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Mar 19, 2018
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Teetotaler: Horchatas are a cool, creamy accompaniment to Cherokee Street fare

Monday, December 13th, 2010

121310_horchataWalk into most eateries on Cherokee Street and you’ll find an array of agua frescas (cold, flavored drinks). Some are fruity, touting flavors like mango and watermelon, while one, the horchata, substitutes milk for citrus.

Drinking a tall glass of milk with your torta, burrito or enchilada may not sound as appetizing as a beer or one of those bottled Coca-Colas, but something cool and creamy to coat your mouth after all that spice is a blessing, trust us. Made with rice milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and usually served over ice, a horchatas is a soothing, delicious accompaniment to your meal.

A horchata is comparable to almond or oat milk in color. Its thin consistency goes down smooth, and, just like milk, it’s quite thirst-quenching. The vanilla and cinnamon is what should pop in most horchata blends. It shouldn’t taste like liquefied tapioca pudding but rather a subtly sweet treat that’s creamy and unique.

The pequena (small) size is served in a whopping 20-ounce cup for just $1.65 at El Bronco on Cherokee Street.

Teetotaler: White coffee at Cafe Natasha’s

Monday, December 6th, 2010

120610_cafenatashaThe white coffee at Cafe Natasha’s on South Grand Boulevard is, in fact, not coffee at all. Deceiving? Maybe. But manager and co-owner Natasha Bahrami sees this misnomer as a way to engage her customers, rather than mislead them.

Lebanese-inspired white coffee, or café blanc, is simple: water boiled with a bit of sugar and either orange blossoms or rose water. In Lebanon, teens drink it after a late night at the clubs and restaurants serve it as a digestif after a large, rich meal.

But at this South Grand eatery, where it’s made with rose water concentrate, it’s a novelty that offers a deep calming feeling and an introduction to a powerful new aroma. When served alone, rose water concentrate smells clean, fresh and fragrant. It tastes quite different, however, offering a slight bitterness and nearly overwhelming the senses. Yet when served with hot water and some sugar (honey also works well here), it becomes a delicious and unique treat. The heat pulls out the aroma, allowing its healing qualities to be both tasted and smelled, and the bitterness disappears, leaving you with a slightly sweet and powerfully soothing beverage appropriate for a chilly winter evening.

Sidle up to the bar and order one for $3.

Teetotaler: Carrot smoothie at The Vine

Monday, November 29th, 2010

112910_carrotsmoothieAt The Vine Mediterranean Café and Market on South Grand Boulevard, where falafel, baklava and tabouli are the main draws, it’s nice to find little treasures like fresh-pressed juices on the back page of the menu. And with the resurgence of the juicing craze, these cheap drinks are a tasty little treat.

The Vine offers orange, apple, mango, grape or carrot as single options ($2.49), all squeezed fresh while you wait. But it’s the smoothies – one in particular – that are the real deal here. The carrot smoothie is made from carrot juice pressed from huge juicing carrots, banana, honey and ice. It sounds like it could be packed with protein powders and other potions, but here it’s served simply using the purest of ingredients.

Milk or yogurt that usually make a smoothie a heartier snack is absent here in favor of a more refined beverage that’s more natural and less dense than what you’d find at a coffee shop or smoothie joint. Due to the absence of any dairy, the earthy carrot flavor really pops, its slight bitterness balanced by the sweetness from the banana and honey. Its consistency is a little pulpy from the ground carrot and a bit watery from the melting ice, but the pureness of the whole beta-carotene package is satisfying and entirely healthful. One size fits all for $2.99 a pop.

Teetotaler: Water you didn’t know you needed

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

112210_harvestbayNot much beats pulling a coconut off a tree, cracking it open and drinking its contents with a straw. But as the cool wind begins to wipe the trees of their leaves here in the Midwest, there’s an alternative that can hold you over until that trip to Hawaii.

Harvest Bay Coconut Water is a 100% natural beverage that contains essential minerals and electrolytes our body thrives on. So if those are lost, say, through a work out or a rough Friday night, this is the perfect liquid to re-hydrate and replenish those missing elements. The one downside is that it’s an acquired taste; it may take a few tries before it becomes your new go-to drink. It’s cloudy in color, and the odd flavor – a mix of a sweet and briney – can often prevent you from over-indulging. But give it a try, the benefits are worth it.

