By Denise Ortuno

With temps chilling out in the Coachella Valley, there’s no better way to warm up than with a hot bowl of soup, to feed your belly and soul.

It’s winter time in the CV, where we say a fond farewell to those pesky triple digits, and greet chillier temps with open sweaters. Sure, our winters pale in comparison to other spots in the nation. But hey, when it’s 60 degrees out, and we were hanging out with 110 heat just a few months ago, that 50 degree drop is dramatic, and propels us locals into a fury to warm up (ah the irony). You can spot a local from a snow bird quickly, just look for someone wearing boots and a jacket, juxtaposed next to someone wearing shorts and sandals, you get the picture.

One great way to take off some of that chill, is with a warm bowl of liquid goodness. There is something about soup that is comforting, that gives a sincere food hug, like Campbell’s says, “Soup is good food”. Many Coachella Valley restaurants have bowls of toasty love just waiting for you, the following are some of my faves.

Thai Smile-Tom Yum Kai Soup. I can easily conjure up the taste of this soup from Thai Smile in Palm Desert. I recall first trying it at their original location in Rancho Mirage, before they moved to El Paseo. I fell for the soup with the first spoon full and have been a fan ever since. Their Tom Yum Kai is a spicy chicken soup with chili paste, galanga, ginger, lemon grass, lime juice, mushrooms, tomato, topped with cilantro. It is a popular Thai soup, and is offered at different Thai restaurants, but something about the Tom Yum Kai at Thai Smile sets them apart, and keeps me coming back for more than just another spoonful.

India Oven-Muligatawany. When I first discovered India Oven in Cathedral City last year, I was amazed that I hadn’t been there way before. I loved everything about it, from its incredible food, to quaint ambience and super friendly service. But it wasn’t until my second trip that I added another reason to adore the restaurant, their Muligatawany soup. It was actually my boyfriend who wanted to order it, I was still enamored with my Murgh Makhani (Tandori chicken in a butter gravy). The last time we were there, he had overheard a women who was dinning solo, order the soup and some Naan, and that was it. He was intrigued and vowed to order it on our next visit there.  The soup takes a little bit to arrive, as it is made to order, but it is more than worth the wait. The soup came out and “Oh my goodness!” Serious yum factor. It is a stick to your ribs kind of soup, hearty, spicy, with a solid foundation. Now with every visit we take to India Oven, the Muligatawany is a staple. That woman knew what she was doing.

Alps Village-Chicken Cabbage Soup/Chilled Cucumber Soup- Alps Village in Palm Desert is another place that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t gone to before. It is now high on my list of Coachella Valley restaurants. The cozy feel of the restaurant transports you to a rustic mountain chalet, with fresh amazing food, and sincere service, led by Blanka Sanin and her family. Besides favorites such as their massive Pretzel with Kajmak cheese, and Grilled Sausage Platter, (and the list goes on), are their soups. If you’re talking about needing something that will cure what ails you, then you’re talking about their Chicken Cabbage Soup. The hot soup will not only heat you up, but may also just have some medicinal purposes as it warms you from the inside out. Another one of their soups is their Chilled Cucumber soup. This soups soothing texture is refreshing, and also satisfying. Top those both off with one of their beers or cocktails from the bar, and you will really be toasty. 

Cuistot-Lobster Bisque- Cuistot’s in Palm Desert is without a doubt one of the most beautiful restaurants in the Coachella Valley. It has a grand feel to it upon entering, with accents of a romantic French Inn. The upscale restaurants Chef and owner Bernard Dervieux has been delighting his guests with his French cuisine for decades. There are multitude of menu items that I gravitate to at Cuistot’s, and one of them is their Lobster Bisque. Maybe I love it so much because it comes out in an adorable copper pot, before it is poured gently into a bowl. But that would be a shallow bowl, of which I am not. No, I wouldn’t care if the bisque came out in a porcelain mug, it would still be the best Lobster Bisque that I have ever had. The velvet texture and deep burnt orange hue make the bisque aesthetically delicious, but then spoon reaches mouth and the true romance begins. The lobster with the sherry veloute (cream sauce) is undeniably rich, but yet somehow slips effortlessly through every taste bud electrifying each one. Pieces of lobster meat serve as an added bonus, as if it was an unexpected gift. Add some of their crusty French bread and a glass of wine, and I tell you, I am good to go with this luxurious soup experience.

Pho Vu- Pho Vietnamese Noodle Soup. This hot bowl of infinite goodness gets its life from the extraordinary broth that is the foundation and the depth of the soup. The broth is born from ingredients such as beef shank, roasted onions, herbs and spices which include coriander, fennel, cloves and star anise. All of the flavors of the ingredients are adhered together in a hot bath simmering for up to 14 hours. Afterwards rice noodles are inserted and the soup is topped with scallions, cilantro and onions. There are a variety of ways to order the Pho soup. You can have it with everything from plain, to Brisket, Eye Round Steak, Spicy Lemongrass Pork or my fave, the Shrimp (#17). No matter how you order it, the Pho is served with a side of bean sprouts, basil leaves, jalapenos and lime, for you to add to your liking. And of course there is plenty of Siracha, and Hoisin, as well as their house made “dare if you will” chili paste, to give your Pho that extra kick. It’s Pho-tastic!

There are all kinds of ways to warm up this winter in the Coachella Valley, and these soup stars are sure to take the burr off your skin and put some yum in your belly.

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