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Q: I love gazpacho. Adore it. Tomatoey, vinegary, spicy, with bits or bites of veggies, even with seafood. With bread or without, creamy or not, Spanish in origin or modified by any one of us. Please, please, please, any good ideas for a place to get it?
A: Oooh, youve got it bad for gazpacho. Like cioppino and minestrone, this flavorful soup has inspired many philosophical foodie discussions. The version most people think of as authentic originated in Seville, where tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, garlic and oil were first combined for a cold, fresh meal that has a way of making 96-degree days tolerable. In other parts of Spain, gazpacho is made with an almost clear broth studded with pieces of green peppers, cucumbers, eggs and bread with nary a tomato in sight. Another Spanish variation involves almonds and grapes.
The Spanish variations all have one thing in common, however: Bread is a required part of the dish, whether it appears as hard, crusty croutons floating on top of the soup or as a few hunks on the side for dipping. And in fact, most historians think the word gazpacho comes in part from the Latin pasti, which means bread dough or paste, or caspicias, Spanish for "remains," which could refer to the bread scraps and vegetable bits traditionally used in the soup. Whatever the origins of the name, I think bread makes it better. Unfortunately, most American versions of gazpacho leave it out.
Offhand, I cant think of any local restaurants that put bread in their gazpacho, although most serve it alongside. Not many restaurants list the dish on their regular menu, either, because its such a seasonally inspired thing (who wants to eat cold soup during a cold Denver December?). The best version Ive come across lately would have to be the seemingly tomato-free golden gazpacho at Kevin Taylors Zenith (815 17th Street, 303-293-2322), a smooth, creamy-textured concoction that bursts with the flavor of fresh bell peppers and contains a smattering of pico de gallo and a blob of cheese for extra richness. Or try another Taylor version at Palettes at the Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 303-629-0889), which centers its sharply fresh tomato-based mix with a freshly mashed guacamole. Another gazpacho you can count on is the zesty, vinegary brew at Strings (1700 Humboldt Street, 303-831-7310). And perhaps the most unlikely spot to find a respectable gazpacho is My Brothers Bar (2376 15th Street, 303-455-9991), which has added it to the basic bar lineup this summer.