Saturday, September 30, 2006

Chicken Soup

Hovering over a bowl of golden chicken broth with tiny circles of schmaltz dappling over its surface and green snips of bright dill gathering around half sunken bulges of carrot and potatoes will do you more good than actually slurping up spoonfuls of it. The healing power of chicken soup seems, in the scientific analysis, to arise in fact from the ability of steam to open and clear the sinuses. Maybe.

Recently The WesFoodie was sick. So when it came time for dinner, little held out any attraction except for a nice steamy bowl of chicken soup. To the alley with science! When it comes to nursing an early fall bout of woe I turn to the soup bowl. However, with a head full of sick and the wife doing no better, we had to forego the homemade ecstasy of chicken in the pot and head out to nearby commercial kitchens for our nurturing elixir.

We sampled take out soup from three close-by restaurants, all in Larchmont/Mamaroneck (c’mon, I’m not feeling well): Turquoise, The Nautilus Diner and Cosi (a chain). The resulting supper was not bad, pretty good in fact. We found one great matzo ball, one all around homey tasting authentic Jewish style chicken soup and one fine side bread. Unfortunately, each one came from a different one of the restaurants.

By far the best, most wholesome and all around tasty soup was from Turquoise. This restaurant on Palmer Avenue has gone through some changes. First it was a small take out place with some seats to eat-in. Then it was a small take out place with some seats but mostly a grocery store with Turkish delicacies and imported French cheeses – go figure, there are lots of French families living in Larchmont. Now it’s a full-scale low- to mid-priced restaurant serving Turkish cuisine. But Jewish. Yes, the owners are Turkish Jews and these members of The Tribe cook up some nice yoykh (Yiddish for chicken broth – right!). Theirs is a deeply flavored broth with large pieces of pulled chicken meat, roughly chopped carrots and floating herbs. It’s a full bodied homemade style soup.

The Nautilus Diner makes a good matzo ball. Almost the size of baseballs, they are light but with substance. Not an easy thing to pull off. And I can tell you about some hard little matzo balls I’ve endured – but I won’t. The soup on this particular evening, however, was salty enough to double the size of our digits within minutes of finishing our bowl.

The bread at Cosi - if you haven’t had it you should - is addictive. With the warmth of its crisp and salty crust and light doughy taste, this flat bread made Cosi into a major national chain. It sure beats the bun. The chicken soup itself is dominated by vegetables. The broth has a definite leaf and root flavor – herbs and onions are the lead notes here. The chicken though, comes in less than appealing cubes and the noodles are very small bow-tie like shaped pasta. And, hey, I’ve seen them opening big plastic bags of the stuff and pouring it into a microwave contraption for heating, i.e., those big black kettles they dish the soup out of are for looks only.

All in all, we did pretty well with the soups. I am feeling a bit better and with the holidays upon us I’m inspired to dig out the old knedlach and chicken soup recipes. We’ll see how they measure up against the locals (and a steam machine).

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1895 Palmer Avenue

Nautilus Diner
1240 West Boston Post Road

Various locations including Mamaroneck, Mt. Kisco and Rye

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