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Diner: California Cookin'

West Coast food fad offers Cincinnati meal alternatives to fast food

By Lisa J. Mauch · February 4th, 1999 · Diner
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You thought that, when the holidays were over, things would be running at a less hectic pace. But no, you still have meetings to rush to, work to take home and commitments to keep. So that New Year's Eve resolution to eat healthier might be harder to keep than you thought. Who has time to plan and fix a nutritious meal? Not you. No matter what you told yourself on New Year's Day.

Maybe that's why the convenience and nutrition that smoothies and wraps offer are making them a popular choice for the on-the-go, health-conscious individual.

For those of you not in the know, smoothies are fruit juices thickened by blending in ice, yogurt or ice cream. Wraps are best described as tortillas, pitas, nans or even cabbage leaves, filled with veggies, fruits, meats or whatever and rolled together for a handy, one-stop meal.

One new place offering wraps and smoothies, as well as vegetable juices, is Total Juice Plus at 631 Vine St. Opened by Joe and Helen Mallot last October, this eatery is quickly becoming a favorite downtown lunch spot.

Why open a wrap/smoothie place in Cincinnati? Mallot says, "Because downtown Cincinnati needed a place like (this) to give people a choice ...

to give people an alternative to fast food and fatty food. Before we opened, anyone we talked to said, 'You're crazy. Cincinnati is a chili place.' We proved them wrong. ... The wraps are doing great."

Mallot points out that heavy lunchtime meals slow down productivity and that wraps and smoothies are a lighter choice. "The wraps and smoothies are very convenient, especially downtown. You can carry (a wrap) to your office, drink (a smoothie) at a meeting, take it home. You're not going to smell like something fried or grilled."

Favorite West Coast food fads, smoothies and wraps can be made a variety of ways with a lot of different ingredients. And ingredients become key when you're considering these foods as nutrition sources instead of treats.

"We don't do a smoothie as a treat but as a meal alternative. We use nothing but real fruit, low-fat/non-fat frozen yogurt and sherbet."

There's no artificial ingredients, and all smoothies come with two free additions of vitamins. "That's the difference between us and other smoothie places. Plus we have the vegetable juices," explains Mallot.

For Total Juice Plus, the ingredients are the most important thing. Nothing fatty or heavy. According to Mallot, they use fresh vegetables and fruits and when they use a dressing, it's low-fat.

Says Mallot, "We won't give people something to eat that we won't eat ourselves."

Wraps and smoothies aren't just convenient takeout or lunch items. They're fairly easy to make at home, which allows you the chance to pick out your own ingredients. Plus, your friends will be really impressed when you throw something together and turn it into the latest food fad.

To guide you along the way are two small cookbooks from Abbeville Press, Smoothies & Juices and Wraps Around the World (each $12.95). They give easy-to-follow recipes for juices, smoothies and wraps.

Both come with introductions explaining more about the foods and their preparation. Most helpful in the Wraps book are picture diagrams showing different ways to fold a wrap. This is great for any novice who has tried to make a wrap, only to have it unfold after the first bite. The Smoothies book talks about both fruit and vegetable juices, thinning or thickening them, preparing items with skins, cores or seeds and adding herbs. At the start of each section there's a brief explanation about choosing produce and how various items are affected when you put them into a juicer.

These books look like small, artsy coffee-table books. They have large, bright photographs with designer color schemes, making them as enjoyable to look through as to cook from.

The next time you need to make a well-balanced meal in a jiffy or you're running around to meetings and want a pick-me-up, think Californian. Think wrap. Think smoothie. The cool and hip are already implied. ©

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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