Cool off, fill up with nutrient-packed açai

2014-07-03T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:07:38Z Cool off, fill up with nutrient-packed açaiBy Johanna Willett Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

They call the açai berry a super fruit.

No, a frozen spoonful of the stuff won’t give you the power to transform this desert into an icy wonderland, but the açai bowl does have a little magic to share.

And by the way, it’s pronounced ah-sigh-ee.

The creamy, frozen puree of the purple açai berry, topped with any variety of fruits and nuts, goes a long way for cooling down and filling up. The berry itself has a subtle flavor, but blended and topped with other goodies, it’s one of those trendy foods that actually tastes the part and does the body some good. Full of antioxidants and omega fatty acids (plus whatever benefits you get from the countless add-ons), açai bowls come from Brazil. Fitting for World Cup season.

Exploding in popularity in Hawaii and California years ago, they’re still not the easiest (or cheapest) snack to come by in Tucson.

A few spots with ready-made bowls include Goodness Juice Bar and Fresh Food, 2502 N. Campbell Ave., The Parlour, 611 N. Fourth Ave., and Xoom Juice, 6222 E. Speedway and 2739 E. Speedway.

About a month-and-a-half ago, the downtown Xoom Juice, 245 E. Congress St., started offering a build-your-own açai bowl, a creative detour from the beloved Açai Soy Berry and Velvet Amazon bowls at the east side and central locations.

Almond milk. Chia seeds. Blueberries. Anything and everything is fair game in your custom-made bowl, starting at $6.95 and including several fruits and toppings. Additional add-ons range between 50 cents and $1, depending on what you toss in — but not by hand. This isn’t self-serve fro-yo. You still place your order at the counter.

“I tend to use my own desires and gut feelings as my guidepost,” said Xoom Juice owner Ari Shapiro. “I found myself, whenever I was making an açai bowl, just putting in all sorts of random ingredients we had in the shop, and I thought, ‘This is natural.’”

If you’re the indecisive type, or just like things simple, that works too. Blend açai pulp with one or two fruits and your choice of milk and top it with granola and honey.

Shapiro says he has lunched on an açai bowl almost everyday for the past 10 years, even skipping lunch invites for his treasured treat. Xoom Juice also blends açai smoothies, and will add the fruit to any smoothie for an additional cost.

Another magic trick: The bowls can double as meal or snack. Sweet, creamy and fruitier than a big scoop of ice cream, the açai bowl sure does cast a spell on a hot, summer day.

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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