Warming Up Winter

Creative Foods for Surviving the Cold Weather

Providence is as unpredictable as an excited toddler when it comes to weather. We went from 60-degree weather to six inches of snow all in the first two weeks of classes, and who knows what’s in store next? As excited as I get each time snowflakes flutter from the sky and the world turns a glistening white for a few tranquil hours, New England winters chill me through my layers. But winter is also the perfect time to make a big pot of soup or cozy up in a coffee shop, because a supply of warm thoughts and comforting foods makes the season survivable, sometimes even enjoyable.

I turn to food in any and every situation, whether it be for stress relief or celebration. When the weather has me bundled up into a human marshmallow, and it takes me twice as long to slush and slip my way to class, I seek out my favorite hot foods on College Hill to cope. What’s better than coming out of the snow or freezing rain and sitting down to a steaming cup of soup or dish of spiced curry?

A hot drink is my first go-to, and it’s probably yours as well, part of your routine order each time you walk into a coffee shop. But extra snowy days and sleepy mornings call for a change of pace. Fall might be over, but that doesn’t mean your time to enjoy apple cider has passed. Blue State offers chaider all winter—a combination of chai and cider with subtle spices and a fruity kick. If you’re as excited as I am about the cinnamon and clove of chai teas and lattes, there’s a wide selection of choices at Tealuxe. A fun selection during winter months is their pumpkin chai tea, another great combination that’s unusual enough to break you out of your habits.

Chocolate is also a definite cure-all for cold weather and gray sky blues. If the spiciness of chai isn’t your thing, or you don’t need the caffeine kick of coffee, hot chocolate is the way to go. That’s especially true this month, as The Shop rounds out their Hot Cocoa Fest, which offers weekly flavor variations of the classic winter drink. With options like peppermint patty, dulce de leche, and raspberry, it’s an adventurous choice for recovering after a long week.

Wintertime comfort can also be found in a big bowl of soup and a piece of buttered toast. It’s a meal that reminds me of my first and only White Christmas, at an inn in Vermont with my family. The warm beef and vegetable soup with multigrain toast we ate on our first night was a welcoming antidote to the snow piled up outside the snug living room. Stews and soups with a bit of kick are perfect when it feels like five degrees out thanks to wind chill. Blue State often has soup-of-the-day specials, ranging from hearty options like Three Bean Chili to Chicken Tortilla, which come with thick slices of toasted bread. If you’re still on meal plan, the Turkey Chili or Chicken Noodle at the Blue Room are two of my favorites for staying warm.

Having grown up in a multicultural state with plenty of ramen, curries, and rice bowls to quell the rainy days of Hawai‘i winter, I often turn to these options in Providence as well. With some exploration, you can find flavorful dishes to end a week of dodging falling chunks of snow and navigating slippery staircases. Just a few blocks past the south end of campus is Noodles 102, which offers a variety of Asian soups to satisfy a craving for coziness. Miso soup was a staple of my childhood sick days, and, if you’ve never tried it, I would definitely suggest a trip to this noodle house to try the simple but comforting broth. If you’re in the mood for ramen, the relatively new Ken’s Ramen is only a quick walk into downtown. Probably best saved for those snow-free but freezing cold days, these bowls of traditional Japanese noodles come piled with corn, kikurage mushrooms, bean sprouts, and a choice of pork belly or chicken. And of course, we can’t forget about the big bowls of pho they serve up at Andrews for lunch.

Your mind might not immediately think of rice in the depths of winter, but when it’s steaming, slightly crispy, and piled with spicy meat and veggies, it’s hard to pass up. Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish often made in a sizzling stone pot. It adds great texture to the rice and keeps the dish hot as you eat, making it perfect for those days when you wish winter was over already. I’ll admit that it took me two years to try the bibimbap options on College Hill, but now I’m completely sold: Den Den, Soban, and Mama Kim’s all make solid versions. I especially love the subtle spices of the gochujang, or red chili sauce, combined with the flavorful browned meat and cooked-but-crunchy veggies.

That’s plenty of creative options for chasing away the woes of winter with a hot meal from around campus, but getting in the kitchen yourself can be a fun way to spend a snow day too. If you have a big pot and blender, butternut squash soup is tasty and satisfying as a make-ahead meal or weekend treat. It doesn’t even need to have cream or milk if you’re dairy-free. This recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers uses coconut milk to get a creamy flavor: http://www.snixykitchen.com/2014/03/25/recipe-rewind-butternut-squash-soup-with-parmesan-crisps/.

When every sidewalk is frozen, treat yourself by finishing off a cozy winter meal—or any meal, really—with a quick mug cake. It’s like your own personal lava cake if you find the right recipe. I know that when I’m inside with a steaming bowl or mug of comfort, the cold really doesn’t bother me anyway.