Dining Chicago: Cool Down With Cool Soups

It's July in Chicago and it's humid. Walking around outside during the day feels like going for a stroll through warm soup. When the weather gets like this, there are a few defenses we can take to ameliorate the heat, such as chilled soup. This is a great outlet for chefs to express seasonal flavors in a refreshing way, from a slew of market-fresh gazpachos to chilled carrot soup with sugar snap pea globules frozen in nitrogen, just like mom used to make.

Ada Street's Zoe Schor is a gazpacho gladiator. Along with many other chefs, she loves chilled soups because she feels they are the perfect showcase for seasonal produce. Two of her favorite recipes are an heirloom tomato gazpacho and a watermelon gazpacho jazzed up with jalapeño. The wonderful thing about her gazpachos is they are so simple to prepare, necessitating little more than a blender and the sheer will to enjoy cold soup. For her heirloom tomato gazpacho, she chops heirloom tomatoes from the farmers' market, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, serrano chiles, Spanish onions, cucumbers, and garlic, then combines it all in a blender with cilantro, cubed ciabatta for thickening, sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Voila! For her slightly different take on gazpacho, her watermelon version is a sweet and spicy medley of summer melons, zesty chiles, tomatoes, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, red onions, olive oil, salt, and pepper, with a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar for garnish. Pro tip: if you garnish the balsamic in dots atop the soup, it will resemble black watermelon seeds and it is just darling.

Gazpacho at Lush Wine & Spirits
(Gazpacho at Lush Wine & Spirits)

There's lots more gazpacho going on around Chicago too. While shopping for wine at Lush Wine & Spirits, feel free to tuck into some of their Southwestern-style gazpacho, made with tomatoes, cucumbers, orange bell peppers, red onions, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and corn. The potent olio can be found at the Lush snack bar at the Roscoe Village and West Town locations. At South Water Kitchen, chef Roger Waysok takes gazpacho in a nautical direction by adding poached smoked shrimp to the quenching mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and garlic. Then there's the gazpacho at Stout Barrel House and Galley, which celebrates the sweet bounty of summer with peaches aplenty. And Peachtree Schnapps, 'cause ya know. It's an interesting divergence from the traditional gazpacho formula, incorporating fresh peaches, mint, jalapeños (sensing a theme this summer...), Spanish onions, ginger, shrimp, Jasmine tea (!), Pinot Grigio (!!), chicken stock, mascarpone, honey, nutmeg, and those Schnapps. It's part soup, part tea cocktail, all refreshing.

Gazpacho with shrimp at South Water Kitchen
(Gazpacho with shrimp at South Water Kitchen)

Gazpacho gets most of the chilled soup glory, but chefs are handily proving that there's a lot more to summer soups with crafty, elaborate creations such as the chilled long carrot soup with glacial sugar snap peas at Tru. Yes. The vibrant chilled carrot mixture is poured around shelled sugar snap peas and finished with sugar snap pea globules that have been frozen in nitrogen. If that doesn't remind you of childhood, nothing will. Another pea cooler can be found at Cafe des Architectes, where chef Greg Biggers combines a chilled English pea velouté with mint, fromage blanc, and heirloom carrots with mint meringues. True to form, Blackbird brings the wow factor with a bowlful of chilled spring pea and tofu soup brimming with paddlefish roe, puffed onion, and licorice. Then there's a chilled sorrel and potato soup on the docket at MANA food bar, the vegetarian haven that features seasonal soups for seven to 10 days at a time, cooling things down for summer.

Chilled long carrot soup at Tru
(Chilled long carrot soup at Tru)

Grab a spoon and go forth!