Unless you have A). A Jewish mother or B). Survived flu season in Manhattan, you may not understand why I have spent the last five hours looking for Matzo ball soup in Santa Rosa.
Suffice to say that on a cold, rainy, absolutely miserable Wine Country day, Matzo ball soup (think of it as chicken soup with a Yiddish accent) simultaneously wraps you in warmth and, at least psychologically, drives off any potential bacteria that might have the chutzpah to infect your wet, tired body. You think I’m kidding? Okay, just ask any mom how many times she’s cured a cold with cream of leek soup. I rest my spoon.
Two SR restaurants are rumored to have the magic elixir. Of them, Mac’s Kosher Deli (630 4th St, Santa Rosa, 707.545.3785) seems the most likely candidate.
“Oh honeeeeey,” says a woman who sounds like my Eastern European great grandmother. “Ve used to have ze most wonderful Matzo ball soup. But ze cook, she took the recipe with her when she left. Ve don’t have it anymore.” My grief at this news is palpable. “Honeeeeey,” she says as consolingly as possible. “Ve have a wonderful turkey noodle. You’ll love it.” Close, but no Manichewitz.
Following a food blog rumor, Anatolia (527 4th St Santa Rosa (707.527.7799) may have what I’m jonesing for. “White bean is the soup today,” the woman at the other end of the phone tells me. Uh, no Matzo? She pauses. “Um. Noooooo.” Have you ever had it? “Not that I know of,” she says. Argh.
Consulting my dwindling list of Matzo-maybes, I call Josh Silvers, chef at Syrah (205 5th St, Santa Rosa, 707.568.4002). I’m told this boy knows from Matzo. “We do a great Matzo ball soup at Passover!” he says. “It’s the schmaltz, you know. That’s what makes it so good.” In other words, chicken fat.
Nice to know, but, I mean right now? Today? No. He’s up to his knees in heirloom tomato soup.
I’m 0-and-2 and my stomach’s hitting the four quarter. In a pinch, Matzo’s got a secret Thai equivalent: Tom Ka Gai. Think of it as a more fragrant Matzo without, um, the Matzo balls and a whole bunch of lemongrass, coconut milk, lime and cilantro instead of just plain broth. Okay, its not really anything like Matzo ball soup, but it seems to have the same sort of effect, opening up sinuses, warming the cockles and such. California Thai (522 7th St, Santa Rosa, 707.573.1441) has one of the simplest, but most satisfying versions (Tom Ka Kai) with mushrooms, lots of chicken and a sweet, tart tang of lime and coconut milk.
Still calling around, by 5pm, I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not going to find Matzo today. If nothing else, however, I’ve collected a list of some of my other favorites soups while dreaming of my unfound Matzo. The list…
> Best mushroom Chanterelle mushroom soup with crema and scallions
Café Saint Rose (465 Sebastopol Avenue, Santa Rosa 707.546.2459)
>Best Pho (Vietnamese noodle and meat soup)
Pho Vietnam (711 Stony Point Rd # 8, Santa Rosa, 707.571.7687)
> Best Miso soup
Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant (107 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, 707.763.2300)
> Best Prepared Soups
Safeway Signature Soups: Tuscan Tomato Bisque, Baked Potato with Bacon, Autumn Butternut Squash
Whole Foods: Mushroom Spinach
Café Citti (19049 Hwy. 12, Kenwood, 707.833.2690)
Checkers (523 4th St.,Santa Rosa, 707.578.4000)
What are your favorites?