Soup has regional characteristics beyond the obvious New England-style clam chowder versus Manhattan-style clam chowder debate. There are certain soups -- like gumbo, pot liquor and artichoke soups -- that really "sing of where they are from," according to Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com. If none of these restaurants is in your state, scan the list of everything the Sterns have mentioned on The Splendid Table over the years.
1. Seafood gumbo, Rocky & Carlo's Restaurant & Bar
Obviously gumbo is not from Montana, so this is a terrific regional soup. There is sausage gumbo and chicken gumbo, but one of the great gumbos anywhere is out of Rocky & Carlo's. It's a seafood gumbo -- a meal's worth of shrimp, crawfish, okra, rice and spice galore.
2. Pheasant and andouille sausage gumbo, Prejean's Restaurant
Lafayette, the Cajun capitol of Louisiana, has Prejean's. They serve a pheasant and andouille sausage that is so delicious, when I taste it I think nothing else can taste this good.
3. Pot liquor, Little Tea Shop
Seafood gumbo from Rocky and Carlo's (Photo: Roadfood.com)
Pot liquor (also called potlikker), is the liquid left after you cook your greens. It is served for dipping your cornbread in. You get the pot liquor and usually you get a bunch of greens in the pot liquor.
The Little Tea Shop, which happens to be the oldest restaurant in Memphis, serves a pot liquor where the greens are bitter in the best possible way. On top of that is a thick slice of tomato, which by comparison tastes unbelievably sweet and fruity. On top of the tomato is a slice of crisp, raw onion. The combination of those, with corn dodgers on the side, is this spectacle of different flavors that all go together so well.
If I can mention a word we never mention: trending. Like kale, dandelion, turnip, collard or mustard greens are going to be the thing for the next year or two. Pot liquor will have a revival.
4. Artichoke soup, Duarte's Tavern
This wonderful restaurant called Duarte's has been around for over 100 years -- it used to be a stagecoach stop. In the backyard of Duarte's they have a huge artichoke garden. You see the most spectacular, huge, globe artichokes.
One of the specialties of the house is artichoke soup, which is a very simple soup. Artichoke leaves are pulverized with chicken broth and plenty of garlic, cream and butter. The combination is very rich, luxurious and smooth with a jade green color that makes it seem so healthy.