Acai Bowls: They’re the best and I don’t want you missing out

Let’s stop pretending we know how to pronounce the darn thing. If you’re saying ‘acai’ right, it sort of rhymes with ‘how about me?’

As for where you’ll find it — not in Whole Foods ‘Fresh Picks.’ Acai can’t be bought in its true form, a berry from palm trees that grow in the Amazon rain forest in Central and South America. When an acai berry is picked, it’s taken to a lab, processed, sometimes frozen, and then sent to the United States.

Why is it healthy af?

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That’s simple. Acai berries are high in fiber and antioxidants which are known to help balance cholesterol levels.

If you’re anything like me, of course you care about long-term health benefits, but what really makes you happy is knowing what foods and drinks are good for your body almost instantly. Acai does that. Its energy boost is just what you need to get going in the morning.

Acai bowls and all their glory… kind of.

The good news is that acai bowls are packed with protein. Shops and cafes add granola, seeds and butters to almost every bowl. Most are topped with berries other than acai like blueberries and strawberries which makes them “a nutrition powerhouse,” said Sandy Livingston, a registered nutrition and licensed nutritionist in Palm Beach County.

The bad news? Some acai bowls are high in sugar and sodium content.

I’ll put it like this: Sambazon, Acai Roots and Tambor are three popular brands of acai that are shipped to the U.S. and used in nutrition-conscious businesses like Jaya Nutrition in Juno Beach and Celis and The Bee in West Palm Beach. Half a cup of Acai Roots acai sorbet in a bowl has about 65 mg of sodium and 16 grams of sugar. That doesn’t include the sugars your body will consume from the added layers of almond/peanut butter or yummy honey that top a standard acai bowl.

To put this into perspective, a woman should only consume 25 grams of sugar a day, while a man should have 37.5, according to AuthorityNutrition.com.

Still interested despite the devilish side?

That’s okay. Me too. Between you and me, acai bowls make up 50 percent of my “eating out” budget! I love them all, from the healthier bowls (low in sugar content and 100% organic) served at Jaya Nutrition bar to the sugar rush I get from a bowl at Field of Greens in downtown West Palm.

Check out this guide to my 5 favorite bowls around town.

Fill up for a few hours at The Bee

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Fruity Acai Bowl at The Bee in Downtown West Palm Beach. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Toppings like homemade granola (to die for) and fresh raspberries please me more than the acai does. This is because it’s blended with banana and mylk (milk substitute) so the taste of the tart berry is not as potent and melts really fast. Trust that you’ll be served a hearty amount of deliciousness, though. More than enough to fill you up until your next meal.

Location: 123 Datura St, West Palm Beach

Cost: $12 or $13

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Field of Greens

Lil Root is my go-to bowl at Field of Greens. It’s cheap and small enough to eat on the go. The nutella on top of the freezing cold acai is all the sweet I need, so I usually skip the drizzle of honey on top.

Location:  412 Clematis St, West Palm Beach

Cost: Between $5 and $10

Have a healthier bowl over conversation at Jaya Nutrition Bar

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Dakota, server at Jaya Nutrition Bar making an acai bowl. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Jaya Nutrition Bar is as beautiful and welcoming as its owner, Cecile Alfonzo-Antoine, who designed the place herself.

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Cecile Alfonzo-Antoine, owner of Jaya Nutrition Bar. Corvaya / Palm Beach Post

Your acai bowl will be served in a white paper container with a handwritten, motivational phrase on it — a conversation starter for anyone. The bar’s acai has no coloring agents and is low in sodium. All of these elements make me happy.

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Location: 869, Donald Ross Rd, Juno Beach

Cost: Between $6 and $10

Up your immunity at Juice Buzz

I upgraded from the Cacao Crunch Bowl to the Green Cacao Crunch Bowl. You know, something a little more green with added superfood powder, kale or spirulina. It’s not as sweet as some of the other bowls on this list but still tasty and undeniably healthy.

Location: 6 NE 5th Ave, Delray Beach

Cost: $11

Enjoy every spoonful at Celis Produce

The freezing cold, perfectly textured organic acai is what I love about the bowls at Celis. Prepared with acai ahead of time, when you order your bowl, all they have to do is add peanut butter, hemp/flax granola, honey, bananas, strawberries and kiwi. It allows for a bit of everything in every bite.

