#2 had to undergo a dental procedure today that required sedation. As he was coming out of his Demerol haze, the nurse asked him if he would like something to eat. I think she had a popsicle in mind. “Rutabaga Please”, he said.
Huh? A Rutabaga? You can’t blame the nurse. She hadn’t yet heard about the new juice shop in West Annapolis, my family’s latest addiction.
Jim Heywood and Stacey Fink are the intrepid new owners of what I will just call Rutabaga for short, because then I don’t have to type as much.
We’ve been waiting for what seems like ages (really just over the summer) for Rutabaga to open. Like everyone else, we wondered just what a rutabaga might have to do with a juice bar, since rutabaga the vegetable it is more like a cross between a turnip and cabbage, and a little radish-y. The name made my marketing heckles pop up on the back of my neck when I first saw it. Who knows what a rutabaga actually is? Where can you even find it outside of your grandmother’s garden? And who would juice it?
But guess what? I’m wrong! It totally works!! Jim is from London and rutabaga is an English sort of a veg. The couple has travelled all over the world, so rutabagas aren’t the least bit foreign to them. The name and logo are hip, all encompassing of current trends ( the “rutabaga”, the “craft” and the “juicery” pretty much hit every target market) and it’s unusual enough that you won’t forget it. Bingo!
When you meet Stacey and Jim, you instantly understand how Rutabaga came to be.
Both are quintessential Millenials: young, beautiful, energetic, creative, well educated and well travelled, with a strong sense of style, flavor and entrepreneurship. Rutabaga is an obvious reflection of their lifestyle ethos: it is spare, spotless, understated and eco-friendly down to the finest details. They laid the interior brick dividing wall themselves from reclaimed brick, installed a row of stately stagshead fern and succulents to purify the air, ordered custom chairs made from repurposed telephone poles and chose concrete surfaces. In fact, they say they are so environmentally cautious in their operations that they wouldn’t even have a garbage can if it weren’t for county regulations that require one.
In my many visits to Rutabaga as I prepared my article for The Capital, I overheard dozens of customers who had eagerly awaited the shop’s long anticipated opening. Universally, they are shocked at the transformation from the location’s former iteration as Annapolis Gourmet, namely that it is uncluttered, clean, decorated with bright vegetables and an actual menu board, and has a bathroom.
Several customers are already recognizably regulars, and they order with the confidence of knowing exactly what they want and what they will get. That’s a heady thing-, especially around here- to walk into a new restaurant expecting something great and knowing you will have exactly that in hand within minutes. “Annapolis is in a way a sort of healthy food desert,” Jim said. “It seems that getting healthy, nutritious food is not only more inconvenient but also more expensive than fast food here. That is the exact opposite of other places we’ve lived, like Australia, where people were very conscious about healthy lifestyles.”
I can’t say he is wrong. It definitely is easier to get fast, processed or unhealthy foods, no matter how delicious and comforting, than it is to find something that’s actually clean and good for you. Unfortunately, places *robeks, cough, cough* that market their foods as healthy typically add enticing options like sugary yogurt, sweet sorbet or unnatural (and unnecessary) protein powders, thereby turning fruits and vegetables into dessert.
On the other hand, I think there is a steep learning curve in Annapolis, compared to other places I’ve lived or visited across the country and around the world, about just what good food is and why you should eat it, even if you aren’t on a diet. And, needless to say, there is a strong palate for the sort of food that is served and sold here…ergo it wouldn’t be…
“We saw a gap in the market here to provide people something truly healthy that fits into busy lifestyles”, Jim continued. “A recurrent reaction from our first-time customers is often a relieved one, along the lines of ‘FINALLY – Annapolis has a healthy option/cold pressed juice bar’. That reaction has really confirmed to us that Annapolitans have been waiting a long time for the food scene here to change a bit with the times and for restaurants to have a new mentality about food that is healthy, that’s sustainable for the earth and that’s made by real people using all natural processes.” I’m all for making fresh, clean, delicious food accessible and affordable, so KUDOS Rutabaga!
