50 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – In a Pickle? Cook Your Way Out

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  If I lived close by, I could see myself going there a lot.  You can’t beat $2 for a homemade bowl of soup.  It’s cheaper than a can at the grocery store!  But there’s no reason to make a special trip just for the soup.

FINALLY!!!!!  Last soup entry!  I can hardly believe it.

Unfortunately, the actual journey to eating the final soup at PSC (Polish Slavic Center) Cafeteria in Greenpoint, Brooklyn was not what I had hoped for.  I wanted to go out with a bang.  I wanted to have a feast with a bunch of friends.  I wanted the soup to be unique.  It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, after all.

But, since I was in a rush to finish the last few soups during my last few days in NYC, I knew I was going to have to finish this alone.  I saved the pickle soup at PSC for last since it was the most unique – one that I had never heard of before this.  So, at least I was going to have one wish fulfilled.

…or so I thought.

I called the restaurant an hour before I was heading over.  In a thick Polish accent that I could barely understand, the woman said, “No pickle soup.  We have…”

#$(@_$!  I couldn’t understand what soup she said she had left, but I had to go to the restaurant anyway.  I would have no other time, unless I wanted to wait ’til my next NYC visit.

PSC Cafeteria's Barley Soup

Arriving just 20 minutes before they closed, I ordered the one soup they had left – Barley Soup ($2).  More chicken soup with barley instead of noodles.  Exciting.

Chicken, Potatoes, Carrots, Barley & More!

For $2, you get a really large portion filled with carrots, celery, dill, onion, barley, chicken and potato.  The potato made the soup thicker and cloudier than other brothy versions, and, I have to say, I enjoyed it.  It didn’t blow my mind, but it felt very homey.

It was, however, still not a pickle soup.  And that’s why I decided to try making a Polish dill pickle soup myself last night.  Being a pickle lover, I had to know what I missed out on.  And, even though I absolutely love pickles, to the point I get serious cravings for them (I’ve had to stop at a grocery store after drinking one night to pick up a jar), I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like this.  Would it be like drinking the juice from the jar?

I got this recipe from Food.com that lots and lots of reviewers, including ones with Polish relatives, raved about:  http://www.food.com/recipe/polish-dill-pickle-soup-138138.

*******************************************************************

Ingredients

      • 6 cups vegetable stock or 6 cups chicken stock or 6 cups beef stock
      • 4 large dill pickles, shredded
      • 1/2 cup pickle juice, from the pickle jar
      • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
      • 2 tablespoons instant flour
      • 1 cup milk
      • 1 eggs
      • 2 tablespoons soft butter

Garnish

    • chopped fresh dill
    • sour cream
    • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan or soup pot with cover, combine stock, pickles, pickle liquid & potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook covered, over low heat until potatoes start to get soft (about 10 minutes).
  2. Combine flour and milk, add to broth, bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  3. Combine egg and butter and stir into broth.
  4. Return pot to the stove and heat through without boiling. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream and or dill.
*******************************************************************

Here’s what I changed:
– I made my own beef broth, using beef neck bones.  Note:  PSC Cafeteria apparently uses a pork broth base.
– I chopped the potatoes into small cubes, and then mashed them in the pot after they got soft.
– Instead of whole milk, I used fat-free milk (some other reviewers did, too).
– Instead of whole sour cream, I used fat-free sour cream.

I served it as an appetizer for me and JM, and I could tell JM was skeptical.  I was, too.

Polish Dill Pickle Soup - Made by Yours Truly

I didn’t notice the heart-shaped sour cream dollop until I was taking the photo.  Interesting, eh?  I sure as heck put a lot of love into this.  Too bad I didn’t want to finish my bowl.  I really did feel like I was drinking pickle juice and cream, and I was conscious of the fact that all the dairy would really mess up my stomach later (and it did).  I wonder if people who love dirty martini’s would like this.  JM didn’t say “Mmmmmmmm,” but he didn’t object either.  He was even going to take the leftovers for lunch today!

Does PSC Cafeteria’s pickle soup taste similar?  Does it taste a lot better?  I’m still curious.

So there you have it.  The adventure has come to an end.  I’ve obviously learned about some new soups, but, mostly, I think I’ve confirmed that you can’t always believe what the magazines or “professionals” say.  You may not even agree with what I’ve said.  But I’m glad that New York magazine published the December 2009 issue.  It got me to try new things and experience new places.  So yay to that!

