A solid handle on basic French techniques will always improve one's cooking, and beautifully prepared French food is, once again, exerting strong influence on restaurant tables. Here in Toronto, Alo and Edulis are revered and the new La Banane is riding high; Vancouver has L'Abattoir – a personal favourite – as well as Les Faux Bourgeois.
I've noticed this resurgence on recent trips to both coasts. One popular, French-inspired dish I've seen again and again on menus is a fish soup, and there's a great one on the menu at Le Coucou in New York, a new restaurant currently taking the city by storm. The chef there is Daniel Rose, of Spring fame in Paris.
At Otium, the restaurant associated with the superb Broad Museum in Los Angeles, I was inspired by chef Timothy Hollingsworth to develop a sea-bass chowder that could be either a heavy appetizer or a light main course. Hollingsworth has travelled and learned all over the world, including at the French Laundry in California's Napa Valley and his simple, elegant dishes are based in French technique that extract all the taste out of his ingredients.
Here are two contemporary French soup recipes that will wow any dinner party.