July is absolutely lousy with random food holidays. There’s Pecan Pie Day (the 12th), Caviar Day (the 18th), Chocolate Day (the 7th), Ice Cream Day (the 17th) and, perhaps most randomly of all, Tapioca Pudding Day (the 15th). Less random and arguably more enticing is the fact that July also happens to be National Blueberry Month. We would designate every month as such if we could, but since we can’t, we decided to observe it this week by finding the most seasonally appropriate blueberry products we could find.
Because we’ve already eaten enough ice cream this month to cripple a pony, we decided to go the more pious route with raw-food-certified blueberry smoothies. Since Organic Avenue and the Juice Press happen to be located within several blocks of one another, we figured we’d see how they stacked up to one another.
Our first stop was the Suffolk Street location of Organic Avenue, a hushed, cavernous places that feels less like a retail outlet than some sort of Buddhist meditation retreat. Its prices, however, aren’t quite as serene: A 16-ounce glass bottle of their blueberry smoothie costs $12. Raw foodists, of course, would argue that it’s a mere pittance to pay for superior colonic health, but we were a little more skeptical.
But when we took a sip, we were pleasantly surprised. In addition to bananas, the smoothie contains coconut water, banana, coconut oil, and spirulina. The flavor of the bananas was very pronounced, but didn’t overwhelm that of the berries. The spirulina was mercifully present only in name; while in theory we respect the powers of blue-green algae, we don’t want its distinctive funk lurking anywhere near our food.
The smoothie’s texture also worked in its favor: It was plenty chunky, and so thick that we couldn’t pour it out of the bottle. We could have propped a stop sign in it, which is exactly the sort of quality we look for in a smoothie, on the rare occasions, that is, when we look for a smoothie at all. And so we concluded that Organic Avenue makes a refreshing and high-quality smoothie, one that we’d seek out the next time we crave chunky liquid sustenance. The fact that you get $2 when you return your bottle doesn’t hurt, either.
And so it was on to East 1st Street, where we entered the minuscule confines of the Juice Press. The Juice Press has earned a good deal of coverage for its raw juice cleanses, and as such has become a cause célèbre among models, actors, and other orthorexics of means. During our brief visit, we concluded that it has also become a clubhouse for privileged nitwits.
While we stood and waited for our smoothie — formally known as the Life Force Protein — to be made, a pair of urban surfers came in and demanded raw ginger shots from their “bro” behind the counter. He obliged, and then another employee came over to show them her new tattoo. “It’s Latin,” she said, proudly displaying her bicep. “It means ‘Nothing is heavy for those who have wings.’ I have huge wings.”
“Dude!” one of the surfers yelled. “You’re stealing my style!” He showed her the Latin tattoo on his bicep. As they marveled at this coincidence, a woman brought a bottle of coconut water to the cash register. “I’m all about liquids right now,” she said, as her friend behind the counter nodded approvingly.
We could have sat and watched this all day — we’re guessing that many of the Juice Press’s customers do — but instead we reluctantly took our $11 smoothie and went to the office.
The Life — let’s just call it a blueberry smoothie — contains blueberries, hemp protein powder, camu-camu berry, agave nectar, and coconut water. The hemp protein powder is key here, because it makes the smoothie taste like the smell of linen pants. The blueberries also impart their own fruity flavor, and the agave lends a nice touch of sweetness, but the lingering taste is of pants. Needless to say, that’s unfortunate, and seems a cruel fate to inflict upon perfectly good blueberries, especially those blended to such a smooth and almost creamy consistency.
And so if you’re inclined to observe National Blueberry Month with a semi-frozen beverage, we recommend doing it at Organic Avenue. We’re sure the Juice Press’s other smoothies have their virtues, but we prefer our blueberries free of natural fibers.
116 Suffolk Street
The Juice Press
70 East 1st Street
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 15, 2011