We’re entering the hottest leg of the summer, a time when you’re most likely to see the hottest legs of the summer. And between the heat and the calves, you’re going to need to cool off, you pervert. To that effect, chilled soups work double duty, providing respite from the heat while filling you up, and they’re usually a great way to highlight the bounty of summer produce. Lucky for cold soup fetishists, restaurants both trendy and traditional are getting creative, serving up some noteworthy bowls of refreshment.
One such arbiter of cool is ABV, where chef Corey Cova’s perennial chilled spicy tomato soup takes the slightest trip down Mexico way this season. Gone is the garnish of smoked ricotta, replaced with a tumble of chives and a crumble of mild cotija cheese. The soup itself remains mostly the same: nutty, charred edamame bobbing in a purée of fire-roasted heirlooms, San Marzanos, roasted red peppers, ginger, garlic, horseradish oil, chile flakes, and sriracha. To balance all that spice, Cova pours in a smooth potato soup, making this one of the more sophisticated two-for-one specials we’ve come across.
To cool down like a Russian grandma after a day selling knishes in the street, head to the Ocean View Cafe in Brighton Beach for excellent red and green cold borschts; the beet-rich version brings tang and earthiness, while the green variety gets its name thanks to either spinach or sorrel, depending on what the cooks can get their hands on. For a chilled soup that’s a meal unto itself, it’s hard to beat the cafe’s okroshka, a hearty vegetable soup loaded with sour cream, parsley, and chunks of veal. The broth gets an extra-sour kick from kvass, the fermented Eastern and Central European beverage made from dark or light rye bread.
Meanwhile, in Bed-Stuy, chef Justin Warner gives cucumbers a whirl in the blender at Do or Dine. Accented with tender, vanilla-cured scallop ceviche and chive crème fraîche, the balance of sweet, cool, creamy, and sharp exemplifies the best of the genre, packaged in that signature plucky style that has earned Warner praise, accolades, and a place at the Food Network table. On a menu that favors puns for dish names, the straightforward label of “cucumber soup” belies the complexity at work—aromatic and sweet shellfish paired with the freshness of cucumber juice. Another deeply layered and fancy soup comes courtesy of Jeffrey’s Grocery. Poured tableside, the shallow bowl arrives bearing nuggets of poached shrimp and dill fronds scattered around a creamy spring garlic custard. The heftier elements take a bath in a silky, rich potato-leek purée. The way the dish sits in the bowl, it reads halfway between a soup and a proper appetizer. Whatever menu genus it falls under, tempering the brashness of spring garlic in a custard accentuates the silkiness of the soup, while the shrimp provide texture and sweet brine.
Should you find yourself schvitzing in Koreatown, pop into Don’s Bogam BBQ for a bowl of icy-cold naengmyeon. Slicks of fat on the surface of the bracing, chilled beef broth make a tangle of chewy arrowroot noodles glisten. The nearly black noodles are topped with Asian pear and a hardboiled egg that adds further chew to the dish. There’s even more Brooklyn flavor in the demeanor of the folks running the counter at No. 7 Sub inside the Plaza Food Hall, which lends cred to what is essentially a food court for the rich. In keeping with the menu of wacky sandwich combinations (short ribs and grape jelly), the kiosk features a chilled pea soup packed with roasted onions, ham, and pickled blueberries. The astringent fruit pops with a pleasant sourness.
Residents of Carroll Gardens are most likely already familiar with Buttermilk Channel’s deft hand with market vegetables, but this summer’s special of white asparagus soup hiding a jumble of shaved asparagus is one of the more fun exercises in dishes that feature multiple tastes of the same ingredient. The slivers of green asparagus stand out against the mellow nuttiness of the white variety, and the whole bowl gets a dusting of toasted almonds. A few neighborhoods away, at Dear Bushwick, chef Jessica Wilson teases big flavor out of peppery watercress, pairing the slender, crunchy stalks with ginger. With such aggressive ingredients, a dollop of crème fraîche provides a welcome dose of pervasive, mellowing dairy fat.
With nourishment and refreshment sharing the stage, chilled soups are as near-perfect a summer dish as any. Better to skip that fourth iced latte (you know, the one that makes your eye twitch) and opt for some thirst-quenching broth instead.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2013