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Let's Eat: Remembering the tasty fare at the Ambassador Hotel

The Kitchenman remembers the awesome cabbage soup at the Ambassador Hotel in Downtown Guelph

When living in Guelph during the late 1960's I would hail a taxi or take a bus on Macdonell Street near the Ambassador Hotel.

Alongside the hotel an alley entrance signage led you into a well-seasoned beverage room.

Once inside and immediately your senses come to attention. Regular customers from all walks of life look up from their table attracted by the day light let in. Sturdy period chairs held residents and workers for the daily lunch buffet or a round of beverages. It was cheap and cheerful home comfort dining.

I remember the cook in a paper hat and tattered apron standing next to the soup pot. Gossip was he once was a mess cook in the forces. A little cantankerous with an attitude when you stepped out of line, made a mess or took more than you should.

Always a good meat stew or crock of soup with fresh rolls could be had for $2. A tasty bowl full with a glass of cold draft beer was a good bang for the buck back then. I made several trips monthly when there was more month than paycheck.

The architectural designs of this early period hotel looked so majestic in the sunshine and sure were impressive to me. Historically called the New Western Hotel built by Squire John Fielding back in 1881.This Empire style four floor structure with a central tower and iron sculptured railings adorning a balcony canopy which hung over the entrance.

Back then Macdonell Street was known for the many drinking establishments and was coined 'Whiskey Street'. From 1901 to 1960 three generations of the family owned and operated the hotel. Renamed the Ambassador Hotel in 1950 till 1974 and in 1975 became the Diplomat Hotel.

During the 134 years and on my recent return notice a newly refurbished exterior with a renovated interior housing. Twenty suites and a fourth floor deluxe penthouse suite. I was glad to see the detailed period improvements kept to the original design.

As I stood across the street surveying both sides of this historic corner of Guelph, I recall the many great hot sandwiches, soups, stews with a cold draft consumed at the Ambassador. Here is my retro recipe the cook would have followed for this hearty cabbage soup. It was tasty, hot, nutritious and stuck to your ribs.

Did you know a cabbage is loaded with vitamins, minerals and good digestive enzymes. Just one cup contains a daily dose of: protein, fiber, vitamin K, C, and B6. Folate, manganese, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium which will give your system a daily booster.

Cabbage nutrients sure are impressive. Good for the heart, digestion, decreases inflammation and aids circulation. Cabbage has been a big part of my diet over the years and here is a recipe that once you try will become a regular hearty soup that is easy to personalize using ingredients on hand.

You will need;

One Lb. minced ground beef, pork or poultry

1cup of chopped celery

1 cup of chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 tbsp. minced garlic

28 oz can diced or stewed tomatoes undrained

6 oz can of tomato paste

40 oz of bone stock

2 cups chopped potatoes

1 cup chopped carrots

2 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tbs sugar

1 bay leaf

1 tbs basil

1tbs paprika

1 tsp each salt and pepper.

In a soup pot sauté the ground meat with the celery onions green pepper garlic on medium heat until the meat is browned. Add remaining ingredients except the cabbage. Bring to a rolling simmer for 30 minutes. Now stir in the cut cabbage and continue to cook for another half hour or until the cabbage is tender. Get out some crusty bread, pour a beverage and enjoy.