Cold Hands, Warm Hearth: Soup Trio at 75 on Liberty Wharf, Boston

SoupTrio 75 onLibertyA blustery walk past the ICA, past the place where Anthony’s Pier 4 used to be, past the World Trade Center, just before you get to the latest behemoth Legal’s, there’s a little glowing box of a building that’s worth a look. It’s 75 on Liberty Wharf, from the same folks who brought us 75 Chestnut in Beacon Hill. They’ve been open since October, which means there’s been precious little time to take advantage of their spacious patio (though the servers assure me that some hardy souls still do). Inside, there’s not a lot of space, but there’s a beautiful view, a great bar, and some darned good soup.

The place is hopping—once we’re seated, every one of the sixty seats is filled. The air is filled with the happy babble of people just off work. Floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides show us the glittering lights of Boston Harbor, and the atmosphere is welcomingly warm on this chilly December evening. I can imagine that sunsets in the summer from the patio will be spectacular.

In the meantime, the inside will do just fine, especially with a drinks program such as this one, which includes a “green” cocktail menu of sustainably-produced and sourced ingredients. My Tequila Roja, a concoction of organic tequila, St. Germain, lime, and pomegranate is a nice riff on a margarita, complete with a spicy salted rim.

My fellow soup explorer (my blessed upstairs neighbor who saw me through three months of a kitchen/bath renovation) orders the clam chowder, and I order the soup special, a trio of vegetable purées. The big bowl of chowder is good, not too thick, with plenty of juicy clams and a nice briny broth. The trio brings three bright cups of jewels: emerald spinach, ivory parsnip, and ruby beet. (There’s also a panini of brie and apples, making this starter the equivalent of a light lunch.) The spinach is quite rich, almost buttery, and garnished with a glazed walnut that makes a sweet, crunchy contrast to the savory soup. It’s tasty, and perfect for a presentation like this—a whole bowl would make the rest of a meal irrelevant.

I skip over the parsnip for a moment—I’m saving it for last—and sample the deep crimson beet purée, with its dollop of sour cream. This one is subtle: the beet flavor is quieter than, say, borscht, and it’s made complex by the addition of some autumn spices and (if I taste right) lemon.  The third cup is the winner in my estimation: a purée of parsnip, with just the right sweetness and that is-it-there, is-it-not hint of spiciness that makes the parsnip my favorite of root vegetables. This one, I could go for a full-sized bowl of. Hell, I could go for a vat.

As we’re digging into a bowl of mussels with chorizo (whose spicy broth could be a soup on its own) and a braised beef shank caramelized to an insanely tempting darkness, our server brings over a couple more soups to try: a solid chicken vegetable enlivened by kernels of corn, and an equally solid, if mild, chili. The portions are rather generous: the mussels would make great sharing, and the beef shank was, as a friend’s mother used to say, “as big as my fist.” Which always meant going home with a doggy bag.

Tourists, visiting business types, and locals who find themselves blown along the harbor this winter would do well to stop in at 75 on Liberty Wharf to warm up with a drink and some fine soup. Go there now, because once the weather warms up and the patio becomes a real possibility, I’ll bet it’s going to be a challenge getting a table. And I’ll also bet that the soup specials will continue to delight.

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