Simmer Up Comfort for the Season


Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

by Linda Mensinga

Butternut squash is hands down the fall’s most iconic soup, an ongoing favorite that inspires countless variation in kitchens everywhere. Pumpkin, lentil, leek and pepper soups also make appearances on local menus. We surveyed chefs about their plans for the season’s menus. Soup’s comfort food status guarantees the beloved classics never go out of style.


Rosti Tuscan Kitchen is just one of many who will feature butternut squash soup, one of their top sellers along with Tuscan lentil and minestrone. “We serve a Tuscan beef stew each year. Guests call in to see when it’s available,” said Kevin Goldfein, Owner/Operator. Ecco Restaurant at the Camp in Costa Mesa brings fall into focus with another butternut squash soup. Their version, by Chef Kris Kirk, is made with pancetta, spiced creme fraiche and sage. Minestrone and Italian wedding soup are regular menu favorites. Kirk noted less cream and bigger spice in his soups meeting guest demands for healthier items. This year Kirk plans to incorporate fennel pollen and truffle salt into his soups.

At Daily Grill in Woodland Hills, butternut squash joins gazpacho, Manhattan clam chowder, split pea and chicken noodle on the menu by Chef Phil Kastel. Matador Cantina Chef David Dennis also offers a butternut or pumpkin soup but tops his creamy puree with pepitas and creme fraiche. He’ll also make chipotle, corn chowder, tortilla and pozole. Their bestseller is albondigas. “It’s our house made specialty, done in seasoned tomato-based beef stock with meatballs, bacon, fresh vegetables and rice,” he said.

“Due to popular demand, the butternut squash & leek bisque is always the seasonal choice!” said Mark McDonald, Chef at Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa’s earthy mall, The Camp. His porcini mushroom bisque is an ongoing best seller. Chef Jenny Ross at 118 Degrees – Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa serves her butternut squash soup with fresh rosemary and butternut crisps. She turns up the volume by adding chilies, corn, red bell pepper and chili squash to her tomato soup that comes with avocado and corn chips. Her shitake miso soup, another favorite, has healthful fresh seaweed and scallions.

Executive Chef Pangilinan at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge in Costa Mesa makes vegetable based soups that vary with what’s freshest that season. “In the fall I like to make sunchoke and green apple or celery root with black truffle. Both are made with no cream but they are still rich but not heavy,” he said.

“Fall is peak soup season since it’s harvest time. We’ll be making organic tomato based soups of all kinds: tomato and cannellini bean, tomato lemon verbena, tomato calabacita and ginger. We also enjoy making green and red gazpachos with the fall bounty. Harira (a Moroccan chickpea,
lentil and tomato soup) with extra green vegetables and cilantro is an autumn favorite,” said Mark Cleveland, Chef/Partner at Avanti Cafe in Costa Mesa. Cleveland and Partner Tanya Fuqua regularly sell tomato lentil rosemary, mushroom barley garam masala pumpkin and kale.

“Chowders will be big on our menus. We do a vegetarian corn and poblano chowder, chicken chorizo chowder and a traditional New England clam chowder,” said Larry Banares, Executive Chef at the Queen Mary. “Classic lobster bisque is a mainstay on the menu in Sir Winston’s, our signature dining room and the chowders star in our seafood restaurant, Chelsea Chowder House.”

Chef Banares uses tart apples in his onion soup with Stilton cheese crust and takes advantage of smoked and cured meats to give his soups great flavor foundation. “I’ve been getting great feedback on my cold asparagus veloute served as a starter or intermezzo,” he added.

Chef Marco Colin will serve pumpkin and yellow pepper soup along with minestrone at Nieuport 17 in Newport Beach. He incorporates cinnamon and garlic in his seasonal and regular offerings of lentil, navy bean, lobster bisque, and clam chowder.

Chef/owner of Graham’s Grille in Taos, New Mexico, Lesley B. Fay is known for her soups. “I will bring in a New Mexican calabacitas (pumpkin) soup for fall. It has sweetness with New Mexican chile as spice and we top it with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds),” she said. She always has corn and crab chowder. “The corn is fire roasted. We add applewood smoked bacon and Yukon gold
potatoes. It’s been on the menu since we opened four years ago we CANNOT ever take it off.”

As the cooler weather approaches, the Grille will serve heartier New Mexican red chile stew on cheddar cheese polenta, green chile stew, and lamb stew adobo. “We push the envelope on spices as I am a spice addict but we have to be careful with heat. People say they like heat but they really don’t. I offer my guests Thai Sriracha and Mexican Cholula as condiments,” Leslie said.

“Heartier, comforting soups such Tuscan kale and bean with sausage, purees of root vegetables and squashes such as potato-leek or zucchini & mint,” said Diego Velasco, Chef and Owner of Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa, about his upcoming soups. “Our mainstay has always been our unique Down Home Gumbo. Filled with Creole vegetables, smoked chicken, chicken based andouille sausage and okra, it’s topped with steamed rice and shrimp, served with cornbread.” His guests also love the smoked tomato and basil bisque and shrimp and grilled corn chowder sold every Friday.

