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Slurp some soup 

I've been having a lot of conversations about soup lately. Recipes, mostly, for soups that cure ailments and stews that stick to your bones. I recently butted into a discussion at Helios in downtown Raleigh, where two women's search for soup on a cold Sunday sparked a debate among them, at least two other people and me, over where to find it. So I decided to compile a brief cheat sheet based on my experience and with a little help from my friends. Bundle up, get out there and slurp some soup.

In downtown Raleigh, check in with The Borough (317 W. Morgan St., 832-8433, after 4 p.m. for a steaming bowl of housemade jalapeño potato corn chowder, which has replaced tomato basil this winter. And Ma's matzo ball soup is always on the menu.

Frazier's (2418 Hillsborough St., 828-6699, and Savoy (7713 Lead Mine Rd., 848-3535,, both in Raleigh, prefer bisques. The offerings at Frazier's leap from lobster to eggplant, while Savoy's inventive creations include smoked pumpkin bisque touched with fig and French onion, fortified with red wine (that means it's good for you, right?), topped with a baked Gruyere crouton.

If you dare to mock a bowl of soup by reducing it to a mere cup and sharing its spotlight with half a sandwich, then fine. Durham's Toast Paninoteca (345 W. Main St., 683-2183, brings its Italian influence and hearty ingredients to its selection of paninis, salads and soups. Try to catch a bowl of spicy lentil, a "loose risotto" with arborio rice and local turnips, or a cauliflower purée with brown butter, capers and pine nuts. Owners Billy and Kelli Cotter upgraded to a fancy Vitamix blender after a little mishap. "People love those pureed soups! We actually broke the blender because we made so much soup," Kelli Cotter says.

Carrboro's Neal's Deli (100 E. Main St., 967-2186, focuses on vegetarian soups and a classic chicken noodle. "We make sure there's always something seasonal in our vegetable soup, which is made with a million vegetables," says co-owner Matt Neal. "During the winter months, we'll have chicken noodle soup every day."

Pho Cali (3310 Capital Blvd., 862-8900) boasts more than 24 varieties of a favorite Vietnamese comfort food: giant bowls of pho. Or a broth-style noodle dish at the Chapel Hill or Durham location of Twisted Noodles ( delights with Thai classics made with chicken, beef, duck, seafood or wontons and a lot of spice.

This isn't soup-related breaking news but, rather, drink-related. As reported on the Indy's Triangulator blog, Durham Mayor Bill Bell will tend bar at Revolution (107 W. Main St., 956-9999, from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5 as part of a charity event. (We knew he was a good dancer, but his bartending skills have thus far been secret.) Twenty percent of bar proceeds will go to the John Avery Boys & Girls Club in Durham. Bell is the first of several celebrity bartenders to be slinging drinks at the upscale downtown spot.

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