The weather may not be sweltering, but it's the time of year to start enjoying some refreshing and original chilled soups at some of the city's most notable eating spots. And it's also time to stop being afraid of soup that isn't hot.
Chilled Beet and Turnip Soup With Blue Cheese, Bar Tartine
Recent menus at Bar Tartine have boasted this incredibly delicious, complex chilled soup that is most certainly not your grandmother's borscht (pictured above). It combines cooked and pickled beets into the tangy broth, along with pieces of tender, earthy baby turnips, and it's garnished with house-made blue cheese and greens from the beets and turnips. 561 Valencia Street
Chilled Pea Soup, Frances
Chef Melissa Perello has always had a highly skilled hand with her seasonal soups, and the current option – made with Iacopi English peas and creme fraiche – is no exception. The key to simple soups like this is always in the final execution and seasoning, and this one's spot-on, highlighting the fresh green flavors of spring peas. 3870 17th Street
Gazpacho Del Mercado, Coqueta
At Michael Chiarello's buzzy waterfront Spanish spot you'll find an ever-changing, farmer's market-driven spin on traditional gazpacho. Currently the version on the menu includes heirloom tomatoes mixed with chilled, coal-roasted beet juice, along with Dirty Girl berries, and it's garnished with a liquid-nitrogen-frozen sphere of cucumber granite that thaws and melts into the soup. Recently he was also doing a creamy white version, using Marcona almonds, that was garnished with flower petals, grapes, and a Syrah reduction. Pier 5 on the Embarcadero
Shot of English Pea Soup, Chalkboard
At the Healdsburg restaurant that's in the former Cyrus space, you'll find an economical, bites-friendly menu that's centerer on seasonal vegetables, crudos, and housemade pastas. One favorite item has been this shot of chilled pea soup, which comes garnished with Dungeness crab, creme fraiche, and lemon verbena. 29 North Street, Healdsburg
Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup, Range
Range's chef de cuisine Rachel Sillcocks has made a version of this soup for years, varying the ingredients depending on her mood. She revived it, she says, as cucumber season kicked into high gear and that coincided with our recent May heatwave. "Chilled soups are sometimes a hard sell," she tells us, "but in weather like that, if you want to serve soup, chilled is your only option!" Her soup combines shallots and garlic with Mediterranean cucumbers, avocados, and red wine vinegar. It's all blended together and bound with buttermilk for creaminess and added tang. 842 Valencia Street
RECIPE: Range's Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Mediterranean cucumber, cut into 1” pieces (skins on)
1 avocado, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water
salt, to taste
1. Macerate shallots, garlic, and a pinch of salt in the red wine vinegar for at least 20 minutes.
2. Combine macerated mixture with all remaining ingredients – except the water – in a large bowl. Mix well to combine. Let sit 30 minutes.
3. Puree soup, adding enough of the water in order to achieve the proper consistency. Pass through a chinois. Season to taste with salt. Check consistency and thin with additional water if needed. Chill immediately.