The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? This week Natalie Morris -- the founder/owner of Good Food Finder (a statewide directory promoting the growth of small farms and food, telling the stories of those who make it and creating a place for those who want to gather around it) lists her five favorite soups in town.
By Natalie Morris
It's 110 degrees outside and yes, I'm thinking about soup. I crave it all: The facial cleansing kind of steaming goodness that comes from a hotpot, the I-just-ate-all-my-vegetables-and-loved-it cold and refreshing kind and everything in between. Soup is the fill-you-up that doesn't tear you down. If I could put out a special request, it would be for some consistent ramen options and a soulful ribollita. In the meantime, give me some bread (and, in some cases a beer!) and let's go.
Tom Kha Gai at Bangkok Thai BBQ I always love this soup and have struggled to find my favorite version of it here in Phoenix, until now. Bangkok Thai BBQ showcases this soup with all the right core ingredients--chicken stock, coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fried chilies--and serves it just the way I like it, in a massive hotpot fit for two people AND a proper leftover meal the next day.
Vegetable Soup at Pane Bianco Comforting....just like my favorite Italian grandmother made with all her leftover ingredients and served me the next day at its peak of flavor. Oh and Marco's bread...
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Chili Peanut Soup at A Touch of European Cafe The soup that only comes around once a year, this secret ingredient soup from the tucked-away Polish restaurant in downtown Glendale is a master blend of balanced flavor. The beauty of owning your own business is that you call the shots and, since Chef Waldemar loves soups of all kinds, a peanut-based, chili and chicken soup is our benefit. (Editor's Note: The day we visited to take a photo, the peanut soup was not available, which is why you see the noodle soup above. But the photographer reported that that one was excellent, too!)
All of Mario Renetto-Etsitty's Soups at Urban Beans Full disclosure: I worked with Mario at the now-defunct Urban Grocery. (And yes, we can talk about that some time.) I was Mario's unofficial soup-tester. There weren't many times that he didn't pass or had to change something up, which proves quite significant given that I don't think I ever tasted any combo more than once. If you are as passionate about soups as I am, you'll want to follow his mind-baffling creativity for them and head over to Urban Beans where he now makes them, and pledge your support for another great business that needs it at the same time.
Peruvian Ceviche at Mi Comida I'm bending my own rules. This may or may not be a soup, but its a liquid and I eat it with a spoon so I'm listing it. This soup-like dish is too good to be left out on a technicality. The cold, slightly sweet tomato base full of perfectly-"cooked" seafood hits your taste buds and life is all good. Add the side of salty popcorn to the goblet its served in and... what the heck? You didn't know it was that easy to just sit back and let go over a bowl of soup.