There is no after-effect here – no high, no jitters or energy boost. It’s simply a natural way to give your body the right balance. It contains no fat and is incredibly high in potassium (a feat mostly seen in bananas and Brussels sprouts), and also touts a low caloric and carbohydrate content with half as much sugar as soda. It’s best served when ice cold and can be consumed at any time of day, as it has no caffeine.

You can find it at The Natural Way in Webster Groves for $2.25 in a single-serve, 11-oz. box.

Teetotaler: Good Earth’s Original Sweet & Spicy Tea

Monday, November 15th, 2010

111510_teaJudging what your cup of tea will taste like based on its smell is usually unreliable. The overpowering scent of pomegranate may be undetectable on your tongue or the vanilla you smell may taste nothing like vanilla. But Good Earth’s Original Sweet & Spicy Tea tastes just how it smells: sweet, spicy and delicious.

A mixture of black and jasmine teas, this tea boasts flavor from roseships, papaya, cinnamon, chamomile, lemongrass, peppermint, ginger root, anise seed, orange peel and orange oil. It’s rich and well-seasoned. Hints of zesty orange create a sweetness, while spicy cinnamon nearly dominates your taste buds.

This is a rare tea which is hurt – rather than helped – by the addition of honey and lemon; doing so ruins all the natural flavors. It’s a full-bodied, powerful blend that can open up some sinuses and give your taste buds a run for their money. 

Good Earth’s tea is high in antioxidants and all natural with no sugar.

Good Earth also makes an organic, decaf version of the tea, which is equally delicious. Both can be found at Local Harvest Grocery – the decaf at $4.89 for a box of 18 bags, and the caffeinated at $5.19 for a box of 25.

Teetotaler: Meet the Cubano

Monday, November 8th, 2010

110810_espressoAbout halfway down the menu at The Mud House on Cherokee Street sits the Cubano. For those who aren’t familiar with the ways of the island, a Cubano is an espresso shot that’s brewed the way the Cubans do it – with sugar.

There is a bit of variation on how to brew the perfect Cubano. Some baristas will pull a regular shot and then stir in the raw sugar. I, however, like to ask the barista to pour the sugar crystals in the portafilter (the group handle that the ground espresso gets packed down into before being inserted into the espresso machine) on top of the espresso grounds, then go from there. This way, the hot water runs through both the sugar and the espresso on its way into the glass, creating a sweet, smooth taste.

Cubanos are a great option for those who usually find espresso a bit too bitter. The sugar crystals help to dilute the bitterness of a purely pulled shot, and they can even enhance the robustness of the coffee, bringing out new layers of flavor.

The Mud House serves its single-shot Cubanos for $2 in a demitasse and saucer. The accompanying spoon not only allows – but encourages – you to give your drink a few stirs, making sure you grab any residual sugar crystals at the bottom. This drink is great in the morning or after a big meal, providing a sweet and flavorful boost.

Teetotaler: The Lemon-Lime Rickey

Monday, November 1st, 2010

110110_rickeyThe problem with high-fructose corn syrup is that, well, it tastes like high-fructose corn syrup. It has an aftertaste that stays with you, turning the initial sweetness into something less pleasant than what first hits your taste buds. That may be one reason why Empire Bottling Works makes its line of sodas with 100 percent cane sugar.

The small company out of Rhode Island brews sarsparilla, orange, root beer, ginger ale and other soda flavors, but the standout is the Lemon-Lime Rickey.

Historically, a Rickey is alcoholic, made with lime juice, club soda and gin, while some switch out the gin for bourbon, whiskey or other liquors. But Empire’s is a teetotaler’s version, leaving out the liquor for a combo of artificial and natural flavor extracts, cane sugar and artesian-well water.

Some sodas taste too syrupy, carbonated and artificial while others lack potency. Empire, though, does it just right, brewing all of the ingredients in the Lemon-Lime Rickey proportionately so that you can taste each element in every sip. The result is a clean, refreshing beverage that’s smooth and balanced, not overly sweet and flavorful to boot.

Find a fridge full of these refreshments for $1.09 each at Pointer’s Market in Benton Park.

Teetotaler: The Mango Lassi

Monday, October 25th, 2010

102510_MangoLassiFor all those times when I’m not quite hungry enough to eat but too hungry not to, I usually choose the liquid diet to satiate my belly’s yearning. And Kaldi’s is a good place for just such a thing.

