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Food

Soft drink refresh

Follow your theme

“We put so much work into our menu that we didn’t want the beverages to be a throwaway, they had to be consistent with our sustainability theme. If there is a disconnect, consumers notice that,” declares Josh Spiegelman, co-owner of Roam Artisan Burgers in San Francisco. So the fast-casual’s nonalcoholic beverage menu focuses on sustainable, artisanal items. “When we put together the menu, we were serious about not having drinks with corn syrup or anything artificial, staying true to our brand of high-quality ingredients,” he adds.

House-made sodas (priced $2.49) are sweetened (only as needed) with low-glycemic agave nectar and made from fruit purees like ginger lime and Meyer lemon as well as more unusual flavors, such as Prickly Pear and Caramelized Pineapple. Roam Burgers also serves locally produced, raw, organic kombucha on draft. Rich in probiotics, the fermented tea drink is wildly popular in San Francisco. “People enjoy it as kind of a health elixir,” says Spiegelman.

Shakes are as much dessert as beverage. Priced $4.99 to $6.49, they are made with organic ice cream from the environmentally friendly Strauss Family Creamery in nearby Tomales Bay. Choices include “it” flavor Salted Caramel plus Blue Bottle Coffee (from a local roaster) and Dagoba organic chocolate.

Says Spiegelman, “Customers get excited about our soft drinks, and don’t feel like they are drinking something that is bad for them.”

The sipping news

Chia is the new superfood. Yes, that chia, of the “pet” craze in the 1980s. Favored by the Aztecs, this herb is still popular in Mexico, where the whole seeds are mixed with fruit juices to make chia fresca. Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals and significant protein. Latin restaurant concepts are introducing chia fresca to American diners. The texture of chia drinks may take some getting used to; when exposed to liquid, the tiny seeds form a gelatinous coating.

Kombucha, the fermented tea available in bottles, is now on tap at a number of bars and restaurants, from 61 Local in Brooklyn, to Pasino in Chicago, Meddlesome Moth in Dallas and the Holy Cow Café in Eugene, Oregon. Perhaps the world’s first kombucha bar is the Pure Luck Tea Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where owner Brett Casper produces and serves his own raw, organic brews in six flavors, including Silver Needle Jasmine and Chocolate Chai.

Starbucks, after being bugged by vegans, has stopped dyeing its Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos and Strawberry Banana Smoothies with crushed insects—specifically cochineal extract, used as a red food coloring. To placate concerned customers, the coffee chain has switched to vegetable-based lycopene.

Indulgence is cool

Restaurant-goers who order non-alcoholic frozen beverages by type:
    26%    Shakes or malts
    19%     Smoothies
    10%     Slushies and other frozen beverages

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