So it hasn't been the coldest winter, but that hasn't stopped the usual January woes -- it's dark, it's chilly, the holidays are over and, of course, everyone seems to be coming down with something.
Cheer up these midwinter nights with one of life's great pleasures: a beautifully constructed bowl of soup. From spicy kimchi to savory French onion, our staff lists their picks for outstanding bowls around town. (And there's a bonus recipe for those who prefer to cook their own). Grab a spoon and get comfortable.
French onion soup: Sullivans Steakhouse
Call me old-fashioned, but nothing beats a bowl of traditional French onion soup, and the one served at Sullivan's meets all my criteria. Sweet, caramelized onions swim in a salty beef broth topped with crusty French bread and a layer of cheese on top like a warm, gooey blanket. Also, this sandwich-in-a-bowl is a bargain when eaten at the restaurant's bar side (less so if you, like me, also order a Bombay martini, dry with olives, to go with it). In the evening, you can eat it to the accompanying strains of live jazz -- so you can warm up while feeling kind of cool. ($9)
-- Mara Severin, restaurant reviewer, ADN
Pho: Pho Vietnam
You can't talk about great soups without mentioning pho. This nourishing Vietnamese street food has won over the hearts of North Americans and in Anchorage it is offered at over a dozen restaurants. I've recently been favoring the original Pho Vietnam in Midtown, one of my winter staples.
I can't get enough of their perfectly flavored broth, crystal clear with an underlying earthiness brought on by the long simmering of bones and oxtail. It's not overly spiced with star anise, but rich in flavor with a delicate depth that you just won't find in your grandma's chicken noodle, no matter how hard you try. A delicious gluten-free restaurant option, the long, thin rice noodles are plopped into the steaming bowl seconds before being served, making them pleasantly chewy. Top it with a mountain of fresh Thai basil, local sprouts, lime and cilantro. Ask the staff to make it medium spicy (or spicy if you dare) and prepare to melt away those winter blues. ($10-$12)
-- Shannon Kuhn, food and culture columnist, ADN
?Seafood chowder: Fletcher's
I rarely venture into Fletcher's, but the last time I did I stumbled on one of my favorite soups in Anchorage. This chowder isn't the typical Iver's style of thick white stuff in a sourdough bread bowl (not that I've ever turned that down). This more closely resembles the seafood soups I had while living in Finland, which had a thin, creamy broth delicately accented with dill. Fletcher's chowder is liberally enriched with cream and generous pieces of salmon and savory bacon. Eating this dreamy chowder in the exclusive-feeling wing of the Cook is a decadent way to escape the grit-encrusted landscape that is downtown Anchorage in January. ($12)
-- Victoria Barber, features editor, ADN
Kimchi jagae: Corea Blue
Just thinking about the kimchi stew at Corea Blue near Russian Jack should be enough to scare off any future cold germs that are considering your body for a host. Kimchi jagae, as it's called, comes to the table in a cauldron bubbling like a witch's brew. The heat from the red pepper, garlic and ginger flavors the meaty broth to a sinus-clearing degree. Floating in this spicy, pungent broth are chunks of soft, custardy tofu, generous slices of pork belly and fermented cabbage made translucent by the heat of the broth. This is a substantial, sustaining bowlful. Eat with the restaurant's wide selection of banchan and a bowl of steamed rice and you'll have a meal that will nourish your body and satisfy your soul. ($15)
-- Mara Severin
Tomato gorgonzola soup: Sacks Cafe
Tomato soup is one of those dishes I'll attempt at home every few years, only to give up and leave it to the experts. No matter how much research I do on best practices, it always turns out to a thin, acidic, grainy mess. Nothing could be further from the variety that Sacks Cafe serves up, which has a rich, complex flavor perfectly accented with salty gorgonzola cheese. What makes it even more perfect is that it's served up with a bread basket full of the fluffiest focaccia, perfect for dipping. Close runners-up: Snow City Cafe and Nordstrom Cafe. ($4-$6)
-- Victoria Barber
Spicy Yucatan lime with chicken: Bear Tooth Grill
Confession: I have never made soup. I am not sure whether you eat soup or drink soup, or whether soup gets its own action verb. The point: I am not qualified to write even a sentence about soup.
But I am qualified to give you one piece of soup advice: Order the Yucatan lime with chicken from the Bear Tooth.
See, I get sick. A lot. And when my throat hurts, there is no better option in Anchorage than having someone bring me a few bowls of Yucatan lime. Hot, citrusy and smooth, this soup will get you smiling and breathing again in no time. Trust me: Your throat won't know what hit it. (In a good way.)
And what if you aren't sick? I honestly have no idea, but I am sure it's still decent.
My advice: Text around and find someone who is sick right now and bring them some Yucatan lime. You will earn all kinds of brownie points. ($3.50-$5)
-- Vikram Patel, contributor, ADN
This simple tortellini soup recipe is the perfect weeknight option for the end of a chilly day. Tasty little cheesy pasta pouches swirl in colorful, toasty soup that comes together quickly and is extremely versatile -- it can be easily made vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the sausage. And this soup has lots of healthy greens in it, which cook down and take on the rich flavor of the broth. Slice some crusty bread and the whole family will be warm and content.
-- Maya Evoy, food writer, Alaska From Scratch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Italian sausage or smoked sausage
1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups spinach
9 ounces of cheese tortellini (refrigerated variety)
pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Cook 2-3 minutes and add garlic. Add sausage and brown.
2. Pour in tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add tortellini. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Just before tortellini is finished, add spinach and cover. When spinach is wilted, add a generous amount of pepper (to taste) and remove from heat. (This recipe didn't need salt because of the salt in the chicken broth and sausage. If it's too salty, add water.)
3. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve. Adapted from Annie's Eats.