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Trendwatch: Açaí 

A refreshing and fiber-packed treat, acai bowls have popped up on menus across the region

click to enlarge The Bomb açaií bowl from the Wellness bar. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • The Bomb açaií bowl from the Wellness bar.

With their eye-catching, deep violet hue, chilly temperature and nearly limitless topping choices, açaí bowls are one of the hottest long-lasting trends to hit the menus of juice, smoothie and other health-centric cafes around the U.S. in the past decade.

Touted for having numerous good-for-you attributes, açaí (pronounced "ah-SIGH-ee") bowls are antioxidant and fiber-rich, made with all-natural and whole-food ingredients; mainly fruits, veggies, nuts and grains. They're also colorful, refreshing and an often filling treat that can be enjoyed as a meal any time of day.

With a mix of sweet, tart, chocolatey and earthy flavors, the açaí berry, a fruit native to South America, can be paired with everything from kale to peanut butter, bananas to avocados, other berries and beyond. They're as versatile, if not more so, as their blended smoothie counterparts consumed via straw, but with much more texture, thanks to the addition of toppings like granola, nuts, shaved coconut, sliced fruit and seeds sprinkled atop the blended base of frozen açaí.

Most berry blend bowls you'll find on local menus are made from a frozen açaí puree. The berries themselves come from the açaí palm, native to the Amazon floodplains and swamps of Brazil and northern South America. The açaí's seeds, which make up the bulk of the grape-sized berry's bulk, are removed after harvest and the remaining pulp is crushed into a deep red-purple mixture that's then frozen into portion-sized packets to distribute to juice bars across the U.S. (Other processes are used to freeze-dry the berry into a powdered form, though most juice bars prefer the frozen purée.)

Whether you love açaí smoothie bowls for their nutty-meets-sweet-tart flavor or the inclusion of whole fruits, veggies, nuts and other plant-based ingredients — or maybe you're unaware of the trend — it can be hard to sort out the wide range of claims that have surrounded the berry and its purported benefits over the past decade (including massive scams that sold açaí supplements as a weight-loss and disease-curing miracle product touted by celebrities).

While açaí isn't actually a weight-loss miracle berry, eating fresh whole fruits and vegetables — whether in a salad, blended into a smoothie or in an açaí bowl — is a great way to add those needed nutrients and fiber to your diet, says Spokane registered dietitian and nutritionist Korrin Fotheringham.

The key to açaí, she says, is balance.

WHERE TO TRY IT:

Method Juice Cafe

7704 N. Division St.

718 W. Riverside Ave.

Downtown and North Spokane

methodjuicecafe.com

Wellness Bar

312 N. Fourth St., Coeur d'Alene

8110 N. Government Way, Hayden

900 N. Highway 41, Post Falls

North Idaho

niwellnessbar.com

Liberty Lake Juice Co.

1334 N. Liberty Lake Rd., Liberty Lake

libertylakejuice.com

The Wellness Tree

1025 S. Perry St., South Perry

wellnesstreeclinic.com

Remedy

3809 S. Grand Blvd., South Hill

remedycrc.com

The Well Coffeehouse Pub & Eatery

21980 E. Country Vista Dr., Liberty Lake

facebook.com/libertylakecoffee

City Beach Organics

117 N. First Ave., Sandpoint

facebook.com/citybeachorganics

Grabbagreen

405 W. Neider Ave., Suite 108, Coeur d'Alene

grabbagreen.com

Main Street Squeeze Juice & Smoothie

540 E. Main St., Pullman

mainstsqueeze.com

Palouse Juice

509 S. Main St., Moscow

palousejuice.com

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