Review: The Green Ingredient

This review was originally published in the Tiempo Dining Out section of the El Paso Times on July 26, 2013 as part of a series of monthly reviews that feature vegetarian friendly restaurants in the El Paso region.

Last fall, a vegetarian restaurant was rumored to open in the downtown Chase building. That rumor was half true. The Green Ingredient Eatery (GI) planned to focus on nutritious meals using sustainable ingredients free from GMOs, chemicals, hormones, pesticides, artificial coloring and refined products. The menu would consist of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes, with a few entrees containing chicken and wild-caught salmon. Anticipation heightened month after month until the eatery finally opened in June.

Local company, Raw Food Rules developed the restaurant’s concept and employed a team of students, graduates and instructors from the EPCC Culinary Arts Program. Organic produce comes from Sol y Tierra growers in Anthony.

Breakfast is served from 7-10:30 am with options like cinnamon quinoa pancakes, omelets, house-cured salmon, juices and more. French press coffee is brewed with coffee beans from Picacho Roasters in Las Cruces.

The one-page lunch menu packs a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrees that are prepared with uncustomary ingredients and techniques. Vegan raw items are marked with a “g” symbol, but it’s unclear as to which of the remaining items are completely vegan/vegetarian.

Light streams into the restaurant from the windows that outlook Main Street, and sparse, natural-colored decor gives the mid-sized space an open, airy feel. Each table has a set of shakers with pink salt and black pepper and packets of stevia and raw sugar sweeteners. Beverages include teas, GI water and the daily water (includes refills). The GI water is a refreshing blend of cucumbers, lime and chlorophyll.

I invited a couple of members from the Vegetarian Society to help me sample as much as possible. We started off with the Nut “Cheese” Trio and Causa Limena. Three small scoops of a medley of raw nuts that have been soaked, pureed and fermented come topped with roasted tomatoes, vegan pesto and olive tapenade. The “cheese” comes with crackers made from dehydrated kale and a crisp flatbread reminiscent of Melba toast. The cheese is comparable to Alouette brand soft spreadable cheese and is just as delectable. It was smooth and creamy with a sharp, nutty taste similar to tahini.

Causa Limena is a traditional Peruvian layered cold dish that usually contains mashed potatoes, mayonnaise, yellow chili paste, eggs and chicken or fish. GI veganizes it with layers of lemony mashed potatoes, avocado, marinated beets, peas, and olives that make up a dramatic tower of colors and textures.

We skipped over the salad menu, but our attentive waiter said the Watermelon Arugula is the most popular of the four options. The Mix & Match area allows you to choose a full order or pick two from a list of eleven grain and salad plates. We tried the Lemony Red Spiral (raw beets in a lemon vinaigrette) and Southwest Corn and Nopal Salad (black beans, roasted poblano pico in a cumin chipotle vinaigrette). Bright red, thin spirals of crunchy, citrusy beets lay atop a bed of greens. Our favorite was the perfectly cooked and smoky nopal salad.

Unfortunately, they were out of the “Feel Good” Falafel which comes with baked falafel, farro wheat berry tabouleh and tzatziki on a pita with a Mediterranean salad. I opted for the Raw “Taco”  with house soup and added a Mix & Match item. Three large, crisp romaine lettuce leaves are filled with a seasoned ground walnut pecan “meat” and topped with pico and a delicious cilantro-avocado cream. The tacos were flavorful and surprisingly filling. The hearty house soup has kale, lentils, and potatoes in a spicy green curry coconut milk broth. I’m glad I ordered the soup, because the Spicy Sprouted Quinoa Salad had a funky, spoiled flavor. I sent it back, but no reparations were offered.

The last entree sampled was the GI Veggie Burger ($10) with a side house salad. A large, black bean and brown rice patty with southwestern seasoning is served on a multigrain bun. The burger came plain, but had plenty of flavor and a soft texture. The accompanying housemade mango ketchup was the show-stealer with a hint of curry. The house salad has baby greens and roasted sweet potatoes tossed in a slightly overpowering aminos vinaigrette.

Vegan muffins and raw lemon cashew cookies were on display in small glass stands, but we asked for the dessert of the day. A tower of chocolate-avocado mousse on a chocolate cookielike crust is served alongside cashew cream and berries. The avocado was undetectable, save for the silky, creamy texture it imparted. Dark chocolate lovers will delight in this ultra rich almost guilt-free dessert that has just the right amount of sweetness.

GI is where anyone with strict dietary restrictions can safely eat and friendly, knowledgeable staff will tell you how foods can benefit your health. Those not confined to dietary restrictions will be inspired by the array of fresh, healthy ingredients infused with creativity and flavor. Within the next two months, hours will expand to include dinner service and Saturday brunch with seminars afterwards. Throughout the year, some menu items will change to reflect seasonal produce.

Parking tickets from the Chase building are not validated. Beer and wine is BYOB for now. GI has applied for a Beer and Wine License.

Green Ingredient on Urbanspoon

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