Perhaps I’ll see you on my next blog.  Until then, remain SOUPer!  ;op

~ Tynee

PSC Cafeteria
177 Kent Street
Brooklyn, NY 11222
718-349-1033

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


49 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Tortilleria Nixtamal’s Pozole: Plenty of Ingredients But Needs a Dash of Flavor

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  You won’t spend much, and you probably won’t gain any weight, but you won’t taste much either.

Let’s start with the restaurant’s name, Tortilleria Nixtamal.  “Nixtamalization” (“nixtamal” in Mexican Spanish), according to Wikipedia, “refers to a process for the preparation of maize (corn), or other grain, in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled.”  Doing this increases the nutritional value and flavor, so I guess you can feel good about eating tortillas and hominy, which are produced by using this method.

Tortilleria Nixtamal's Pozole (part of "Recovery Special")

That’s good news because there was lots of hominy in Tortilleria Nixtamal’s pozole ($6 bowl, or get a smaller portion as part of their “Recovery Special” combo for $7).  The whole bowl felt healthy.  An almost too-light, non-oily pork broth would be further seasoned after picking from your own personal garnish bar of raw onions, radishes, lettuce, oregano, fresh lime and a tostada.  But a few sprinkles, crumbles and squeezes later, I still craved something bolder.

The hominy provided a nice, chewy texture, and I always love me some pork (pernil), but, overall, it just wasn’t that special.  If I still lived in NYC, I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to get some again.  That would only happen if I lived within a couple blocks and needed to do some recovering.

Tortilleria Nixtamal
104-05 47th Avenue (btwn 104th and 108th Sts)
Corona, NY 11368
718-699-2434
http://www.tortillerianixtamal.com/

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


48 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Cafe Sabarsky’s Goulash Soup: Sorta Makes Me Want to Taste the Goulash King’s Other Goulash Gems

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Sure, it makes me want to try more goulash, but only if it doesn’t cost me as much.  A $13 price tag seems high.

Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner is New York’s “goulash king,” according to New York magazine.  He apparently makes three different kinds with three different meats at three different restaurants:  venison at Wallsé, pork at Blaue Gans and beef at Cafe Sabarsky. It would’ve been a soup princess’ dream to have a sampling of all three at the same time, but my dreams wouldn’t come true this time around.  I had to settle for just the beef Goulash Soup at Cafe Sabarsky ($13).

Cafe Sabarsky’s Goulash Soup

I got over it quickly, though, since the bowl came out soon after I ordered it, and it was very satisfying, especially after taking a nice 40-block stroll over.  Potato chunks, beef cubes, scallions, and what I wrote down as “rye seeds” (but are actually called caraway seeds which are used in rye bread!) accompanied a chunky, dark reddish-brown broth that wasn’t lacking in paprika.  I’ve mentioned before how some soups would be perfect in a cabin on a snowy day, and this is one of them.  It would warm you up and make you feel relaxed and right at home.

The only downside to this goulash was the saltiness.  It became overwhelming towards the end, and I needed to wash it down with some water.

I wonder how Wolfgang Puck would feel about this version since goulash is one of the dishes he’d want to eat as part of his last meal (if you watched this season’s Top Chef, then you know what I’m talking about!).  Would he tell Padma to dethrone Chef Gutenbrunner and tell him to pack his knives and go?

Cafe Sabarsky
(part of the Neue Galerie museum)
1048 5th Avenue (at 86th Street)
New York, NY, 10028
(212) 288-0665
http://www.neuegalerie.org/cafes/sabarsky

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


47 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Allegretti’s Provencale Fish Soup Has Found a New Home

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  From what I’ve read, it sounds like I’d like it.

The bad news – Allegretti closed down around the end of 2010.

The good news – Chef Alain Allegretti took his famous Provençale Fish Soup over to his new restaurant, La Petite Maison, which opened in December 2010 in the old Aquavit space (13-15 West 54th Street).  Officially, they call it “Traditional Provencal fish soup with rouille and garlic crouton” ($14; was $13 at Allegretti Restaurant and $12 when NY mag published their feature).

The bad news – I hadn’t done enough research when I was back in NYC a month ago, so I didn’t realize Chef was already at a new restaurant AND was making the same soup there…so, this means I didn’t try it and won’t be able to tell you what I think about it right now.

