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January, 2009, Page 139
The chilly weather screams for a steaming, hot bowl of soup, so warm your belly at these valley favorites.
photos by lindy mapes
The Art of Soup Café & Soup
2329 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Art, indeed. Such is the impressionistic approach that compels Art of Soup owner Janet Van Winkle to propose that soup is as good for breakfast as any other time of day, and to fashion unlikely recipes like bacon and egg. (Fear no art: It’s a delicious blend of chicken broth spiked with egg drop, bits of crisp bacon and a dusting of Parmesan.)
While some choices are straightforward, including five soul-restoring chicken soups, Van Winkle also conjures seasonal recipes inspired by daily selections from the local farmers’ markets as well as her personal whim (oh, a divine red lentil sparked with lemon!).
The ever-changing menu is minimal – you can work through a lot of it with her soup “flights” – and inventive vegetarian and vegan options remind us that, yes, soup is good food. On one visit, that meant sensuous curried squash; another time it was puréed white bean with herbs. In art gallery style, BYOB wine pairings are gladly offered, and if the tiny shop’s limited hours don’t fit your schedule, you can call ahead for an appointment.
7114 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale
Vichyssoise is a rich, creamy potato-and-leek soup that’s served cold and garnished with chopped chives. It’s a simple thing; yet, when done correctly, it’s the stuff of dreams. It’s also near impossible to find in the Valley. So genuflections to Metro chef Matthew Taylor, not only for offering it but for improving on the original recipe by unexpectedly adding tahini and a jolt of lemon oil. The result looks like unstirred, off-white paint but is maddeningly delicious, thick and haunted with sesame fragrance.
His other specialty is French onion soup, presented with an indulgence of gruyere capped in a fat, chewy edge over the steaming savory broth, curls of sweet onion and brioche croutons. The cheese is eaten sort of like spaghetti, with strings wrapped forever around a fork and still dripping down your chin until you use your fingers to pull it all apart.
Served in Metro’s industrial-chic ambience, charged with contemporary-Gallic charm, these soups are more than meals. They’re electric, cosmopolitan experiences.
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