Years ago, when chef Ris Lacoste would toy with the idea of writing a cookbook about soup, she planned on calling the chilled soups chapter “Cold Soup Is for Losers.” The chef-owner of Ris has since changed her mind. “There are so many [options] out there, and it’s a fabulous expression of summer’s bounty. All winter long you’ve got French onion soup, and then it comes to a screeching halt. You’re looking for something light and refreshing.”
As summer heats up, many restaurants cool down their soups. While the most common chilled soup is the tomato-based Spanish gazpacho, there are plenty of other cold bowls available. Most feature seasonal produce — because it’s tough to hide inferior flavors in cold dishes, less-than-perfect ingredients simply won’t cut it. “Gazpacho in December is a terrible, terrible idea,” says chef Mike Isabella of the recently opened Graffiato. “It’s going to look and taste like water that’s red.”
At Sou’wester, chef de cuisine Eddie Moran has spun the winter comfort-food combo of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich into a summer treat. His chilled tomato soup — made with heirloom tomatoes and served with a cheese panini — is a dense broth that’s like a savory tomato smoothie and the liquid equivalent of biting into summer’s best veggie.
» 1330 Maryland Ave. SW; 202-787-6990. (Smithsonian)
At Ris, the selection of chilled soups changes regularly. Standards include a cold vichyssoise with potatoes and leeks, above, every Tuesday; a cucumber soup that never comes close to a stove; a melon-champagne blend; and a chilled beet soup with licorice cream and honey liqueur. A recent favorite of Lacoste’s was an Andalusian almond green grape gazpacho invented by sous chef Brian Barszcz. “People were just raving about it,” Lacoste says. “The options are endless, just like hot soups.”
» 2275 L St. NW; 202-730-2500, Risdc.com. (Foggy Bottom)
Chef Michel Richard at Citronelle takes bouillabaisse (a traditional fish stew from Provence, France) and cools it down with his chilled Provencal soup. Served atop a mound of chipped ice — lit from within so it glows — the bowl contains mussels, slivered radishes and jalapeños, along with a business-card-sized crouton smeared with aioli. At the table, the bowl is filled with a heady lobster-saffron broth that cools you faster than a trip to the beach.
» 3000 M St. NW; 202-625-2150, Citronelledc.com.
Restaurant Eve in Alexandria has a chilled pea veloute in its rotating menu. Shallots, butter and milk form the base of the broth, while a hint of fresh mint cuts through the creaminess and lightens it up. It’s like eating your vegetables and brushing your teeth at the same time! Though your dentist might disagree.
» 110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450, Restauranteve.com.
Graffiato will feature a chilled zucchini soup with king crab as the ubiquitous squash starts to take over gardens and farmers markets. While some soups are made solely in the blender, this one is first cooked, then cooled. “You cook the zucchini to get the flavor out of it, and fold in yogurt and herbs,” Isabella says. “Then you put a little garnish in there, a little king crab” to fill it out.
» 707 6th St. NW; 202-289-3600, Graffiatodc.com. (Gallery Place)
Photos by Mel Davis and Kristi McAleese.