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The Right Ingredients

By Lora Arduser · December 20th, 2006 · The Dish
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The Westin is sporting a new look these days -- Ingredients (21 E. Fifth St., downtown, 513-852-2740) has sprinkled some pizzazz in the hotel's lobby with its modern furniture and gourmet-to-go concept. Along with lunch and breakfast fare, Ingredients offers a coffee bar (with Starbucks beans and Tazo teas), a lounge area and free wireless.

The food is good for casual grab-and-go; along with salads and sandwiches, Ingredients offers panini and brick-oven pizzas. The salad fixing choices are innovative as well, including beets, roasted eggplant and hearts of palm. All dishes are prepared fresh, but if you're in a real hurry there are a few pre-made items for the taking.

Ordering is not for the meek of heart here -- it's a scene right off the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. There are three stations: salads, sandwiches and pizza, but no indication of where or how to order.

Your best bet is to jump into the fray with both feet and hope you didn't cut off that nice couple beside you.

All the stylish seats were occupied the day my coworkers and I ventured over for lunch, so we grabbed a Grilled Chicken Salad ($7), Four Cheese Panini ($6), Wild Mushroom Pizza ($7) and Roast Beef and Gorgonzola Sandwich ($6) and headed back to the office.

The rhythm of the Subway-like salad line was so entrancing that I forgot to ask for my white balsamic vinaigrette on the side. A rookie mistake -- like most venues, Ingredients douses its greens, covering the flavors of my proscuitto, Maytag blue cheese, spiced Bosc pears, yellow tomatoes and walnuts. When you start with good ingredients, there's no need to go overboard with fat for flavor -- they already taste good.

My boss' roast beef burst with the sweetness of caramelized onions, overpowering the equally strong flavors of roasted tomato and Gorgonzola.

Our tree-hugging cohorts' choices were well appreciated. The thin crust pizza was topped with portabella, shitake and button mushrooms; the panini oozed Swiss, mozzarella, Jack and Parmesan cheeses -- a great gourmet twist on the classic grilled cheese.

A bag of well-seasoned, fresh-made potato chips was an interesting change of pace, and our triple chocolate gelato helped stave the threat of an afternoon slump.

Ingredients is a welcome addition to the downtown lunch family. With some service directions and small tweaks to the food, it'll have no problem developing a loyal following. It's nice to see a hotel-based restaurant break out of the mold to try something a little more cutting edge. Grade: A-

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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