Aside from coffee, lunch, snacks and treats, Kaldi’s is also home to a long list of cutesy-named smoothies made on-the-spot with frozen fruit and other healthy ingredients. There is the Sweet Banana, the Chocolate Banana Nut, the Peachy Keen or the Power Smoothie, among others. The most notable, however, is the Mango Lassi, a take on a traditional Indian indulgence, made of yogurt, milk and mango. In the traditional preparation, it is often seasoned with spices and used to aid in digestion problems … but here, at the American coffee shop, it’s merely a means for pure enjoyment.

It is thick and smooth, almost like a milkshake, and is well-balanced with all the proper proportions of sweet, tart and creamy. Kaldi’s adds honey to its version and uses vanilla yogurt to even out the mango’s tanginess, which would be overwhelming otherwise.

Relish this delicious refreshment or any of the others for $4.25 for a 12-oz., or $5.35 for a 20-oz. And as with any frigid drink, a brain freeze can be close at-hand, so drinking slowly – perhaps using a spoon rather than a straw – is recommended.

Teetotaler: A house-made chai filled with fall flavors

Monday, October 18th, 2010

101810_chaiThere’s something to be said about an establishment that goes the extra mile by preparing a recipe in-house. Not only is it more economical to do it the old fashioned way, but the final product may have some extra rare ingredients – and definitely a lot more love.

At Foam Coffee & Beer at 3359 S. Jefferson Ave., you can find a stellar house-made chai that proprietor Mike Glodeck touts as a “collaborative effort.”

Anise, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and shredded ginger root are steeped in hot water with black pepper, bay leaves, brown sugar and a couple of bags of black tea. The result is a powerful blend of autumn’s favorite flavors with just enough caffeine to give you a small boost. It’s not as overwhelming, as sweet or as strong as the boxed concentrate, but it is exquisitely spicy and complex. More flavorful than tea, but not quite as bold as coffee, chai is the perfect alternative for those who want something in the middle.

To prepare, the house-made non-alcoholic toddy is diluted with a bit of milk then steamed and served in a retro cup and saucer with a small spoon – $2.90 for 12-oz.; $3.20 for 16 oz.; $3.50 for 20-oz. Many coffee joints will use a generic, overly sugary concentrate or powder to make their lattes, so this zesty gem is definitely worth a chai, err, try.

Teetotaler: The benefits of yerba mate

Monday, October 11th, 2010

101110_guayakiWelcome to Teetotaler, a new online column geared at showing you the amazing non-alcoholic drink options around the city. You’ve seen our recommendations for where to get the best brews, booze and bubbly around town. Now it’s time to show you that you don’t have to get tipsy to taste the best this city has to offer. Here’s to the teetotalers in all of us.

Upon the unfortunate recall of the raw, organic, pro-biotic tea, Kombucha, Local Harvest Grocery searched for a replacement for the drink that had nothing short of a cult following. What they switched to was Guayaki Yerba Mate – a beverage whose likeness is closest to a tea but one that’s advertised as a “powerful rainforest experience.” Its ingredients come from yerba mate (the leaves of the holly tree). For centuries, the South American Ache Guayaki tribe has turned to the drink for “tremendous invigoration, focus and nourishment,” and some are even choosing it in substitution for their daily cup of coffee.

Offered in 16-ounce cans in flavors such as Lemon Elation, Revel Berry and Enlighten Mint, this drink is organic and fair trade-certified. Local Harvest sells them for $2.29 each and can do special orders for those who think they may guzzle them a case at a time. The Revel Berry is the most flavorful in my opinion, with notes of raspberry, blackberry and hibiscus. It smells sweeter than it tastes, but it’s incredibly well-balanced with cane sugar and a slight tartness.

All three varieties are invigorating – thanks to the 13 grams of sugar in each can – and can be a jolt for someone not used to this sort of energizing fluid. But it’s not just the sugar and caffeine that are turning people onto Guayaki Yerba Mate. It also contains a generous portion of vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. When properly chilled and thoughtfully consumed (meaning you take your time–no chugging!), this drink can be the perfect ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. You can pick up a can at Local Harvest Grocery at 3148 Morgan Ford Road.

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