The good news – Google is awesome, and lots of people have written about it.  So, here’s some info…

Soup Background
“Always Hungry New York” interviewed Chef Allegretti about his fish soup on June 28, 2010.  If you want to see how to make it, definitely visit the website.  Here’s what I learned: Chef grew up in the South of France, and his grandmother would make fish soup every weekend for the family.  Since her version was extremely fishy, he decided to adapt it to a less fishy, more “American” version for his restaurant.  The hefty price comes from the fact that making it is a long and detailed process, and the ingredients that go into it, such as saffron, are very expensive.  One batch costs about $600, which is insane!  I wonder if I would be able to taste the $$$ and love that goes into this.

Chef Alain Allegretti's Provencale Fish Soup (photo from "Evenings with Peter" blog)

What New York magazine said in their “50 Tastiest Soups” feature in 2009:
“In much the way that Marseille is not known for its pastrami, New York is not a bouillabaisse town. No matter. Not when we have Alain Allegretti’s transporting fish soup at our disposal. Redolent of saffron and garlic and the heady perfume of expertly boiled fish carcasses, it comes in a tiny white bowl but contains an ocean’s worth of flavor.”

What another blogger from “Evenings with Peter” said:
“I don’t like soup for dinner ordinarily and I didn’t like the bouillabaisse too much in Marseilles, but this fish dish demands a standing ovation! Extraordinary!”

What New York Times‘ Frank Bruni’s friend said in 2008:
“’It tastes exactly the way it should,’ she said, rushing the words out as soon as the soup was down. She wanted the rest of us to know. She wanted to crow. She wanted to be done with talking and get back to the soup. She was even making those mm-mm noises, or something oddly close to them, as in the goofy Campbell’s commercials from years ago.

What she meant…was that that it tasted of Mediterranean waters — scorpion fish, rouget — and of Mediterranean sunshine, the tomato flavor robust and true. She meant that it had some proper mischief in it: a blast of fennel, a flicker of Pernod, a murmur of saffron.”  Read full NYT article

What Time Out New York said in 2008:
“Slurping it down, I was left craving one thing: more of their croutons, Gruyère and garlicky rouille—the usual accompaniments—for soaking it up.”  Read full TONY article

What New York Times said recently on March 22, 2011 about the soup, which is now featured at La Petite Maison:
“It arrives on tables with all the flavors and fragrances of that region present and singing in tune: fantastic.”  Read full NYT article about La Petite Maison

Soooo, the good news – I’ll be able to try the soup the next time I’m in NYC.

The bad news – I probably won’t be there for a while.  Hopefully the resto is still in business by the time I get there, and hopefully Chef has the fish soup on the menu that day.  If not, I’m going to think something fishy is going on…

Allegretti – CLOSED

La Petite Maison – NOW OPEN
13-15 W. 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
212.616.9931
http://www.lapetitemaisonnyc.com

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


46 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Tropical Restaurant’s Caldo de Bola: A Soup with Hidden Treasures

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  Lots of flavor.  A variety of ingredients.  It’s like a farmer’s market in a bowl.

I’m back!  Being almost settled into my new apartment in sunny Los Angeles means finally having some breathing room to finish writing about the last five soups.

The night JM and I went to Sripraphai, my original plan was to do a Queens soup marathon and go to Sripraphai, Tropical and Tortilleria Nixtamal.  I only had a few days left before I was moving to LA, so I was trying to bang them out, especially since it’s not easy trekking out to various Queens locations.  But I realized quickly that I was being unrealistic.  JM and I had a lot more packing to do, and we just didn’t have the energy or time to be going on a soup tour.  So we decided to eat at Sripraphai only, and I would finish the rest of my journey during my short NYC biz trip two weeks later.

As I lugged my very full stomach back to the train station, I noticed a sign – Tropical!  Was this the same restaurant I was supposed to try in a different location?  I studied the menu and then googled it, and, yes, it was.  Hallelujah!

I ordered the Caldo de Bola (or Sopa de Bola de Verde) ($9.99) – a traditional soup from the Coastal region in Ecuador – to go.  There was just no way I could eat anymore.  Even in the wee hours of the morning, after some more packing, I didn’t burn any of the Thai food off.  So I heated some up the next day for dinner.

Tropical’s Caldo de Bola

The meaty and cilantro-y broth was filled with huge chunks of carrot, corn on the cob, beef and yuca.  But, as big as these ingredients were, they were overshadowed by the canon ball-sized “meatballs” which were actually green plaintain dumplings filled with ground meat, diced carrots, green peas and pieces of egg.  I thought I had seen and tasted it all until I opened up these hidden treasures.

