Drink This: Juicers

Seattle food geeks are hooked on juice. Starbucks thinks you will be, too.

By Allecia Vermillion April 25, 2012 Published in the May 2012 issue of Seattle Met

KARI BRUNSON AND BRANDIN MYETT had a Monday tradition back in the summer of 2009, when the two cooked on the line at Anchovies and Olives : a weekly walk for a fresh juice from Healeo, the health food store around the corner on Madison. The two friends later coupled up, moved in together, and started making juice at home, blending green apples and red peppers with, say, pineapple and coconut water. For Brunson, who danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet before becoming a cook, designing these juices helped her retain the good nutrition practices so critical to her old lifestyle, so difficult in her new one.

While most cooks dream of opening a restaurant, Brunson, now a personal chef, and Myett, the sous chef at La Bête , went a different direction: When the Broadway and Queen Anne farmers markets return in late April, the couple will launch a juice stand at each, though a brick-and-mortar shop remains the ultimate goal. Their Juice Box business is the latest evidence that juicing, a trend that rears its head every decade or so, is back.

And this time, it doesn’t feel like a fad. Juice is poised to be big again, partly due to the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, in which a charismatic Australian businessman and a morbidly obese Iowa truck driver undertake a 60-day juice cleanse, shedding an astonishing amount of both pounds and health concerns. In its latest iteration, juicing doesn’t mean smoothies or calorie-bomb fruit juices boosted with protein powders or Zen-inducing additives. Juicing devotees liquefy kale, carrots, parsley, and beet greens, producing savory, unsullied concoctions that satisfy daily goals for fruit and vegetable consumption…without having to actually eat all those fruits and vegetables.

Brunson and Myett will create five fresh juices each week, converting seasonal produce into beverages both flavorful and nutritious. “And we aren’t going to be tasting our juices with little straws,” says Brunson. “That would be like a ­Portlandia episode.”

Tini Bigs owner Keith Robbins has been juicing for a decade; in February he worked with his bar staff to begin blending fresh juice options daily. He likes tasting the change in the seasons and designing his own combinations. “It’s kind of nice to feel like you had some involvement in the end product.”

Even our hometown coffee giant is convinced that America is ready to juice. In November, Starbucks purchased Evolution Fresh, a California company started by the founder of Naked Juice, and in March debuted a health-focused lifestyle store in Bellevue. It’s the company’s first non­coffee enterprise, a gleaming kitchen-inspired store intended to expand into other cities. Evolution Fresh is a separate brand but applies Starbucks’ model of custom, portable drinks to fruit and vegetable juice. Visitors won’t hear the growl of juicers; instead employees pull taps along a towering white “juice wall” that dispenses pure blasts of beet or pine­apple, mixing and matching a total of seven juices and add-ins like ginger or agave. Produce is “cracked, peeled, squeezed, and cold bottled” in San ­Bernadino, California, using a heat-free process designed to keep nutrients intact.

Arthur Rubinfeld, Starbucks’ president of global store development, says the store is designed to educate neophytes more comfortable with a standard OJ than Evolution Fresh’s signature green juice blend, made with celery, romaine, cucumber, wheatgrass, spinach, clover sprouts, and lime.

The greater latte-toting population may not embrace juice immediately, but, he allows, “It’s not unlike specialty coffee drinks were 20 years ago.”

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