Key Ingredients for Life (Bluefield)

Missy and I have been trying to visit this place for years, but their hours are weird. For instance, they are opening a new location near Wytheville, Virginia, and so are no longer open on weekends. After a few aborted tries, I finally got the chance to taste a few key ingredients for life.

You can tell this place would stand out from the crowd in Bluefield. The restaurant is located in an old house along U.S. 52 before you turn into downtown Bluefield. Inside is very informal, but not quite kitschy.

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That’s the view from my seat. Overall, there is room for maybe 20 plus an upstairs area. I was lucky and caught owner/chef Chris Disibbio on a night where he was there. Chris is a former personal trainer and from all accounts takes a healthy lifestyle very seriously. The Key Ingredients website(http://keyingredients.homestead.com/index.html ) discusses an overall experience that is “about the fusion of food, fitness and faith.” This would be ground ripe for parody if not pulled off, but I found Chris to be charming and excited about sharing good, healthy, locally grown food as part of a well-rounded life. He won me over, and I pride myself on being a curmudgeon.

The menu is a facinating mix of foods fancy and simple. For instance, they serve pigs in a blanket, but their take is Berkshire pork loin rolled in a tortilla and served with apple butter. I passed on that because I wanted the pork loin dinner, which was a huge, lean pork loin cut grilled medium well.

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This cut was very lean, but packed with pork flavor. It wasn’t super tender, but was more reminiscent of the texture of a good sirloin steak. It wasn’t tough by any stretch, it just required a good satisfying chew that gave you time to enjoy the flavor. On the side was a vinegary slaw and there was a bit of a peppery sauce to accompany the pork loin. The sauce was good, but wasn’t needed.

What sold me on the place, however, were the sides. Many traditional sides (organic mashed potatoes, corn bread, veggies) but the one that caught my eye was the ratatouille Who serves ratatouille as a side? I had to try it, even though I know it usually features the satan of vegetables: the bell pepper.

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Yep, green bell peppers, which usually ruin for me everything in the kitchen if the cook even thinks about one. But here’s the rub, this was spectactular. The carrots, squash, zucchini, and onions were superb as they floated in that tomato/garlic sauce. The only thing that would have improved it was a piece of nice french bread to sop up the left over sauce (in fairness, Chris did offer me a chunk).

The meal was great, but the staff wanted me to enjoy dessert. For their sake, I agreed. The suggestion was a fresh bread pudding with pumpkin ice cream.

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It was a perfect dessert. Perfect. In all, the meal cost me around $35 (including tip and one beer), but it was worth every penny.

Is it unique?

What do you think? How many places in the state actually offer a fusion of food, fitness and faith? That in and of itself is unique and that doesn’t take into account that Key Ingredients actually pulls it off. I can’t put Key Ingredients into the top level of WV restaurants (Cafe Cimino, Julio’s, Lot 12) but it is in the next level along with such places as South Hills Kitchen in Charleston, Stardust Cafe in Lewisburg, and Thyme Bistro in Weston.

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