It's not easy to get the recipe right in small but sophisticated Montpelier. The capital city is both crunchy and world-wise, localvore and price-sensitive.
Pam Root satisfies all the constituencies at That's Life Soup, a cozy café on Elm Street that serves up soothing, steaming bowls to state workers, townies and tourists — not to mention the hungry lawmakers who take over Montpelier for four-plus months a year.
Root changes the soup selections daily. An Indian mulligatawny might share the menu with a Moroccan concoction, only to be replaced the next day with a spicy Creole stew and a refined French bisque.
But on Fridays you can always get pho — a street-food staple in Vietnam. The fragrant, flavorful beef broth, replete with noodles and thin strips of meat, comes topped with slivers of caramelized shallot. A dish of hot sauce and a lime wedge arrive on the side.
Prefer solid food? That's Life also has "French Grille" sandwiches and seasonal salads. Variety is encouraged here. That means the fresh lemonade can be served up sweet or puckeringly tart. Certain sandwiches are stuffed with cured meats, while others feature avocado slices or portabello mushrooms. There's always at least one vegetarian potage, and both vegan and gluten-free items are clearly labeled.
The ridiculously rich corn chowder is none of the above. Its creamy broth is thick with cheddar, packed with potato hunks and topped with bacon crumbles. When it comes to surviving winter in Vermont, Root's hearty selections are essential, along with warm socks.