs and stock. Give it a stir and then cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Discard the bay leaf. Blend the soup in a blender or with a blend stick. If using a blender, do it in small batches because hot or warm liquid will expand and shoot out of the blender. Add puree back into soup pot. Add cream, paprika, chili flakes and stir.