No matter what the cuisine, there’s something you’ll find in the kitchen of every good restaurant: A massive pot of stock bubbling away on a back burner. Skimmed and simmered for up to 24 hours, it’s a literal melting pot for for roasted bones and vegetable trimmings that comprise the foundation of a hearty, flavorful, steaming bowl of soup.
Though it isn’t until the weather starts turning nasty and noses get sniffly that we really start looking for a warm cup of minestrone, posole, French onion or beef barley. Which is unfortunate, because a well-crafted soup says a lot about the temperament, creativity and patience of a chef. In fact, learning to make a basic stock is one of the first (and most important) things a chef learns. Fail that, and you fail in the kitchen.
So, on the heels of a particularly nasty cold (and subsequent search for healing soups), we asked readers for some of their recommendations, adding in some of our own favorites along the way. Here are some of the best results…
Pork Posole, La Rosa Tequileria: If nothing else, you’ll ward off vampires and anyone wanting to sneak a smooch with this garlicky soup made with tender pork shoulder, hominy and chiles. Served with lime, red onion, cilantro and jalapeño, you can make it as spicy or tame as your palate can tolerate. A huge serving for $8, and a serious sniffle stifler. 500 Fourth St., Santa Rosa., 523-3663.
Matzoh Ball Ramen, The Bird and The Bottle: Barbecued chicken thighs, homemade ramen broth, maitake mushrooms and schmaltzy matzoh balls are surprisingly perfect together. Maybe that’s because both come from granny-approved soups in the Jewish and Japanese tradition. 1055 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, 568-4000.
Chicken Coconut Soup, Thai Time Asian Bistro: Best known to Thai fans as Tom-Kha, this creamy coconut milk soup is infused with lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime leaves. Before slurping, lean over for a fragrant facial steam, then dive in. 402 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, 526-7777.
Corn chowder, Trink’s Cafe: Straddling Mendocino and Sonoma County, the tiny seaside hamlet of Gualala only has a handful of eateries, but Trink’s is truly destination-worthy. Though soups change up according to ingredients and seasons, the pureed corn chowder with micro-greens we tried was outstanding, and was featured for lunch and a special Friday night dinner. 39140 S. Highway One, Gualala, 884-1713.
Minestrone, Fiori’s Grill: There’s a reason this mighty minestrone recipe has been passed down through the years as a staple of the Fiori family restaurants — it’s plain delicious. Made with plenty of beans, tomatoes and Parmesan on top, it’s a locally-famous soup tradition. 722 Village Court, Santa Rosa, 843-7831.
Soft Tofu Soup: Tov Tofu: Soup is even better with an element of danger! Sizzling stone bowls keep soup piping hot — enough to cook a raw egg cracked atop the soup, in seconds. Silky tofu, vegetables and a flavorful broth get a kick from the addition of kimchee and chile sauce. 1169 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa, 566-9469.
Onion Soup, Bistro 29: They call it Soupe des Johnnies. We call it one of our favorite French onion soups on the planet. Made with onions and cider with Gruyere cheese. 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 546-2929. We also had a terrific version at Sonoma Cider Co., made with beef bones, caramelized onions, Sonoma cider and a float of French bread and melty Gruyere. 44F Mill St., Healdsburg, 723-7018.
Hot and Sour Soup, Kirin: A number of Chinese restaurants got nods from readers for their hot and sour soup, though for our money, Kirin gets it right consistently with just the right amount of heat and pucker, loaded with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, egg and and a flavor-packed chicken stock. This is a sure-fire cold beater in our book, loaded with garlic, chile paste, vinegar, ginger and chicken broth. 2700 Yulupa, Santa Rosa, 525-1957.
Butternut squash, Boudin Bakery: This fall favorite is on the menu throughout the year, making it one of our consistent go-tos when we’re feeling cold and blue. It’s not fussy, but a workhorse soup served up in a bread bowl (should you want it) or a la carte with a few slices of sourdough. 2345 Midway, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, 303-4100.
Cauliflower and Apple with Curry Oil, Wishbone: Chef Miriam Donaldson’s current favorite is a sweet-savory cauliflower puree with a kick of curry. Though her soups change up with the seasons and available ingredients from nearby farms (including her own), her beef bone broth and cheesy toast are a standard.
Wonton Soup, Chinois Asian Bistro: Slippery pork wontons in a clear broth make for a hearty but simple soup that many readers say is best at Chinois in Windsor. “Wor” won ton gets added chicken breast and prawns. 186 Windsor River Rd., Windsor 838-4667.
More from BiteClub Readers:
- Clam chowder, Cafe Aquatica, Jenner
- Tomato bisque with fresh crab, Cucina Paradiso, Petaluma
- Clam chowder, Spud Point Crab Co., Bodega Bay
- Pho, Simmer, Petaluma
- French Onion, Underwood Bistro, Graton
- Spicy coconut chicken, Cafe Zazzle, Petaluma
- Wild game chili, Bear Republic, Healdsburg
- Caldo Verde, Portugal’s National Soup, Tasca Tasca, Sonoma
Here’s the rest of the list from BiteClub readers.