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What the Hell Happened to Smoothies

May 17, 2010

I hadn’t been living in California long before I took a trip back to Philly one summer to visit some friends.  It was clear from the start that life on the West Coast had softened my mind.

It was a beautiful summer morning.  The Philly heat and humidity had yet to roll in, and people were on their front stoops enjoying a bit of cool morning air.  And as I strolled past a couple of these people, I wished them a bright and friendly, “Good morning.”

Which naturally was met with icy stares.  So much for brotherly love.

The day went on, and I continued my walk around the city.  As the weather got warmer, I got thirstier.  And I went looking for liquid refreshment.  What I really wanted was a smoothie, but I couldn’t find a juice bar to save my life.

When I told my friends about my conundrum, they nearly laughed me out of town.
“A juice bar?  What the hell happened to you?!”  This was most likely in 1996.

I’ve seen some anemic-looking smoothies in the Albany area.  It seems to me that most people accept fruit syrup blended with ice as a smoothie.  I’ve seen this sort of concoction mixed up at a local café and was appalled.

Smoothies should be made with fruit.  Frozen fruit is fine.  I might even accept canned fruit if it was canned in its own juice, rather than being canned in syrup.

I mention this because just yesterday I found myself staring at the menu board of a smoothie joint in the Albany International Airport, after learning that the new wine bar in the Albany International Airport doesn’t actually serve wine on Sundays before noon.  The nerve.

Their menu was full of the kind of smoothies I can’t stand: sticky-sweet creations of ice and syrup.

So when there was a lull I asked the woman behind the counter if they actually had any kind of fruit besides bananas.  She pointed me to a giant industrial-sized can of strawberries in syrup.  No.  My God.  Then she showed me a container of diced mango, and pointed to a similar container, which she told me held blueberries.

Now we were getting somewhere.

I asked her if she could make me a mango and blueberry smoothie.  And she agreed.  Ice, frozen yogurt, and mango went in the blender without a problem.  The blueberries were another story.  They came out of their container encased in thick sticky syrup.

Then she reached for her mystery bottles, “Do you want Coco Lopez or honey-water?”

I was perplexed.  I didn’t really want either of them, especially given the syrupy blueberries.  But she insisted the smoothie needed some liquid.  It turns out they had plenty of fresh milk on hand so we went with that and a splash of the Coco Lopez, because it just sounded like a fun treat.

She gave it a whirl and it was pretty darned good.

Truth be told, I’ve always been particular about smoothies.  It took me a long time to create my standing order at Jamba Juice.  All their stuff is just so sweet.  Mine involved cranberry juice and blueberries, and substituting frozen yogurt for their standard sorbet.

But subsequently I abandoned smoothies for a juice blend of an entirely different nature.  A fresh-squeezed orange slush.  It’s been a long time, but I think the order was twelve ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice, mixed with four scoops of ice, and blended like crazy.

Refreshing and delicious.  And also something that is best done with their super-power blenders.  But the ice crushing capabilities of blenders is a subject for another day.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyse permalink
    May 17, 2010 11:14 am

    Ha ha, Jamba Juice.

    I don’t miss west coast smoothie options as I do the frozen yogurt bars with all of the fresh fruit/candy/stuff toppings. I know they have plenty of them in NYC- why hasn’t the frozen yogurt trend reached Albany yet? Do you think that people would go for it here? Too many soft serve ice cream stands?

    Also, Honest Weight supposedly has a juice bar (not smoothies, but close enough) but I have yet to take advantage of it.

  2. May 17, 2010 2:26 pm

    No alcohol on Sunday mornings is actually New York State law, unfortunately. That’s not to say that everybody follows the rules, but the airport could probably never get away with it.

  3. May 17, 2010 5:31 pm

    @Ed – really? I thought the only blanket ban was between 4am and 8am daily. Not that I often test these particular boundaries.

  4. breadchick permalink
    May 17, 2010 9:37 pm

    Frozen yogurt is alive and well here in upstate. Actually, there was a frozen yogurt shop on Hamilton Street back in the early 80’s that was very good. Coffee shop in Delmar had it for years and may still have it, and I hear a radio ad for it at Guptill’s.

    It’s around, I just think it’s the smaller joints that offer it.

    Now if we could address the wonderfully ancient liquor laws in NYS. Wait, let me get my powdered wig and I’ll be happy to join the discussion… okay (itch, itch) all set.

    How about the whole brunch thing and you can’t get champagne until noon. Ridiculous! Don’t get me started on the fact that Daddy-NY decides when adults can indulge and when they can buy the booze.

  5. Elyse permalink
    May 17, 2010 9:55 pm

    @breadchick- frozen yogurt here gets mushed in with the soft serve ice cream scene- I’m talking specifically about Pinkberry knock offs- you know, where they only offer two flavors of yogurt (plain and green tea) and many weird toppings, such as pomegranate seeds and mochi balls.

  6. breadchick permalink
    May 17, 2010 10:04 pm

    Elyse, get what you mean. Still, except for Guptills, the other places aren’t ice cream joints. They’re coffee shops or sandwich shops. Pinkberry sounds pretty good – maybe upstate will get a shot someday.

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