Yes. I'll admit it. Almost every day, for close to a year now, my favorite lunchtime meal has been a nice, stiff drink. My favorite place to get it: a bar in Delray Beach. My usual: the Green Goddess.
For $6.49 I'll belly-up to the old wooden bar where I quickly down a full 12-ounces of juiced celery, kale, spinach, parsley, cucumber, apple, lemon and ginger. It's usually gone before Mark Stowe, Jr., juicer extraordinaire, can ring me up and send me on my way.
Happen into the family-run Nutrition Cottage Café these days and you'll find Mark behind the juice bar off Atlantic Ave. It's busiest around lunchtime, when customers come in for - of all things - vegetable juice.
Why? It's a healthy alternative to the heart-stopping, low-nutrition choices most people are sitting down to for their midday meal - a hearty sub, fast food burger or last night's leftovers.
Like me, the Nutrition Cottage regulars are grabbing a to-go lunch most people would consider animal fodder.
"Just a glass of juice for lunch?" my friends will ask me. "Aren't you going to be hungry in, like, five minutes?"
Sometimes. But, more often than not, the nutrients and enzymes from the fresh juice are enough to get me through the day. And while my coworkers are feeling the lethargic effects from carb-overload lunches, complaining of food babies to come, I'm barreling through the last of my work. In addition to energy, the alkalizing effects of juicing offer a variety of benefits - everything from improved clarity of mind to ridding the body of toxins.
A humble mom-and-pop shop for all things health-centered, the Nutrition Cottage has been in business for over 30 years as a natural health food store and grocer - the oldest, and most likely smallest - family owned and operated establishment of its kind in South Florida. With two locations in Delray and Boynton Beach, one stop will get you everything from supplements and vitamins to organic and natural foods (even organic wine) as well as fresh, locally grown produce.
These days, however, the Nutrition Cottage in Delray is just as well known for its all-organic juices and fruit smoothies. Their motto: "The difference is knowledge."
A shot of wheat grass here, a Very Veggie juice there, Mark says he goes through pounds of vegetables and fruit each day. "There are people who come in here everyday and drink this stuff religiously for their health," says Mark.
For others, it's a mixture of convenience and cost.
"I hear a lot of people say it's a real pain to keep fresh produce around, and clean the machine. They don't want to deal with the mess [juicing makes]," says Stowe. "It can be expensive buying all these vegetables, and then if you don't use them, they go to waste."
And Mark can add damn near anything to your juice. Feeling low on energy? He's got a shot for that. Need an immune booster? He's got a shot for that. Need a post-workout recovery? He's got a shot for that, too. (Nutritional add-in's will cost you anywhere from 50-cents to a dollar)
"Ginseng and bee pollen [supplements] are great for athletic endurance," says Mark. "Soy, whey and hemp proteins and creatine promote rebuilding of lean muscle. And echinacea is good for the immune system."
Among the most popular drinks: the all-fruit, all-organic, no-ice-added smoothies. A favorite is the Hawaiian Sunset, a melding of orange juice, bananas, papaya nectar, dates, pineapple and coconut milk. For $6.49, this golden goblet of goodness will certainly fill you up - it's so thick Mark often has a hard time transferring the mixture from blender to cup. Customers have an even harder time slurping it through the straw.
Besides the juice bar, the Nutrition Cottage is a great resource for finding answers to ailments of any kind. You'll find a host of helpers - every employee billed as an "expert" in one area or another, including owner and registered nutritionist Mark Stowe, Sr. A former president of the Natural Products Association, it's his goal to help educate and motivate consumers on achieving wellness and optimal health through diet and consumption of natural products.
"This is a way of life. The average person doesn't know how to give the body a chance to heal itself, and correct it's own problems naturally," says Mark, Sr. "We're here to help people become more empowered in being responsible to themselves."