The Nittany Lion Inn's World-Famous Lobster Bisque

This is a photograph of one of the best soups in the world. It is served at Penn State's Nittany Lion Inn, and I go there and enjoy it just a few times a year; usually, during a lunch meeting with colleagues. I carried on about the marvelous, tasty soup in one of my blip postings back in May, which was the last time I ate there.

However, I did not include a photo on that day because . . . well, OK, I have to admit it, I'm a stickler for food details . . . they were fresh out of fancy crackers on that day, and the soup accompanied by plain saltines just didn't photograph as well!

But on this day, I visited the Inn once again with two people who are both colleagues and friends. We had a delightful chat, and yes, each of the three of us ordered a huge bowl of the lobster bisque. Yes, it's $11 for a bowl, but well worth every penny. "Just for SOUP?" my husband asked, incredulous. Yes, just for soup. But some of the best soup on earth, and served with fancy crackers, so there. (Those who are interested may view the full menus here.)

I have been told that this recipe will enable you to make this delicious soup yourself. But I have never been brave enough to try it myself. (What is a "roux," anyway?) I include the link, however, just in case any of the rest of you are brave enough to give it a try!

The soup comes in two sizes: a cup (which is not nearly enough), and a bowl (which is still barely enough). When the waitress came to take our order, we all said we'd have the bisque. She asked me what size serving I wanted. "A bucket," was my reply. She laughed, as did my colleagues, but I was only half kidding.

I hate to admit it but the soup makes me emotional. When my bowl came and it was so beautiful and delicious looking, before I even had a single bite, I was so happy I could have cried. And then far too soon, my bowl was empty and I was tempted to lick it, which is something you do with delicious things at home, but NOT at the Nittany Lion Inn! 

The waitress came back to try to take the bowl away from me, and I nearly cried again. Was I happy to have had the soup, or sad to see it gone? Both, my friends. Here's a point of soup philosophy: life is short; if it's what you really want, go ahead and order the bisque!

I brought along a tiny container of my own, and before I ate the soup, I spooned about a half-cup of it into that container for later, which I now have (with one last fancy cracker) to make the next day's lunch extra special. I admit it is cheating but I don't care.

Oh, and by the way, there was one colleague who was not able to join our merry gang on this day. She has suggested that perhaps we should meet again at the Inn next month, and I have to say I think that's a grand idea. I will give you just one guess as to what I might be having . . .  :-)

I am sorry to say that there are not too many songs I know of about seafood. Here is about as close as I can get: the Beatles, with Octopus's Garden.


Flashback: It is 30 years ago, 1985, and I am sitting in this very same dining room. I am 20 years old, and I have just finished my junior year at Penn State, and applied for a summer internship at a history magazine in Harrisburg, which it turns out I did not get.

Ken, the internship coordinator, has mercy on me, and he introduces me to his friend Steve, who holds a leadership position in (what was called at the time) the Independent Learning department at Penn State; Ken thinks perhaps I can get a summer job there.

And so I meet with Steve over lunch at the Inn for my interview. (No, I do not order the bisque; not yet.) I do not know it yet, but I will be hired as a work/study student for the summer. And Steve does not know it yet, but behind his back, other staff members will make fun of him for interviewing me there; for treating a lowly work/study student to a fancy lunch at the vaunted Nittany Lion Inn.

And I do not know it yet, but that summer work/study job will turn into a fall wage/payroll position, that will eventually turn into a full-time job (the first of several) and a 30-year career in that very same department (which changed its name multiple times over the years): Independent Learning, Distance Education, Penn State World Campus.

Thank you, Ken, for introducing me to your friend. Thank you, Steve, for taking me to lunch, and for taking a chance on hiring this lowly work/study student. Thank you, Penn State, for the many, many wonderful years. And to think, it all started at the Nittany Lion Inn.

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