Some restaurants are so intertwined with the identity of a city that the place is unthinkable without them. London minus the Sherlock Holmes pub? Inconceivable. Paris sans La Tour d’Argent? C’est impossible. Houston without the Rivoli? No way. For seventeen years, the Rivoli (at 5636 Richmond), with its latticed garden room, has hosted the rites of passage of the upper crust: rehearsal dinners and birthdays, anniversaries and assignations. The well-bred menu never shocks with garish ingredients or outré combinations. Always correct, this suave acorn squash soup is rich yet refreshing, particularly if you chill it well before serving. Gloriously salty Roquefort toast provides the necessary counterpoint in texture and tone.
8 small acorn squashes (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, or 3/4 pound each), with stems
2 large acorn squashes (1 1/2 pound), or enough to equal 3 pounds of meat
2 medium onions, sliced
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste
optional garnish: 1 spoonful precooked lump crabmeat per serving
Slice tips off bottoms, approximately 1/2 inch, of small acorn squashes so they will sit flat. Cut off tops approximately 1/3 down from end, reserving tops for lids. Scoop out seeds and remove enough meat so that each squash will hold approximately 3/4 cup of soup. Reserve meat.
Peel, seed, and cut large acorn squashes into 2-inch chunks. (Note that this requires a certain amount of effort, as raw squash is quite firm.) Combine chunks with reserved meat, onions, and stock. Cook in covered saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes. (For thinner soup, use more stock.) Remove from heat and pour into food processor, blending for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill the 8 squash shells with water, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and pour water out of each shell.
8 slices French bread, 1/4-inch thick (if loaf is small, allow 4 slices per person, or 32 in all)
1/4 pound Roquefort or blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut each slice of bread into 4 triangles (1 1/2 inches per side). Crumble cheese over bread. Sprinkle with walnuts and drizzle with olive oil. Bake about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Watch carefully; they burn easily.
To serve, pour soup into shells, sprinkle with nutmeg, and cover with lids. One attractive garnish is a spoonful of precooked lump crabmeat on top of soup. When guests lift the lids of squash bowls, they find the crabmeat inside as a surprise. Arrange toast attractively around each squash shell. Use 4 triangles of bread per squash. In the summer, this soup is particularly refreshing if served chilled, making a nice contrast to the warm Roquefort toast. Serves 8.