By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012
Amy Waldman had intended to open her organic juice bar well before the start of 2012, and permit problems nearly derailed that resolution. But when many of us awoke Jan. 1 with a renewed commitment to health, Waldman wanted to be at the ready. "I was very adamant about being open for the new year," she says.
She squeezed in right under deadline, launching Puree Artisan Juice Bar on Dec. 29 in a slip of a space in Bethesda next to Equinox gym and close to Down Dog Yoga. "It's not just for people going to the gym and the yoga studio. But of course, that's a nice bonus," she says.
Waldman, a 46-year-old Potomac native who has a theater background and a passion for acting, says she had long wished for the kind of juice bars found all over New York City. For Puree, she says, she took ideas from her favorites up north and researched Los Angeles-based juice bar businesses to build her own. The result is a modern, bright, LEED-certified space with electric-green wheat grass sprouting here and there. A few tables and a bar round things out. The produce is locally sourced, from growers such as Edrich Farms in Randallstown, Md.; the bee pollen comes from Thurmont, Md.
Juice might be just the ticket for those who want nutrition in a hurry. Puree's "Juice & Go" cooler holds refrigerated, glass-bottled elixirs (16 ounces, $9) freshly pressed each morning. (Waldman had expected customers to be able to bring the glass bottles back for reuse, but she is still working to persuade Montgomery County to allow that.) Waldman says the thick glass bottles preserve the juice longer and keep it from tasting like plastic.
Her favorite is the Mean Lemon-Aid, a spicy lemon purifying tonic with a shot of kale that looks like a mad scientist's experiment. It definitely tastes healthful, and not in an entirely unpleasant way.
Waldman and chief operating officer/chef Steve Mekoski, 25, collaborated on the design of two cleanses, or regimens to detoxify the body (one-day, $65; three-day, $180) that come with lots of tips and information, and on the fruit-based purees and creamy shakes (16 ounces, $10). All of the shakes are customizable and vegan, getting their creaminess from almonds, bananas and coconut - and eventually avocados, when organic ones are more reasonably priced, Waldman says. All fruit is frozen after purchase, so no ice is needed.
The orange lassi shake (one of several "signatures" from the bar), blended with almond, vanilla, coconut and a heavy hit of cardamom, is a really lovely combination, although I found the coconut was a bit too coarse. We liked the banana butter cup shake better, with its almonds, bananas, cinnamon and bitter cacao nibs. But our favorite was the cacao berry puree of strawberries, banana, coconut and cacao (unprocessed) powder.
It's the ideal way to get your New-Year's-resolution juices flowing.