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Butternut Squash Soup: Out of the Wilderness

It took me months, and months, and months, and months to get this butternut squash soup on the menu. I carried this soup around inside of me for so long I felt like it was a baby, only I could eat it. You can’t really eat a baby unless you want to get in a lot of trouble with the police so in a way, my soup wins in the classic baby vs. soup match-up.

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Come on inside and hear my sad tale of the long road to getting this butternut squash soup on the menu. A long road full of sordid stories about chemical dependency, squash paper and (fruit) leather.

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From the very beginning, I couldn’t get any part of this soup right. I knew I needed to have a new soup on the menu in the Fall to replace the summery pea soup and butternut squash soup sounded just right for the colder weather, but come on. We’ve all eaten a million butternut squash soups and they all taste pretty much the same. It’s usually a thick soup with some citrus in it – like ginger or lemon – and it has coconut milk and maybe some jalapenos added for heat. It’s almost always sweet and while that taste works (there’s a reason that it’s the classic butternut squash soup recipe – because it’s good) I wanted something different. I wanted to make the butternut squash the star of the soup, not the lemon or the coconut milk, which are the flavors that usually get top billing.

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Right now I’m obsessed with clear, precise broths that are full of flavor. Both my onion and pea soups had a clear broth base, and I love these broths because I think it’s a surprise to taste something clear and have it packed with strong flavors. I really like the technical precision of this, rather than doing a puree. To make the broth for the butternut squash soup I have a lightly curried butternut squash broth and I cook it for about two hours on the stove. Then I put it in the oven and let it reduce for three or four more hours and then I strain it. It starts out at about four gallons, and winds up being about a gallon and a half of a clear, punchy broth that’s totally intense.

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But then disaster struck: I had a big idea. My big idea was that diners would get this broth and then they’d have some squash element that would combine with the liquid and cause it to thicken and suffuse it with even more butternut squash flava. Like all of my big ideas, this one proved to be my downfall. I tried everything to make this happen. I tried powdered butternut squash. I tried chemicals, lots and lots of chemicals. I ordered so many chemicals to experiment with that I probably wound up on a government watch list. Eventually I realized that I could make a butternut squash leather and have that dissolve in the broth.

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The dumplings and spaghetti squash before the

broth is poured.

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At first I wanted the leather to be a little jewel box in the middle of the bowl, stuffed with pumpkin seeds and butternut squash, but that didn’t work. I tried a ring and that worked but I had to stir it really, really hard to get it to dissolve into the broth and make it thicker. For a while I thought I could just encourage diners to stir their soups like Mix Masters, but even I eventually gave up on that idea as impractical after a while.

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One day, the realization hit me: I was trying too hard. I thought that I would find happiness in my leather or with my chemicals, but I was missing the point. I needed to go simpler. I would make the leather even thinner, until it was butternut squash paper, and then I would stuff it with itself. Sort of the same principle as a turducken: I’d make butternut squash paper stuffed with pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, cilantro, lemon and a special seasoning that I can’t tell you about.

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The dumplings rest on a little dollop of delicata squash cream.

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Making those dumplings is probably one of the two most labor intensive things I do here. The squash has to be roasted, pureed, spread, dehydrated, then cut into strips, stuffed and folded. It’s full of little jewels, and itself, and I also added some spaghetti squash to the soup to make it like a squash and noodle soup, since that’s something you never see and I love noodle soups in winter. I place the two dumplings on a little dollop of delicata cream because this soup has no fat in it and it needs a little bit of fat to smooth out its harsh edges.

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Pouring the broth over the dumplings and delicata cream:

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On top is a tiny shoot of affila cress because it’s pretty and I wanted one fresh bite in the soup. You barely get the taste of it, but in case you were wondering, affila cress tastes like a nuttier snowpea.

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And that’s the story of how I got lost in the wilderness, obsessed with leather and chemicals and finally emerged with the purest, lightest, deepest soup I think I’ve ever made. Somewhere in there, I’m sure there’s a moral. But for right now I’m just happy to have made a butternut squash soup that isn’t a puree.

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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