I have a confession to make: I love soup. When people ask the question, “If you could only have one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”, I enthusiastically reply, “Soup!”
What is more versatile than soup? It’s like a culinary chameleon that can morph into sweet or savory, warm or chilled, thick and hearty, or thin and refreshing. You can prepare soup for hours or you can throw everything into a blender and have it ready within minutes. I’ve found the six most magically delicious soups in the desert.
• Also read: Best Appetizers Served Cold in the Desert
Watermelon Berry Gazpacho,
Grand Central, Palm Springs
Soup doesn’t always need to be steaming. Soup can also be a cool, light, and refreshing meal made with farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients that balance the desert’s heat. This invigorating concoction at Grand Central combines watermelon, berries, garlic, and pink peppercorns. The soup acts as a light lunch, but also a starter to the restaurant’s mouthwatering lunch menu, which includes such delights as turmeric chicken and the “Desmond Burger” (think seared burger wrapped in prosciutto). The soup is also an instagrammable beauty, pink and sure to garner those “likes”. The soup also includes a side baguette for those, like me, who like to dip and nosh.
The Watermelon Berry Gazpacho at Grand Central Palm Springs is a refreshing chilled soup perfect for those warm summer days.
Butternut Squash Soup, AC3 Restaurant + Bar, Palm Desert
Butternut Squash Soup,
AC3 Restaurant + Bar, Palm Desert
The seasonal soups at AC3 Restaurant + Bar are some of the best I have tasted. Although butternut squash is a fall staple, their version has my loyalty. The key ingredient is roasted apples — a mixture of sweet roasted fruit with the equal parts sweet and savory squash creates a symphony of flavor, tasty at anytime of year. Before you take a spoonful, the aroma of a fall garden fills your senses, while the sprig of sage and a walnut topping almost makes the soup too pretty to eat. This is a good starter to their exquisite dinner entrées of marinated pork loin schnitzel and sesame crusted ahi tuna.
Phở Bò Viên (Meatball Soup)
Pho of the Desert, Indio
I miss Vietnam. When I visited there, I sat on those rickety plastic chairs, dining on tiny tables big enough for a preschooler and slurping down authentic pho. My desert fix comes from one of the highest Yelp-rated restaurants im the desert — Pho of the Desert in Indio. I’m especially partial to the Vietnamese meatball soup. The secret is in the broth, made of beef bones, oxtail, brisket, and flank and simmered for hours with roasted ginger, onions, aniseed, cinnamon sticks, coriander, and cloves. The broth soaks into the rice noodles, onions, cilantro, and meatballs for the ultimate flavor explosion. Creativity ensues when you add all the fixings such as bean sprouts, basil, lime, and the mandatory hot sauce (well, it’s mandatory for me).
The Vietnamese Meatball soup at Pho of the Desert has multiple layers of flavors and textures with all the additional fixings you can add to your bowl.
Heirloom Melon Gazpacho
Juniper Table, Palm Springs
The indoor/outdoor café at the Kimpton Rowan hotel in downtown Palm Springs offers farm-to-table dishes. My favorite excuse to lunch at Juniper Table is to try the gazpacho of the week. Chef Steven Wambach is a master of imaginative soup recipes that lure even the most discerning foodie. In addition to past gazpachos like white asparagus and avocado-cucumber, the heirloom-melon variety is aan explosion of flavors. It is made to perfection with serrano chilis, piquillo peppers, cucumber, shaved fennel, feta cheese, and chili oil. Yes, this soup does have a kick, but a nice, sweet, on-the-back-of-your-heels kick that doesn’t overpower.
Heirloom Melon Gazpacho at Juniper's Table is erupting in flavors that cool the palate, yet gives you a little heat with the added chiles.
Homemade Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
Sherman’s Deli, Palm Desert & Palm Springs
Growing up in Beverly Hills, my weekends were spent at Jewish delis (Nate’n Al, Canter’s, Label’s Table) with family and friends feasting on pastrami sandwiches, potato latkes, and slow-cooked brisket. We almost always started out with matzo ball soup. (The matzo is deeply symbolic in Jewish culture, representing the unleavened bread Jews ate while fleeing Egypt.) At its core, the recipe begins with ground-down bread that is mixed with eggs, water, and fat (usually from oil or chicken); formed into balls; and left to swim in chicken broth. I visit Sherman’s Deli to relive those great memories growing up in a community with authentic Jewish delis on every corner. My order? The homemade chicken soup with a side of one matzo ball. The broth is homemade and so superior to your run-of-the-mill matzo ball soups you may have tried. I make sure to spoon every last sip of that delicious broth because there is no excuse for not licking your bowl clean at Sherman’s.
Homemade Chicken Soup with Matzo Ball at Sherman's Deli is my go-to when I'm feeling homesick. It's the perfect soup for anytime of day or season.
Adobe Grill, La Quinta Resort & Club
I have spent many a Sunday morning hovered over a big bowl of pozole and have tried the dish at just about every location, from little hole-in-the-wall taquerias to upscale restaurants to my friends’ mothers and grandmothers homes. However, the pozole at Adobe Grill has won my heart. The pork stew with hominy, guajillos, lime, radish, onions, and chicharrón is a dynamic combination. Chef Marco Aguilar created the restaurant’s out-of-this-world pozole using snippets of vintage recipes from his grandmother and from his kitchen crew. The result is a truly savory soup with tones of smoke, spice, and tanginess. I highly recommend this soup as a precursor to one of Aguilar’s tantalizing entrées. Pair it with a Cadillac margarita for that hair of the dog effect.
Pozole Rojo at Adobe Grill is my new favorite spot for pozole....because the broth is exquisite and because it just tastes so good after a long Saturday night.