As we sat on a collection of chairs lining the alley running parallel to Colorado Avenue, with moody weather blowing through streets, we witnessed a strange phenomenon: SUV after hulking white suburban pulled into the tight lot behind the row of Craftsman buildings and bulldozed into the few parking spaces there; a middle-aged woman would jump from the monstrous truck and trot up the back porch stairs into Sarah's Raw & Vegan Café at the Café of Life. During our 20 minutes there, this happened like clockwork. It was like retake after retake for Desperate Housewives of Bend, and definitively not the clientele we expected to find when the Source staff recently took an afternoon trek to sample health food smoothies.
With summer waning, the staff made a final-ditch effort to enjoy the hot weather and trotted down to Sarah's to try out a remarkably varied collection of superfood smoothies—drinks that include the standards like bananas, avocado and ginger, but also drop in soaked almonds for protein and sea salts for bite. We were especially interested in checking out the store because recently the café has begun delivering its smoothies, packed into mason jars, by bike. But, we felt there was a certain irony sitting on our duffs while someone else biked our health food to us.
The café is cozy, tucked into the back of a chiropractic clinic; entry is from the alleyway. There is a small porch and chairs for anyone wanting to loiter. But apparently most of the customers grab their drinks on the run. The menu is an impressive and dynamic list of "superfood smoothies." (Sarah's also serves lunch food—a raw chowder on the afternoon we visited—but we were focused on a liquid lunch.) The menu lists 14 dynamic drinks; each is gluten-free, yeast-free, and GMO-free, but full of flavor and life, we were assured.
Our calendar editor, Kristine Swann, ordered the Lovely Lemon, and reported that "it tasted like a lemon shortbread cookie; refreshing and light, but filling for someone on a diet." She added, "it fulfilled my desire for sweets, fats and salts."
Writer Erin Rook ordered the alluring Icy Mint Mate which he deemed a refreshing and slightly spicy afternoon pick-me-up. The bite from the peppermint oil, white pepper and ginger complemented the slightly earthy mate without overpowering it. The spirulina and Vitamineral Green added a nutritional boost and a minty green color. His only complaint was that the consistency wasn't very smooth—the icy chunk in the center bumped against his nose every time he took a sip from the oversized Mason jar and the melted portion that sloshed around it finally prompting him to declare, it would have been easier to drink with a straw.
The Super Green smoothie was a favorite. With its coconut water, hemp protein powder, green superfood powder, avocado and myriad fruits and veggies, the cold drink tastes like health and vitality in a jar; or, as one co-worker explained, "like what it must feel like to be a grasshopper on an open mountain meadow." Afterward, senior writer James Williams, who drank the bulk of this drink, repeatedly declared how great he felt and, when we returned to the office, ignored a plate of cupcakes because he didn't want to negate any of the smoothie's powers. He went so far to declare he is now considering a lifestyle change. Already active and healthy, he said that the smoothie made him consider revamping his diet.
The Ruby Red was ordered specifically because the ingredient list included "beet crystals," and we were looking for the sturdy, sour taste of beets. But, it lacked a beet flavor; more like a dessert drink, with the raspberry and orange juice dominating the rest of the ingredients. The staff also tasted the Heavenly Coconut, another dessert smoothie, which turned out to be milder than the rest with light sweet notes, chunky coconut flakes and strong hints of almonds. Fortified with "Warrior Food" (some brief Internet research revealed that to be natural vegan protein powder), the small size was more filling than anticipated.
Each smoothie came prepackaged in a mason jar, as are many of the ingredients crowding the shelves behind the counter at Sarah's. The glass jar "karma" program encourages smoothie-fanatics who frequent the shop to return and reuse their jars.
The wait time for the drinks seemed a bit long, but was understandable: The place was buzzing with customers and we placed a large order of five drinks. Also, for anyone in a super hurry-hurry, there also is a refrigerator full of preblended drinks, adorably served in to-the-brim mason jars. Orders also can be phoned in for smoothie pickup.
Sarah's Raw & Vegan Cafe
519 Colorado Ave.
Open Mon-Thur 8 am-4 pm, Fri 8 am-2:30 pm, Sat 11 am-2:30 pm