January Thaw

Keep the chill away in the warm, snug embrace of soup and stew.

As we enter the new year, an age-old question sits at the tips of our tongues: Will it ever be warm again? Twenty-below wind chills threaten at our doorsteps and aggressive snow piles can weigh down our spirits. But we must remember: We are Minnesotans who can thrive in this weather. Bundle up, get outside and do what we’ve done for years—join a climate we just can’t beat.

Once you’ve left the rink, ski trail or sledding hill; finished clearing the driveway or checking off the errands list, it’s time to seek shelter and warmth with a bowl of soup or stew.

The southwest metro area is loaded with restaurants ready to help warm your soul, so before you crack open a soup can and plop its contents into a microwavable bowl, take a look at these options. You just might be tempted to leave your house.

Pepperoni Soup
Victoria House

If you’re looking for something new, but with established clout, the pepperoni soup at Victoria House has a cult following. You might initially think you’re being handed chili, but just close your eyes, take a deep breath and the scent will send you to a legit pizza joint in Chicago. The soup has just enough spice to help you sweat (which you might have forgotten you can do in January). Sprinkled with mozzarella and served with soda crackers, it’ll keep you warm all the way home (or order a quart, and eat it at home). $3.99 cup, $4.99 bowl, $9.99 quart, $35.99 gallon.

Baked French Onion Soup

French onion soup is a classic, but it’s also kind of a pain to make. Making a batch can leave your house (and your hair) smelling like onions for days no matter how many candles you light or showers you take. Leave it to the experts at Wildfire to bring you a steaming cup of the golden brown goodness. Here they forgo the traditional gruyere topping for a mix of Swiss and asiago cheeses, which still has that nutty flavor but also a sharpness to keep it exciting. Beneath the cheese rests the rich and sweet, brothy onion soup. It’s a classic for a reason, and paired with some red wine, you’ll forget you still have to shovel the driveway. $5.95 cup, $7.95 bowl.

Mulligatawny Soup
Bay Leaf Indian Cuisine

If you’re looking for something that will warm you up and take you on a mental vacation far away from here, try the mulligatawny soup at Bay Leaf in Eden Prairie. If you’re a fan of the rich and savory flavor of curry dishes, this is the perfect option that’s a bit lighter than a traditional curry-and-rice dish. Lentil broth, curry leaves and coconut are the star flavors of the dish, which was developed when India was ruled by England starting in the 19th Century. Brits wanted the flavors of India in a medium they understood: soup. The northern island infamous for cold rain knows a thing or two about staying warm, and this savory soup will do the trick in our frozen tundra, too. $4.99.

Chicken Pot Pie
Crooked Pint

Sometimes the only thing that’s going to warm you up is the classic dish your mom used to buy from the freezer section at the grocery store. But Crooked Pint’s chicken pot pie is no flash-frozen brick wrapped in foil. This chicken and veggie stew, topped with flaky puff pastry, will trigger your instinct to whip out your phone and take a video as you crack the crust. Steam will rise, and the warming smell of creamy chicken stew will thaw your January heart. $13.99.   

One good sip (of soup or stew) deserves another

If it’s January, a Minnesotan will want soup. If you give her some soup, she’ll want a pint of beer. But what is the best type of beer for your soup? Karie McDougall at Enki Brewing is here to help us out with a few pairing ideas for your next meal.

For curried butternut squash soup, try Enki’s Tail Feather IPA. “Hoppy beers really stand up to complex spice flavors and aromas, such as curry, and the sweetness of the squash,” McDougall says.

Chili con carne can benefit from Enki’s Cocao Porter, she says. “Using the porter in the chili to replace some, or all, of the beef stock typically used to make the recipe enhances the depth of flavor and makes for a perfect pairing.”

The state staple, creamy wild rice soup, needs something a bit lighter, like Enki’s Litmus Pils. “The crisp, clean body and finish of a lager helps to cleanse the palate when enjoying a rich, creamy and typically heavy soup,” she says.

Don’t forget dessert! If you’re finishing the meal with a warm-spice treat, like apple crisp, McDougall says, “It’s awesome with our Red Ale—the caramel-like, toasty, malt forward brew compliments the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and oats used in apple crisp.”