“Customers love our bowls because of the quality of our ingredients. The fruit is always fresh, never frozen and the granola we use is airy and crunchy,” Alex Celis, Co-Owner of Celis Produce, said.

Bonus Points: Celis is just a few steps away from The Palm Beach Post building, which is a gift for my taste buds and a curse for my pockets.

Location: 2814 S Dixie Hwy d, West Palm Beach

Cost: Between $10 and $12

Get your superfruit serving Whole Foods 

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Servings of aca in drinks sold at Whole Foods. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

You won’t be able to order an acai bowl at Whole Foods, but you can get your acai fix through various drinks, bars and supplements.

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Acai supplements sold at Whole Foods. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

Personally, I can’t imagine skipping out on a bowl for a drink that costs just as much, but hey, that’s me.

For anyone who has been skeptical about the hype hovering over acai and acai bowls, I get it. Everything in the bowl can be thrown into a blender and taste just as good as a smoothie.

But it’s satisfying to spend a little more time with colorful (and healthy) variety of textures that melt in your mouth, airy granola that has the right amount of crunch or thick and handmade almond butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

A bowl from any of the locations on this list are at least worth a taste test, but don’t rush through it. Challenge yourself to pay attention to your tastebuds and your mood, then tell me what you think.

Sign at The Bee in Downtown West Palm Beach. Corvaya Jeffries / Palm Beach Post

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Acai Bowls: They’re the best and I don’t want you missing out

First look: New restaurant Newk’s Eatery hits the spot

Each time I passed the prime, long-vacant space at Legacy Place, I would remember a horrible cup of coffee. It was served a decade ago at a café long gone from there. And it was served with a bad attitude.

What a waste of space, I’d think each time I passed the spot. Here’s a lovely, fountain-side space in a busy plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, and it’s empty.

Thanks to Newk’s Eatery, which moved in earlier this month, the space is empty no more. More importantly, it’s well occupied.

Legacy Place: Newk's first southeast Florida location. (Contributed by Newk's)
Legacy Place: Newk’s first SE Florida location. (Contributed by Newk’s)

Newk’s is no fancy joint. It’s a fast-casual chain restaurant, the first of 10 planned locations for southeast Florida. It was brought to the shopping and dining plaza by the local family behind eight Five Guys locations in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

The place offers hearty, generously portioned soups, toasted sandwiches, interesting salads and personal-size pizzas. Just as importantly, it offers excellent service.

Toasty edges: Newk's pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Newk’s pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

I dropped in for a quick, late lunch recently and enjoyed a bowl of Newk’s Loaded Potato soup (large, 16-ounce, $6.99), a special served on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I was not disappointed: creamy, lots of flavor, smoky bacon hints, filling. The soups, which are rotated daily in selection, are offered in 8-ounce, 16-ounce, and 32-ounce servings. The 16-ounce proved to be entrée sized.

I found the perfect soup accompaniment on Newk’s large round condiment table: thin, Italian-style breadsticks.

Hits the spot: a large (16-ounce) potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Hits the spot: a large potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Days later, we returned to sample other items. Newk’s Club ($8.19), a pretty straightforward rendition of the classic, was stacked with smoked ham, (nitrate-free) turkey, Swiss cheese, thick-cut bacon, romaine and sliced tomato on Newk’s lightly toasted “French Parisian” baguette. As a side, we chose a pimento and bacon mac-and-cheese ($3.79 as a side) – it was tasty, though a touch oily.

Newk's club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk's)
The club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk’s)

A half-order of Caesar salad ($4.49) was quite delicious, a toss of fresh romaine with plenty of garlicky dressing, shredded Parmesan and buttered croutons.

We also tried Newk’s pepperoni pizza ($8.19), a 10-inch pie topped with pepperoni, thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses and fresh basil. The toppings proved quite delicious, but the crust didn’t hold up. While crispy around the edges, the crust sagged in the pie’s middle, forcing us to use a fork and knife.

