Paris, 1765: A man by the name of Boulanger—first name unknown—dreamt of turning his passion for food into a career. The only problem was that he couldn't afford the steep dues of the Parisian culinary guilds, which strictly regulated everything from baking to roasting to wine-making. His solution? Open a shop for something beyond the realm of guilds: soup-making. And so, the first restaurant was born. The word "restaurant" even pays homage to his quaint shop near the Louvre. Above it, a sign read "Boulanger débite des restaurants divins," or "Boulanger sells restoratives fit for the gods," advertising his heavenly, restorative soups.
Or so goes the story in Larousse Gastronomique, the seminal culinary encyclopedia. The backstory is still hotly contested, but the place of soups in culinary traditions is not. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence of our ancient ancestors making soup over 20,000 years ago. Fast forward a couple hundred centuries, and The Frugal Housewife, the second cookbook to be published in the United States, dedicated an entire chapter dedicated to the delicacy.
Soups are easily my favorite food group, and now that we've (finally) torn off the September page of the calendar, the time is upon us. As a soup-er fan, I order, cook and consume them throughout even the most blistering heat, but they just taste better in sweater weather. Luckily, there are plenty of places to get souped up in Santa Fe, including your own home. Here are some of my favorites around town, as well as an easy recipe to try at home if it's too cozy to leave.
If you need to escape autumn's chill but can't swing a trip down Mexico way, head to Adelita's Mexican Restaurant (3136 Cerillos Road, 474-4897) for their caldo de camarón, or shrimp soup. Served steaming-hot, this tomato-garlic soup full of well-sized shrimp—my "small" order ($11.95) had over a dozen—will chase away the cold and get you in that Yucatán frame of mind. The huge $5 margaritas don't hurt, either.
Soups are integral to diets around the world, which was the inspiration behind the Vinaigrette (709 Don Cubero Alley, 820-9205) "Around the World in 40 Soups" promotion ($4-$7). Between now and April, Chef Erin Wade features soups representing different cultural backgrounds and flavor palates. October's calendar alone ranges from Philadelphia pepper pot to Thai pumpkin laksa. Keep in mind: This is the woman responsible for the pho-sole ($7.75) at Modern General (637 Cerrillos Road, 930-5642), so we're in good hands.
And what's a list of soups in New Mexico without mention of green chile stew? Palacio Café (209 E Palace Ave., 989-3505) offers up one of the best in town for $5 per cup or $7 per bowl. Made in-house everyday by the owners, Damian and Maria Muñoz, this beef-based stew hits all the right notes: spicy, savory, scrumptious. It's a popular lunch spot tight on square footage, so if it's too crowded, give their other location Palacio Café II (227 Don Gaspar Ave., 820-7888) a shot for some wiggle room. The patio is perfect for sunny autumn afternoons.
As the temperature drops and the days shorten, it's sometimes a struggle for me to rally the desire to eat out. One of the great things about soup, though, is how easy it can be to make something super tasty. Growing up, my mom would throw this one together after work. It takes under half an hour from fridge to bowl, and it's a breeze to modify to suit various diets.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped (2-3 cloves)
- One 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes
- Two 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
- 10 ounces fresh cheese tortellini (I use Buitoni, but any brand will do; in the refrigerated dairy section)
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Add garlic and sauté until tender.
- Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer.
- Let simmer 15 minutes.
- Add tortellini and cover then simmer until al dente, about 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep the tortellini from sticking.
- Stir in spinach until wilted.
Garnish with parmesan or shredded mozzarella cheese if you wish. As mentioned, it's easy to adapt to fit your needs—substitute the tortellini with cooked chicken (I usually use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for ease), and it's both low-carb and gluten-free. Score one for you.