I was sitting at a juice bar in Scottsdale, Ariz., ragging on the young owner about the weedy green stuff growing out of trays on the counter. "People actually drink that stuff?"
How about a lovely
cup of green algae
"Sure, it's healthy stuff!" he said.
As if on cue, a biker dude pulls up on a Harley, and stomps in -- all leather and chains -- and orders up a shot o' wheat grass. OK.
It turns out the biker is recovering from cancer, and the wheat grass is one part of his health-conscious regimen.
Miracle substance or not, the wheat grass didn't appeal to me. As the liquids and chlorophyll were strained from the grass fibers, the concoction smelled
exactly like my front lawn. "Hallelujah," I thought, glad for once that Hawaii lags the mainland in certain trends.
This was a year-and-a-half ago, and my reprieve is over, for when Juice Rush opened in Koko Marina Center, the dreaded wheat grass was put on the menu.
The menu is devoted to fresh fruit smoothies in citrus, berry and tropical blends. Citrus blends start with orange juice and have names like Citrus Sunsation, Sunrise Rush and Cold Buster.
Tropical blends combine nectars, orange or pineapple sherbet and fresh fruit, and have names such as Guava Grinder, Papaya Pulsation and Pineapple Pizzaz.
Berry blends are smooth and creamy with dollops of frozen yogurt. One of my favorites is the Cranz'n Rush, with cranberry juice, yogurt, raspberry sherbet, strawberries and blueberries.
BUT most fascinating to me is the menu of "boosters," one-ounce shots of the likes of brewer's yeast, lecithin and, of course, wheat grass. You can get a free booster with each smoothie purchase, blended into the drink, or handed to you in a take-out cup.
I visited Juice Rush while trying the bagels at Pacific Bagel next door. (The bagels are nice and chewy, and are the base for filling sandwiches, and you must try the jalapeno bagel.) But I got caught up in booster mania.
Food supplements -- like amino acid-rich bee pollen and vitamin- and iron-filled spirulina, the blue-green micro algae -- are nothing new, but Juice Rush offers sampling opportunities for all who may have been afraid to buy huge jars of this stuff, not knowing what it tastes like. I suppose taste is beside the point. People will try just about anything in the name of health.
Bee pollen by itself is like a spongy candy that tastes like fish food. And wheat grass juice is surprisingly sweet, with an element of bitterness and a grassy aftertaste. But mixed into a smoothie, you'd barely notice, except for the color. An ounce of spirulina for instance, will turn a strawberry smoothie a lovely shade of moss green.
As for nutrition, young wheat grass is said to have three times the protein of the wheat kernels we make into flour, three times the folic acid and 50 times the vitamin C. It's said to reduce high blood pressure, neutralize toxins in the body and improve digestion. It's also said to prevent hair from graying, but that's a stretch.
With baby boomers turning 50, this offers a wonderful restaurant concept. Instead of salt on the table, we can have spirulina flakes. Waiters will ask customers, "How are you today?" If you're feeling bloated, maybe they'll suggest a little lecithin in your salad dressing to absorb fat.
The fountain of youth will be served on a dinner plate.
Juice Rush: Koko Marina
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Prices: 16 ounces $2.95 to $4.50; $1 more for 24 ounces
Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:
-- excellent;To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to email@example.com
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- below average.