“It is nice to see soups becoming heartier in preparation for cooler weather. Long simmered stews and chilis as well as soups that include warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
come to mind. I think comfort will still play a major roll this season. I might even incorporate braises into our soups including ingredients such as short ribs, brisket and pork belly,” said Velasco.

At The Churchill in West Hollywood Executive Chef Jason Tuley will serve his favorite mushroom made of mushroom stock and chanterelle mushrooms. “This fall we will try a new soup with crone
(or crosne, a root vegetable with a nutty, sweet taste) and grey shallots from our friends at Stonecrest Farms,” Tuley said.

Boulder Organic Foods in Boulder, Colorado, will sell a butternut squash, roasted corn chowder with Serrano and miso according to Greg Powers. Their standards include red lentil dahl, potato leek, carrot ginger with coconut and green pea with dill.

Zov Karamardian at Zov’s Bistro in Tustin is planning a puree of pumpkin soup and a green lentil with Swiss chard. She always keeps golden lentil on her menu. Coconut chicken with lemongrass, pureed mushroom and chicken noodle are also perennial favorites.


Most restaurants sell their soups to go too. “Our bean type soups freeze very well,” said Kastel. Banares sells soups to go. “Most soups will freeze well if placed in a proper storage container. Freezer strength zip-loc bags are great for freezing in smaller batches,” he said.

Velasco is in the process of figuring out the best packaging for a customer that wants their gumbo shipped to Florida. “We do sell quite a bit of gumbo for parties and corporate events,” he said.
Zov sells soup to go and pointed out, “Some freeze well, not all. Creamed soups do not freeze well.” Ecco also sells soup to go. “I think they freeze pretty well, but nothing beats a bowl of freshly made soup,” Kirk said.

Find Other Great Soup Recipes!

Chef Favorites
Zov: Harira (Moroccan tomato, lentil and chickpea soup) and puree of butternut squash.

Ross Pangilinan: Tofu soup with eel. It was at Joel Robuchon in Vegas, one of the most inspiring
dishes I have had and the highlight of that expensive meal. My favorite restaurant for stew is Pinoy Pinay, a fast food Filipino restaurant that reminds me of my grandparents’ cooking- a lot of pork and stew like dishes. My favorite one is called kare kare, a stew made with peanut sauce, oxtail,
tripe, vegetables, shrimp paste, and finished with calamansi juice.

Lesley Fay: My fresh tomato & basil bisque or my mulligatawny.

Diego Velasco: Actually, the soup was one my wife made. It was a vichyssoise of sorts that was a puree of leek, red skinned potatoes and zucchini. Chicken stock was used to add body and richness, finished with chives.

Jason Tuley: My Sous Chef Spencer Johnston’s oyster chowder and the beef tail broth soup at Han Bat Sul Lung in Koreatown in Los Angeles.

Davis Dennis: Pho at Olivia’s bistro.

Larry Banares: Essence of Crab Olympic with avocado brunoise and poppy seed fleuron at the
Cheval Blanc Restaurant in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel Philippines. From Villa Manila Restaurant in San Diego a couple of soups come to mind: Nilagang Baka, a broth soup with bok choy, potatoes, beef and bone marrow and Tinola, a chicken soup scented with ginger green papaya and Malunggay (a leafy herb with many nutritional benefits) and Pancit Molo, a broth with shrimp and pork dumplings, scallion cloves of fried garlic.

Mark Cleveland: Pasta Fajoli is one amazing soup. Mushroom barley is up there with harira, hot and sour soup, mushroom wonton, ribollita is up there with harira, hot and sour soup, mushroom wonton, ribollita (Tuscan bread soup), classic miso soup with wakame, scallions and sesame seeds.

Mark McDonald: Bamboo Bistro is great for soup and Anjin has a short rib soup that is really tasty.

Marco Colin: Lobster bisque.

Kris Kirk: Black truffle soup en croute feuilletee served at Paul Bocuse in France.

Jenny Ross: Alaskan halibut fisherman’s chowder at Ave., Chef Marc Cohen.

Alfred Katopis: She-crab soup/gumbo.

Ross Pangilinan: Brussels sprouts, so good with bacon. I also like to pair quince with duck or foie gras.

David Dennis: Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds. I like to garnish things and pumpkin works well with a number of items from soups to desserts.

Mark McDonald: Butternut squash, kabocha squash, apples.

Zov: Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, Swiss chard, kale, faro and quinoa.

Diego Velasco: A variety of mushrooms, hard squash such as acorn and butternut, heartier
greens like kale, chard and Bloomsdale spinach as well as fall pears and apples.

Lesley Fay: Roasted cauliflower, garam masala, beets roasted; I could eat fennel (or anise) on
anything: raw, roasted or fried.

Jason Tuley: Sunchokes, celery root, asparagus, and quince.

Alfred Katopodis: Osso buco, stews.

Marco Colin: Apples, figs, pecans, pumpkins, cinnamon and garlic.

Kris Kirk: Pomegranates, quince, Brussels sprouts, cavolo nero, kale, rapini.

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