"You leave here wanting to grow your own goji berries."
ABC Elixir Bar
Smoothies have always been on the expensive side—but $12 expensive? What's in there, gold? Actually, avocado, frozen pineapple, Thai coconut meat, kale, cilantro, lime, agave, and 20 grams of hemp protein (in a compost-able potato-based cup). That would be the "Solar Power" on the menu of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's new ABC Elixir Bar next to his also just-opened ABC Kitchen.
The menu is somewhere between Jamba Juice and Per Se, and the menu architect, Brandi Kowalski, in fact interned at Per Se for a bit, in addition to owning her own gardening business in Colorado for ten years and receiving a degree at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in the Flatiron. After going to a bunch of juice bars, she says she always left wanting more. "I was never quite satisfied with other juices."
But these aren't what your average high-schooler juice-ista throws into a blender. Just like all of Jean-Georges's other menus, everything is precisely calculated, complex, and will probably contain at least one thing you didn't expect to eat that day. (Case in point: blue algae flakes?)
This menu is divided into organic juices, organic smoothies (both sold in 16-ounce servings) and elixir shots, in addition to some teas, coffee, and baked goods from the pastry wing of ABC Kitchen. All of the fruit is carefully measured ahead of time, portioned into baggies, then frozen—not to the point of freezer burn, just to give it that nice icy texture before blending. Most of the produce comes from the Union Square Greenmarket a few blocks away, which means the summer menu will get even more berry-filled and exciting; they're currently working on a rhubarb juice. About ten percent of the ingredients aren't locally sourced, like an extra ingredient in the 24 Karat juice (carrot, beet, apple, aloe, and ginger)—blue algae flakes, which come from the deepest natural lake in Oregon.
If you're a hardcore grapefruit drinker, you should try the Yuzu C juice, which makes every part of your mouth and throat pucker a bit—but somehow, it doesn't taste bitter. It combines the entire citrus crew: orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime and the namesake yuzu, a tart Japanese hybrid fruit that looks like a midget grapefruit. Despite its small size, yuzu contains about ten times as much vitamin-C as any other fruit, about the equivalent of those fizzy Emergen-C drinks that zap you back to health.
Both of the nut milks (almond and walnut) in the smoothies are made in-house. The sweet almond milk goes into the Banana Boat, which is like the sophisticated shake version of a chocolate-dipped banana: frozen bananas, walnut milk, and cinnamon blended together, topped with raw cacao chocolate syrup and bits of walnut.
While it's hard to justify spending ten bucks on a liquid that's not even meant as a meal replacement, you do get sucked into the feel-good ethos here. The menu, printed on chlorine-free, neutral pH paper, describes all the superfoods on the back. (Blue green algae is "one of nature's most perfect foods"—then comes a litany of vitamins and minerals it contains). You leave here wanting to take more yoga classes and grow your own goji berries—and really re-think that Coke Zero, and all of its delicious toxins, you reach for an hour later.