Well dressed: half Caesar salad at Newk's. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Well dressed: Newk’s half Caesar. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

For the sipping, there are plenty of fountain drinks and a small selection of beers, which include Der Chancellor, locally brewed by Tequesta Brewing Company. (Wine is not offered.)

Newk’s is an ideal stop for a filling lunch or casual, fuss free dinner. No item is priced higher than $13. (There’s a kids’ menu priced between $3.75 and $5.50.)

And, yes, there’s coffee. But this one is served with a smile.

Newk’s Eatery: at Legacy Place, 11345 Legacy Ave., #100, Palm Beach Gardens; 561-626-3957; Newks.com

Hours: Open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

 

Tot-ally different St. Patrick’s Day shepherd’s pie

Farmette's Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie. (Photo credit: Imen McDonnell)
Behold Farmette’s Tater Tot Shepherd’s Pie! (Photo credit: Imen McDonnell)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a tale from the Irish countryside:

Before she was a farmer’s wife, Imen McDonnell lived the fast-paced life of an American broadcast producer in major U.S. cities.

The forces of love and Ireland changed all that. Nearly six years ago, those forces transformed McDonnell into the voice of “Farmette,” the popular lifestyle blog inspired by her daily life at an ancient, family-owned farm in County Limerick.

FarmetteCoverFood lovers and vicarious travelers everywhere have reaped the benefits of McDonnell’s lushly photographed culinary inspirations as she put her American city spin on Irish country fare.

Today, as evidenced in her newly released book, “The Farmette Cookbook,” she has stacks of stellar recipes to show for her kitchen experiments that include boldly hybrid dishes such as Tater Tot Shepherd’s Pie. (For which she makes her own tots.)

Related: Best Irish pubs to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Palm Beach County

Dear St. Patrick’s Day revelers, what goes better with a pint of Guinness than shepherd’s pie? Perhaps a better rhetorical question is: What goes better with a big, frosty mug of green beer than shepherd’s pie topped with crispy tots?

Here’s McDonnell’s recipe. You’re welcome!

Read the full story on Farmette’s new book in The Post’s Food & Dining.

TATER TOT SHEPHERD’S PIE

“Shepherd’s pie was one of my first forays into the basics of Irish country cooking… More recently, I began experimenting with ways to reinvent this classic pie. Inspired by craving a tater-tot hotdish (a Midwestern American casserole), I lined the top of my shepherd’s pie with homemade tots, and it was much more fun than standard mash.”

Serves 4

1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil, plus more for frying

1 large onion, chopped

2 to 3 medium carrots, chopped

1 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons tomato purée

Splash of Worcestershire sauce

2 cups lamb or beef stock

For the tots:

4 large russet potatoes, baked and cooled

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons fine salt

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then cook the onion and carrots for about 10 minutes, until softened. Turn up the heat, crumble in the lamb, and brown, pouring off any excess fat. Add the tomato purée and Worcestershire sauce; fry for a few more minutes until browned. Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 20 minutes to reduce the liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and shred them on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle in the flour and salt, and gently mix until combined.
  3. Scoop 1½ tablespoons of the potato mixture into a short cylinder, about 1½ inches long and ¾ inch wide. Press the mixture in tightly and then press the tots onto a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining potato mixture.
  4. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels; set aside. Pour ¼ inch of oil into a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat until hot, about 5 minutes. Fry the tots in batches of 8 to 10 pieces (do not overcrowd the pan), turning once, until light golden brown on both sides, about 1 to 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tots to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and season with salt. Repeat for all the tots.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  6. Put the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish. Top with the tots to completely cover the meat. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tots are starting to turn golden brown and the mince is bubbling through at the edges. Serve with a salad of crisp garden greens.

Scullery Notes: You can freeze tater tots for future use: Let the fried tots cool, then transfer them to an airtight container or ziplock bag. Arrange them in a single layer in the container or bag and place them in the freezer. You can also just pile the shredded potato on top of the filling and bake as directed.

This recipe and the author intro are reprinted from “The Farmette Cookbook,” by Imen McDonnell, with the permission of Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boulder, Colo.

Read the full story on Farmette’s new book in The Post’s Food & Dining.