By Valerie Heimerich
Residents of America's Farm-to-Fork Capital have year-round access to fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, and Sacramento chefs take full advantage of such bounty. Soups are a perfect way to celebrate the region's sublime flavors, using everything from subtle, earthy root vegetables, tart citrus, intense spices and juicy melons to redolent bouquet-bombs of local garlic. Meat, dairy, poultry, fish and seafood from California also contribute to the create of soups for every palate.
La Bonne Soupe Café
920 8th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
The French café is very small and guests place their orders directly from the chef at the front counter. The soup specials at La Bonne often include complex and unique recipes, such as pumpkin and coconut crème soup, red curry lamb stew and seafood chowder with salmon, crab, tuna and clams. The Facebook page shows the current soups; keep an eye out for the fresh, earthy taste of artichoke soup with a buttery shot of brie. Potato soups include a version with bacon and sharp cheese, hatch chilies with cheddar and another cheese-laden potato soup with jalapeno. For a unique subtle and savory flavor, sample the orange and carrot soup.
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Fox & Goose Public House
1001 R St.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Fox & Goose is a true Sacramento landmark, having drawn loyal patrons to the same R Street corridor location for more than 40 years. The pub's regular lunch and dinner menus includes two soups created in-house, a zesty black bean vegetarian chili and the specialty of the house, a creamy seafood chowder made Manhattan-style. An additional scratch-made soup is offered each day; favorites have included a rich, decadent creamed potato soup with pungent English stilton, Irish stew and classic Italian wedding soup, the latter named for the culinary marriage of the broth and greens. Seasonal specials include a tomato bisque and creamy butternut squash soup; one stellar and unique seasonal favorite is a cool watermelon gazpacho.
Ben's Huli Huli Chicken, Shave Ice & Hawaiian Café
7967 Auburn Blvd.
Citrus Heights, California 95610
Ben's offers up some of the most authentic Hawaiian food in the region, including tender grilled huli huli chicken, Kahlua pork and cabbage, garlic pineapple shrimp, teriyaki ginger beef and the only true Hawaiian mac salad around. It makes perfect sense, then, that native islanders feel right at home with a steaming bowl of the café's saimin, a traditional Hawaiian state dish. Saimin is a noodle soup, devised by immigrant field hands working on Hawaiian plantations. Ben's offers the broth-based soup in the classic way, with saimin noodles, green onions and char sui barbequed pork. The small, casual café has a genuine island vibe and the cheerful owner treats everyone like "ohana", family.
Muntean's Soups, Salads & Sandwiches
1225 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
This small, unassuming downtown eatery specializes in Greek, Romanian and Hungarian foods, with freshly made soups every day. The regular soup menu offers curry mushroom, barley artichoke, Hungarian beef or chicken stew, smoky salmon chowder, seafood gumbo, mulligatawny, spicy vegetable and more. Past daily specials have included alligator stew, curry polenta soup, rabbit stew and pumpkin and leek soup. Diners can sample before choosing which to have. Much of Muntean's traffic comes from the nearby courthouse and convention center, so the café is typically only open on weekdays.
Steamer's Bakery & Café
101 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Located on the corner of Front Street and K, the quaint café makes all of the soups in house, using local farmer's vegetables whenever possible. Flavors available on the regular menu include bacon-topped clam chowder and white bean and chicken chili. Special soups du jour have been creamy lemon and artichoke, tomato basil bisque, butternut squash and the classic French comfort food soup, ratatouille, made with stewed local vegetables. Steamer's has been in Old Sac for more than 20 years, and the limited outdoor seating is perfect for enjoying savory soup on chilly and brisk afternoons.
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