Taste & Travel - - Contents -

CAL­GARY’S eco­nomic for­tunes may have been bumpy this year but there’s no slow­ing down on the din­ing scene, with new restau­rants open­ing and es­tab­lished ones com­ing up with new of­fer­ings to sat­isfy the city’s grow­ing ap­petite for so­phis­ti­cated, in­ven­tive cui­sine. To make it eas­ier for busy peo­ple to take a restora­tive break dur­ing their work day, Essence Bistro at The Westin Cal­gary has in­tro­duced a quick lunch menu that will work for brief busi­ness meet­ings, a ca­sual catch-up with friends, or if you’re re­ally in a rush, a meal to grab and go.

The Westin is bang in the mid­dle of down­town Cal­gary, close to shops and of­fices and just a block from two pop­u­lar lunch spots — the River­walk that me­an­ders along the banks of the clear-run­ning Bow River, and the lovely Prince’s Is­land park. If you choose to dine in, Essence Bistro’s sleek and mod­ern dé­cor, in calm­ing hues of seafoam and beige, echoes the tones of Cal­gary’s nat­u­ral sur­rounds.

The In & Out menu of­fers a se­lec­tion of starters, soups, sand­wiches and mains, with cook­ies for dessert. But this is no ordinary brown bag lunch — the man in the kitchen is Westin’s Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Michael Batke. Batke helped cre­ate Cal­gary hotspots CharCut, CharBar and Alley Burger — a fast food truck that went vi­ral. All of his culi­nary ven­tures share a fo­cus on cre­ative use of qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, lo­cally sourced when pos­si­ble. From fine din­ing to street food, he knows how to dish it up.

I loved the An­cient Grains salad from the In & Out menu — farro, quinoa, shaved fen­nel, de­hy­drated car­rot, cu­cum­ber rib­bons and shaved radishes, dressed with an or­ange and Okanagan pinot gris vinai­grette. Sautéed tiger prawns were an op­tional ex­tra but the dish would have been fine with­out. The club sand­wich, ooz­ing with smoked ched­dar cheese, was a mile-high show­stop­per. Com­fort­ing and creamy mush­room risotto made with brown rice was topped with a shower of award-win­ning griz­zly gouda cheese from lo­cal dairy Syl­van Farms. Ken­nebec potato fries with smoked tomato aioli rounded out a se­ri­ously de­li­cious lunch.

If you have time to linger over a bot­tle of wine, or would like a glass with your meal, there’s an in­ter­est­ing list of wines that have been cho­sen for taste rather than cost, so even at the lower price point you’re likely to find a pleas­ing drop.

I was too full for the cook­ies, but as Batke pointed out — they’re in a bag so you can take them back to the of­fice, or — if you’re feel­ing gen­er­ous — give them to a friend.

Ken­nebec fries and cook­ies bagged to go.

Pro­tein choices in­clude fish, chicken and steak.

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