Chill Out: Seven Cold Summer Soups to Order Now

Soup that isn’t served hot can be a real drag. Unless, of course, it’s cold soup, in which case it is a delightfully refreshing blast of flavor on a hot summer’s day. Here are seven cold summer soups to order now — and the restaurants at which to do so. 

Ajo Blanco
Sometimes referred to as “white gazpacho,” ajo blanco is a subtle Spanish summer delicacy made from ground almonds, garlic, bread, and olive oil for a smooth and cool texture on the tongue. A specialty of the Andalusian region of Spain, you’ll find it at your better tapas restaurants and Spanish wine bars. It is a real hit when it’s on the menu at at Jaleo by José Andrés in Washington, D.C. Give yourself extra points for consuming the superfood that is almonds. [Photo courtesy of Jaleo by José Andrés]

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Borsch
Borsch, or borscht, the storied beet soup of Eastern Europe can be served either hot or cold. A staple in New York’s Jewish community, it inspired the colloquial name of the old resort region in upstate New York: the “Borscht Belt.” But you don’t have to go to the Catskills to enjoy a good bowl of this purple pleasure. If you find yourself in San Francisco, schlep on over to the Inner Richmond district for a sanguine supper at Katia’s Russian Tea Room and Restaurant. Just be sure not to wear white unless your spooning skills are top notch. [Photo courtesy of Katia’s Russian Tea Room and Restaurant]

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Chilled Asparagus Soup
Cold soup, it turns out, can be made from just about any vegetable or fruit, offering a wide array of flavors and textures. Carrots lend their natural sweetness and pair well with fresh herbs, grated ginger, turmeric, and more subtle spices. Leeks bring fragrance to the bland creaminess of potatoes. Avocados, asparagus, fennel — all of these can take the main stage in a sublime cold soup when they are seasonably plentiful. These days, you’ll be able to find a great selection of freshly made soups made with everything from artichokes to zebra squash. At Pub & Kitchen in Philadelphia’s Center City, chef Eli Collins is dazzling diners with a lovely chilled asparagus soup featuring rhubarb, queso fresco, and almonds. [Photo courtesy of Pub & Kitchen]

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Korean Cold Noodle Soup
My completely unanticipated passion for cold soups began at a Korean-Chinese hole-in-the-wall somewhere in northern China where my host ordered us each a bowl of Korean Cold Noodle Soup (naengmyun). A full meal in itself, the large stainless steel bowl was filled with toothy noodles in an icy-cold, sweet, spicy, and tangy beef broth that I can still taste in my mind today. It was topped with an Asian pear, cucumbers, and more sliced beef. I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since. Stateside, Seorabol Korean Restaurant in Philadelphia makes their cold buckwheat noodles by hand in the traditional way. “This is the way Koreans have made and eaten naengmyun for centuries and we plan to keep that tradition and culture alive, even when it is not convenient,” says Seorabol’s chef Chris Cho. Seorabol offers two variations of the dish: bibim naengmyun (spicy mix), pictured, and mool naengmyun (in cold beef broth). Both are guaranteed to delight. [Photo courtesy of Seorabol]

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June Restaurant Weeks: Pre-Summer Savings in Your City

Otto-spaghettiAs you’re planning your delicious summer trips, take a moment to appreciate sublime savings on dining in your city. June restaurant weeks near you include:

* Milwaukee Downtown Dining Week offers up thoughtfully prepared $12.50 lunches + $25-$35 dinners at the city’s best restaurants through June 11. Book a table.

* Triangle Restaurant Week brings you the finest North Carolina dining at a discount with $15 lunches and $20, $25 + $30 dinners through June 14. Book a table.

* Coral Gables Restaurant Week beckons with $19-$35 lunches + $22-$39 dinners through June 28. Book a table.

* Las Vegas Restaurant Week is a sure thing with luxe $20.14 + $30.14 lunches + $30.14, $40.14 + $50.14 dinners at restaurants including OTTO (pictured) among others, June 15-26. Book a table.Continue Reading

Viva Las Vegas: 36 Hours in Sin City

I did something I never thought I would do — willingly go to Las Vegas. For pleasure. In June.  The reason I say willingly is that I’m not at all into gambling, and it is perilously hot in Vegas in June (Triple digits hot!). My best friend Michele and I made the trek to the desert to witness what was rumored to be the final Guns ‘N Roses show, either ever or for quite some time. The concert was so disappointing that the former might be for the best; Axl should hang up his Hot Topic jacket and oversized caballero hat for good. The bright spot in the brief trip was the incredible dining — three amazing and decadent-yet-relatively-affordable meals at highly regarded restaurants: Bouchon, Nobu, and Otto. Please note that I say affordable as each of our meals included multiple courses and glasses — plus a bottle — of wine or sake. Compare this with the $36 (!) we spent on two meager, over-iced Bloody Marys at the casino bar, for some perspective.

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On Our Plate: Restaurant Weeks in Dallas, Tampa Bay, Raleigh + Vegas; Food Shaming + More

orlandoHappenings on and around OpenTable…

* We’re tuning in to the newest season of Top Chef. Find out which restaurants the newest batch of cheftestants hails from.

* Has anyone ever food-shamed you for how you like a particular dish? Shame on them!

* New York City Restaurant Week continues. Three-course $25 lunches and $38 dinners through August 16.

* Pittsburgh Restaurant Week have arrived! Don’t miss steals on meals in the Steel City through August 18.

* Dallas-Fort Worth Restaurant Week continues. Book $25 lunches and $35 or $45 dinners through August 18.

* Costa Mesa Restaurant Week starts tomorrow. Reserve today for up to 40% off on gourmet meals at Costa Mesa’s best eateries, August 16-23.

* Dine Tampa Bay begins tomorrow, too. Enjoy special three-course $25, $35, and $45 dinners through August 30.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week heats up! Get charmed by $15.13-$30.13 lunches and $15.13-$35.13 dinners through August 25.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week is on like Tron. Take advantage of $35 dinners for one or two through August 25.

* Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week reservations are open. Book now for $20 or $30 three-course dinners, and $10 beer or wine pairings at select locations, August 19-25.

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