It was a delicious discovery, but the dumplings were extremely tough to eat with a wimpy plastic spoon that almost broke when I tried to dig in.  Had I not packed my spoons already, I would’ve been able to gobble the soup up a lot more quickly.  I’ll take it as a lesson that I should eat more delicately…like the lady I am.

Tropical
67-22 Roosevelt Ave.
Woodside, NY 11377
718.205.6027
http://www.tropicalrestaurante.com/

Other Locations

88-19 Jamaica Ave.
Woodhaven, NY 11421

36-10 Greenpoint Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11101

62-27 Fresh Pond Rd.
Middle Village, NY 11379

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


45 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Sripraphai’s Tom Kha Gai: I Still Prefer the Other Tom

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  I still like Tom Yum Goong better.

Since many years ago, I had heard a lot about Sripraphai from my Thai friends.  I’d always wanted to try it, but it was rare for anyone to really go out there for some Thai food.  So I was glad to see that this restaurant made the list.  Now I had to go.

It was a tad disappointing to see that the featured soup was Tom Kha Gai ($4.50 small; $8.50 large) since I’m a huge fan of Tom Yum Goong ($5 small; $9 large), but at least it got me to try something new.

The first thing to note is that, while New York Magazine indulged in a large, all you need is a small, unless you’re going to share with a group of friends.  The small alone was extremely filling.  Packed with shrimp, oyster mushrooms and large chunks of chicken, you basically had your dinner entree right there.

Sripraphai's Tom Kha Gai

The coconut milk broth was enhanced by a huge chunk of galangal (ginger), chili peppers, cilantro, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, giving you a nice balance of creamy, sweet and tangy.  I expected the chili peppers to make it extremely spicy, as Thai people like to eat their food, but it wasn’t spicy at all.

It was definitely a delicious soup, but I remain loyal to my Tom Yum (which was actually really good, too) since, as you know, I prefer clear broths, not milky ones.

Sripraphai
64-13 39th Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
718.899.9599
http://www.sripraphairestaurant.com/

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


44 of 50 “Tastiest” Soups in NYC – Perry Street’s Squash Soup: Like a Jackson Pollock Painting

MY TASTEFUL OPINION:  A strong, intriguing bowl.

It’s as if Perry Street and Felidia swapped menus.  I was supposed to try the Chicken Broth with Market Vegetables, Dill and Lime at Perry Street, but, instead, they were serving Squash Soup with Mimolette and Crouton ($10).

Just like Felidia turned a simple chicken soup into something unique, Perry Street spun their Squash Soup into a somewhat crazy work of art.  If you compare it to Dovetail’s butternut squash soup, whereas Dovetail’s was more minimalist and elegant, Perry Street’s was more like a Jackson Pollock painting, especially after you mixed the ingredients together.

Perry Street's Squash Soup

The pureed sweet squash was poured, tableside, atop a mix of shaved mimolette*, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped chives, and crunchy crouton flakes.  Then, just when you thought that was it, they topped that off with some foam that tasted like cheese.

Stir it all together, and what you get is a very complex – and strong – flavor with great textures.  There was even a spicy kick to it that I couldn’t figure out.  Unfortunately, after a while, I started wishing I only had a simple squash puree with some seasoning since it became too heavy and overwhelming for me.  But it’s a bowl that deserves appreciation, and some may really enjoy it.

And, after reading chef Cedric Vongerichten’s quote for his featured chicken broth, it looks like texture and tableside pouring are his things.  From what I’ve seen with his squash soup, I’d actually like to see what he does with his chicken soup.

——

*According to Wikipedia, mimolette is a cow’s milk cheese originally made by the request of Louis XIV, who wanted a French cheese to resemble Edam, a Dutch cheese.  In order to differentiate it from Edam, however, he had it colored orange.  With a grey crust and orange flesh, it looks a lot like a cantaloupe.  And I’m grossed out to know that the grey crust is a result of cheese mites which are intentionally introduced to add flavor.  ICK!!!!!!

——

Perry Street
176 Perry Street (at West St.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 352-1900
http://www.jean-georges.com/

—–

Over $10 – These soups should have a gold leaf in them.

$6 to $10 – You’re not shellin’ out the gold, but also not gettin’ super lucky.

Under $6 – It’s your lucky day!


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