Finding Consolation In a Bowl Of Soup -- In A Shopping Mall

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Maybe you've been there. You're all excited to check out the latest blockbuster at the NorthPark Center theater, and after spending 10 minutes jockeying around the lot and shunning the valet to find your own parking, you approach the ticket booth and your show is sold out. Not just the 7:05 p.m. you were hoping to catch but the 8:15 and the 9:20 too. And as much as you'd like to pretend you have it in you that 10:15 is just so far away. So you throw in the towel.

When life hands me disappointment, I typically look to food to patch up my mood. I'm fully aware that this is a dangerous habit with serious repercussions, but honestly, I eat out more than 10 times a week anyway. It might as well be soothing. So when my friend recommended we drop into Bistro N, the cavernous restaurant buried in the back of Nordstrom, past the guy playing schmaltzy Beatles covers on a baby grand, I upped the ante. Let's get a bottle of wine too.

And who'd have thought it. Here in a mall full of terrible processed food like Panda Express, and that pretzel place that has some how managed to make butter smell bad, there is actually a decent bistro. I ordered steak frittes and a bowl of French onion soup. Both were good.

That soup, though, made a real impression. It was capped in two croutons and a layer of blistered Gruyere and provolone cheese that pulled in big bouncing strings as I ate. The soup itself, was rich, buttery and so thickly laden with onions one might walk on its surface if the bowl were large enough. It had a deep, rich, almost murky flavor. This soup kept secrets.

I called the restaurant a few days later and spoke with executive chef Antonio Zamora, who told me making the soup is a three-hour process. They roast the bones from the chickens they use to make a poulet frites and simmer the bones for stock. They sauté onions till they are a rich, concentrated and golden brown and then deglaze the pan with a little sherry and some tomato paste. A little beef bouillon lends color and amplifies flavor and then the stuff is ladled out to the weak and weary -- those who have spent too much time trying on shoes and debating the merits of the blue shirt over the red shirt. And me, who found disappointment in a displaced movie and then contentment in the bottom of an empty bowl.

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