That tell-tale nip is in the air at dusk and dawn. Autumn is on its way.
Which makes us think of crockpot chili, homemade chicken noodle soup, creamy tomato soup and all other hot, soothing broths.
Talented types can whip up a batch in their own kitchens, but sometimes, it’s more fun to go out, and let the chefs do the cooking.
Soup selections at most restaurants change daily (hence the phrase soup du jour), but the classics are always good bets. Here are some of our favorites.
- Alioto’s (San Francisco) specializes in local Dungeness crab bisque topped with puff pastry, and New England style clam chowder.
- Restaurant at Wente Vineyards (Livermore) is known for silky butternut squash soup with brown butter, pistachios and parsley oil.
- Level III (San Francisco) get raves for its seafood chowder with clams, scallops, Dungeness crab and cream.
- Duck Club (Lafayette) delights with onion soup gratinèe topped in Gruyére and crispy onions.
- M.Y. China (San Francisco) impresses with beef hand pulled noodle soup with slow simmered rib eye, baby bok choy and star anise.
- Blue Mermaid Chowder House & Bar (San Francisco) crafts delectable Dungeness crab and corn chowder.
- Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar at The Lodge at Sonoma harvests the best of the crop with its cream of cauliflower soup.
- Pescatore (San Francisco) updates a classic of roasted tomato soup with creamy polenta and Parmesan.
- Baker & Banker (San Francisco) makes a sumptuous sunchoke Soup dotted in chanterreles, pine nuts and Meyer lemon.
Finally, turn to Tacolicious (San Francisco) for a body and soul nurturing Azetec chicken soup. You can even make this blissful broth at home.
Aztec Chicken Soup
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
½ tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 whole chicken, cut into quarters
2 dried pasilla chiles
8 Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Fried corn tortilla strips
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Lime, cut into wedges
1. In a large stockpot, place half of the onions, 2 garlic cloves, the carrots, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, and chicken. Fill with enough cold water to cover the chicken by two inches. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
2. Skim off any foam that forms at the top. Once the chicken is fully cooked (about 45 minutes), remove it from the liquid and set aside to cool. Into another pot, strain the stock through a fine strainer and set aside. Discard the vegetables and aromatics. (The first two steps can be skipped by using 4 cans of store-bought stock and a cooked roast chicken, meat removed from the bones.)
3. Preheat the oven to broil and place the whole tomatoes, remaining chopped onion, and remaining whole garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Place on the top rack of the oven and broil until the tomatoes are slightly charred and the onions and garlic are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
4. Put the dried pasilla chiles on a cookie sheet and place them under the broiler until they are slightly toasted (be careful not to let them burn). Remove them from the oven and soak them in warm water 5-10 minutes.
5. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the skins from the tomatoes. Remove the chiles from the soaking water. Place the peeled tomatoes in a blender along with the roasted onion, garlic, and chiles. Puree until smooth.
6. In a thick-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the tomato-chile puree and “fry” it in the oil until it thickens and darkens, 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add 4 quarts of the chicken stock (reserved cooking liquid) to the puree. Let it simmer 10-15 minutes.
7. In the meantime, remove all the meat from the chicken; discard skin and bones. Shred the chicken meat and add to the soup along with the salt. Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes and serve.
8. Garnish with tortilla strips, avocado, cheese, onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
Tip: Soup is just as delicious to-go, so stock up and keep some on-hand in the freezer. To find your favorite, how about a soup tour? Reserve a private limo or Town Car and spend a day exploring your delicious options, one cup at a time.