“Art & Soup is the VNA’s SIGNATURE event,” said Caryn Hohnholt VP of Fund Development for the Visiting Nurses’ Association (VNA).

At this year’s 16th annual Art & Soup, held at the Embassy Suites in La Vista, 20 Omaha-area restaurants competed for the honor of having the best soup.

Hohnholt said they pulled out all the stops and really put their heart and soul into trying to come up with new and inventive soups.

That was certainly clear this year, which featured everything from Loaded Peruvian Potatoes with Cured Pork Belly and Fatty Brisket Pho to Apple-Squash Bisque with Spice Crème Fraiche and Smoked Salmon Florentine.

Perhaps the best part of the event is that admission allowed you the privilege of sampling as many of the soups as you wanted.

And soup portions were ample and had an assortment of garnishes, including deliciously crispy fried onions and crunchy-spiced peanuts.

Some of the restaurants went all out creatively speaking. 801 Chophouse offered their take on the traditional comfort food, peanut butter and jelly, with a Moroccan Peanut Soup with Siracha Concord Grape Jam.

Over at Attitude on Food’s table, the mood was whimsical with their Caramelized Sweet Potato Soup with Purple Potato Confit, Candied Bacon and, wait for it, Toasted Marshmallow.

These restaurants clearly worked hard to try and win the top prize.

Attendees were invited to vote on which soups they thought were the best.

Catering Creations won first place and decor with their Bangkok Mussel Carnival. Vivace took second place with its Goulash with Lemon Sour Cream and Mustard Spaetzle. And M’s Pub won the People’s Choice and nabbed third place with their Bourbon Butternut Squash Bisque with Maple Glazed Duck, Cranberry Gastrique, Jalapeno Bacon-Walnut Granola and Crème Fraiche.

Lest you think it was only about soup, there were plenty of other goodies to be enjoyed including bits of bundts from Nothing Bundt Cakes, mini cupcakes courtesy of Jones Bros. Cupcakes & Café and iced tea and coffee from Starbucks.

Then there was the art half of Art & Soup. Hohnholt refers to it as an indoor art fair, “50 different artists attend each year and bring their original artwork.”

50% of sales of the artwork and 100% of the proceeds from admission go to support the VNA’s Shelter Nursing Program.

Hohnholt said the VNA provides nursing in all of the Omaha and Council Bluffs homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters.

“A lot of times at the adult shelters though, youth aren’t allowed in without an adult, so there are a lot of youth living on the streets, in cars or in abandoned buildings and we serve them as well,” said Hohnholt.

She said the VNA looks at these individuals’ health needs, helps them with their chronic conditions and connects them with other long-term providers if they can.

Last year, the VNA provided over 8,100 face-to-face visits. Hohnholt said the entire program is philanthropy funded with a big part of that being the Art & Soup event.

“People look forward to it. Many come every year and bring new people. It’s a good time and it benefits a good cause,” she said.

For more information on the VNA, visit www.thevnacares.org.

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