Cold Comfort

The holidays are over, but winter’s chill calls for a soothing, steaming elixir to warm our bones and bellies.  Dan Gilbert grabs a spoon and dives into a few of the best soup bowls in town. Photography by Katie McGee.

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it:  we’re all kinds of wimps when it comes to cold weather.  I hail from New York, and I know cold—and this isn’t it.  Yet, in these subtropical climes, as soon as the overbearing heat gives way to an early frost after those three gorgeous days of autumn, we begin reciting those old saws, like, “The humidity makes the cold feel colder!”

Fair enough.

But I implore you to embrace the chill—short as it is.  We live here because we love our year-round tans, darn it.  The trade-off is that we also tend to get pummeled with an unhealthy dose of sniffles, aches and fevers once the thermostat falls below 50 degrees.  And, since we can’t exactly stay home from school these days, we require Mom’s favorite remedy to get us through to March.

But, if you’re like me, you live nowhere near your mom and the nearest Jewish deli with a steaming matzo ball soup is … well … in New York.  Even if you’re native, you’re probably in need of a primer on Savannah’s most-effective cold-busting bowls.  My advice: Step away from the chicken noodle, because there’s a whole world of different on the menu today.  Let’s grab our spoons and go.

Thai One On

If you’ve ever experienced the Goat Bomb—an explosive combo of Starland Café’s Thai tomato soup, a generous dollop of goat cheese, and a handful of ciabatta toasts—you’ve probably asked yourself, “What is in this heavenly concoction?!”

Owners John Deaderick and Michael Pritchard willingly share their secret sauce.  First, they take green and yellow squash and sauté them with onions for what seems like forever.  Then they puree the mixture with tomatoes, coconut milk and a combination of Thai spices.

“We use Chaokah coconut milk,”  explains Deaderick.  “We’ve tried to use different brands, but our customers really notice the difference.”

The result is slightly spicy and entirely unique.  It also sets your stuffy head straight in no time.

“We’ve had a bunch of people post on our Facebook page that the Goat Bomb cured their cold,” says Deaderick.

And the name?  Does it derive from that atomic glob of goat cheese melting in the center?

“We call it the Goat Bomb, because it’s ‘the bomb’,” admits Deaderick, sheepishly.  “Which totally dates us and is embarrassing.”

Ah, but the taste is timeless.

Starland Café, 11 E. 41st St., 443-9355, starlanddining.com

Pho Sure

Apparently, the savory Vietnamese broth known as pho cures more than the common cold.

“We get people coming in here all the time with hangovers,” quips Saigon Bistro’s owner Annie Ngo, with a bit of a wink.  “People know how much it helps.  People know.”

With the amount of celebrating this town endures, it’s a wonder we don’t have a ready supply steeping on our stoves.

“It’s not a simple recipe,” explains Ngo.  “We boil the broth with beef bones for almost 24 hours.”  The broth also needs to be strained several times to achieve the magnificent clarity you see in every bowl of the bistro’s specialty.

Jam-packed with your choice of meats, veggies and herbaceous garnishes, Pho is not just a soup; it’s a smorgasbord.

Whether your suffering is self-inflicted or not, this steaming remedy will put you right back up on your feet.

Saigon Bistro, 5700 Waters Ave., 335-2025

Montezuma’s Mercy

Be warned: the Sopa Azteca at the curiously named Tequila’s Town is here to tell Mom’s chicken soup who’s boss.

Melody Rodriguez, PR and social media guru for downtown’s latest entry into authentic Mexican cuisine, swears that this traditional soup is a sure-fire cure for what ails you.

“When you squeeze the lime on top of it, you can’t help but feel better,” she asserts.

Just don’t call it tortilla soup, whatever you do.

“That’s sort of an American version,” jokes Rodriguez.  “People throw chips on everything here!”

Created by Chef Sergio Ortiz and featuring a succulent broth that necessitates three hours of steeping with love, this sublime nectar will have you returning weekly—even when the weather begins to warm.  Rest assured, once Mom tastes it, she’ll understand your newfound devotion.

Tequila’s Town, 109 Whitaker St., 236-3222, tequilastown.com

 

Tequila’s Town Sopa Azteca

Serves 8-10

1 whole fryer chicken, skinned and cut into quarters

3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

2 zucchini squash, cubed

2 carrots, diced

2 ears corn, cut into 1-inch sections

1 chayote squash, cubed

1 tomato, diced

1 whole chile guajillo, diced

1 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 recipe Mexican rice (below)

2 avocados, seeded, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each

1 lime, cut into six wedges

1 cup pico de gallo

Fill a two-gallon stockpot with the chicken, garlic, squash, carrots, corn, tomato, chili and onion, then cover with 12 to 15 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Add the salt and pepper, then turn the heat to medium-low and cook the soup for 2½ to 3 hours, until all of the vegetables are soft and the chicken is so tender it falls easily away from the bone.

Remove the chicken and bones from the stockpot and shred the chicken meat.  Discard the bones.  Pour the broth through a mesh strainer into individual bowls, allowing small bits of vegetables to escape through and punctuate the soup with color and texture.  Add ½ to 1 cup of prepared Mexican rice and chicken meat to each bowl.  Garnish each serving with avocado slices, lime wedges and pico de gallo.

Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small tomato, diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1/4 cup finely diced potato

2 cups long-grain white rice

4 cups water

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the tomato, garlic, green pepper, onion and potato in the olive oil until the onions have caramelized, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Add 2 cups of long-grain white rice and stir until the oil and vegetables coat the rice.  Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil, adding salt to taste.  Let the rice boil for 5 minutes then cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the rice until it is tender, about 45 minutes.

 

 

Stop ’n’ Slurp

 

From bouillabaisses and bisques to chowders and consommés, Savannah offers a veritable plethora of soups to cure what ails us.  Here are four more pots du jour worth mentioning:

 

1Brunswick Stew at Wiley’s Championship BBQ »  If you’re looking for more local fare to boost your immune system, your search begins and ends here with a traditional low country dish from the spot our readers have declared “the best BBQ” place in town.

4700 U.S. Hwy. 80 East, 201-3259,

wileyschampionshipbbq.com

 

2Guatemalan Chicken Soup at Whole Foods Market »  The soup bar at the wonderland that is Whole Foods draws legions of fans.  Among its more flavorful offerings is this thick, hearty, spicy stew, loaded with barley and pumpkin seeds.

1815 E. Victory Drive #101, 358-5829, wholefoodsmarket.com

 

3Lemongrass Soup at Ruan Thai »  Full of intense flavor and even more sinus-clearing spice, this savory potage may have your taste buds screaming just a little and your sniffles begging for mercy.

17 W. Broughton St., 231-6667,

myruanthai.com

 

4Shrimp Soup at Tequila’s Town »  Served only on Sundays when Jimmy the Shrimp Guy comes around, this seafaring special is worth a call ahead and a side trip.

 

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