Soups for the soul: Perfect for a ‘chili’ time of year

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Will Richey uses high-quality, locally sourced ingredients in the menu items at two Revolutionary Soup locations. Photo: Tom McGovern. Will Richey uses high-quality, locally sourced ingredients in the menu items at two Revolutionary Soup locations. Photo: Tom McGovern.

It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s downright frigid some days.

Luckily we have a wide range of freshly prepared stews, chowders and bisques that venture to brothy realms, far beyond the canned stuff. It’s difficult to go wrong with so many options to warm us up and soothe our soul. Here’s a short list to help you get started. Add your own suggestions by commenting on this article at c-ville.com/living.

Revolutionary Soup

This local mainstay (with locations on the Corner and downtown) sees even more business when the temperature drops. As a result, the team at the popular eatery works to keep the menu options (which also include sandwiches, wraps and salads) simultaneously fresh and familiar.

Owner Will Richey explains his approach to planning the soup offerings: “We generally keep a potato, tomato and seafood soup on the menu that changes seasonally, depending on what’s available,” he says. “We shift from light and fresh soups in the summer months to heartier soups in the fall and winter.”

Richey seems to be right on target. As the winter weather makes its belated debut, Rev Soup-goers currently favor the chunky beef stew chock-full of Timbercreek beef and tender root veggies. Also simmering right now: the lamb curry, packed with lentils and spinach and served over rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt and cilantro, as well as Rev’s signature spicy peanut tofu soup, which has been on the menu longer than any other item.

Bizou

Housed in a former diner, the modern Southern fare spot incorporates several rotating soup options on the lunch and dinner menus, largely based on what’s available and in season.

Front of house manager Ben Roth tells us there are a few cooks in the kitchen who make the soup. “There’s no rhyme or reason [to deciding which soups to include], just what they feel like creating,” he says. “If there’s lobster available, we have lobster bisque.”

A current seasonal favorite—a recipe from the restaurant’s Metropolitain days 30 years ago—is the butternut squash bisque. Pureed with carrots and ginger, this velvety combination remains a star at the table through the fall and winter months.

Hamiltons’ at First & Main

Slurp up a sophisticated spoonful of Virginia oyster stew at this fine-casual locale on the Downtown Mall. In addition to regional oysters, the comfort classic comes with slices of tender Double H Farm pork belly and crispy parsnips.

Nude Fude

This lunch-and-dinner spot prides itself on healthy, well-sourced ingredients and a seasonally inspired menu. Among the freshly made soups is a sausage and kale stew, which includes Rock Barn chorizo, smoked potatoes and chickpeas in a hearty pork broth.

Feast!

The upscale grocery store and café in the Main Street Market attracts quite a lunch crowd in large part due to its numerous soup offerings, which feature local ingredients and imaginative flavor combinations.

“The café sells a lot of soup weekly,” says chef Megan Kiernan. “We often end up making two or three soups daily for the rotation.”

During winter, the curried tomato, coconut and kale soup takes the spotlight. The soup is an ode to local ingredients and also includes Berbere, an Ethiopian seasoning blend from The Spice Diva. In addition, the seasonal board has a carrot, coconut and ginger soup and local chicken bone broth.

Lemongrass

Warm up Thai-style on the UVA corner with a steaming bowl of tom yum soup. Spicy and tart, this aromatic base gets its authentic flavors from lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger) and mushrooms with a choice of chicken, tofu or shrimp.

L’etoile Catering

If it’s Wednesday and you’re in the Crozet area, check out the weekly offering from the former fine-dining French restaurant. Since October, the catering-only outfit has been whipping up batches of soups such as kale and sorrel, carrot-ginger and shrimp asparagus bisque, then posting the info online, packing it into a cooler on the front porch and, in true community spirit, leaving an honor box for payment.