Stacey is Rutabaga’s local connection. She grew up in Edgewater, where her parents own a pool company. In fact, her dad attended West Annapolis Elementary School, right across the street from the shop. Stacey left the area ten years ago when she first moved to California. She attended college at Emory University then went to London to earn her Masters in International Relations at Royal Haloway.
She was working for a marketing and business development firm when she met Jim. “We were working together and covertly living together. We both realized we weren’t happy in the office life, so we threw in the towel. We said we didn’t know what we would do or where we would go but we are together”, Stacey said, laughing at the memory.
Stacey laughs quite a lot, scrunching up her nose and revealing her naturally amiable disposition. The couple ended up in Australia, where Stacey became advanced certified by Wine Spirit Education Trust and where Jim pursued his passion as a personal trainer and worked for Goodies and Grains, a popular juice bar at Adelaide’s Central Market. During their time in Australia, the couple eloped, then left for a year in New Zealand to harvest wine and travel some more.
Jim and Stacey always had a dream to open an eatery together, Jim because he had worked in a juice bar and embraced a healthy lifestyle and Stacey because she had worked in restaurants and simply likes good food. Originally the couple thought they might open a food truck, but they quickly realized that couldn’t happen in Anne Arundel County. “The idea for a shop just spiraled. We went online one day to look at commercial real estate and suddenly we were talking about a real, brick and mortar store”, said Stacey.
Rutabaga is a small shop on a busy corner with plenty of free street parking. Although Stacey and Jim considered multiple locations, they settled on West Annapolis because of the neighborhood feel and potential inherent to the neighborhood. “One of the things we loved about our travels was the small mom-and-pop shops that were so welcoming and that anchored a neighborhood. We think West Annapolis is perfect for a small shop like ours for many reasons. In a way, Annapolis Street is under-valued. People who don’t know about the area aren’t aware of the cool shops here. I mean you have Sparrow, which is just beautiful jewelry, and Wrabyn and of course Bean Rush”. West Annapolis does have many great places for community gathering, as well as easy parking, the ability for grab and go orders, proximity to the Naval Academy and downtown Annapolis and many essential businesses like hair salons and dentists. “Our hope is that Rutabaga and our unique menu will bring new people–new foot traffic– to Annapolis Street, specifically people who otherwise may never have been here before”, the couple said.
Rutabaga is a craft juicery. Just what is that exactly? There has been a recent surge in juicing and I wanted to make sure I had a good finger on the pulse of how Jim and Stacey are contributing to that movement.
The theory behind juicing as a healthy food is that the body gets immediate and increased absorption of energy and nutrition from raw plants. Each Rutabaga 16 ounce juice is actually 4 pounds of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices in a glass!
“There is an allure that juice comes straight from the tree or the ground to the bottle”, said Stacey. “But the fact is that not all juice is created equal.” According to her, grocery store juices have additives, called Flavor Packs, that aren’t listed as ingredients because they are derivatives of what is in the bottle.
Home juicers, and even other local businesses, use centrifugal juicers—aka a commercial blender. Centrifugal juicers use slicers or blades to cut the produce, which slices through cell membranes and starts an immediate oxidizing reaction and processes that start to break down plant enzymes. Centrifugal action also heats the juice, and that heat process can destroy vital nutrients. Cold press juicers, like the Norwalk 280 used at Rutabaga, slowly mash the produce without the addition of any heat or slicing, until what comes out of the processor is a pulp that Stacey says looks like baby food.
“This machine has been around since the 1930’s and is used for invalids and cancer patients because you get this pulp that retains all the nutrients of the plants.” Once the produce is processed, it is filtered through a cloth and put through a hydraulic press to extract strained juice.
It takes exactly four minutes for the Norwalk to make a 16 ounce juice. That’s just enough time to check your texts and emails or to just soak up some sunshine from the big storefront windows.
While grocery store juice has actually already lost much of its micro-nutrients through processing and age, and while juices made with a centrifugal machine start to degrade immediately, Rutabaga’s juice retains all of its nutritional value for up to three days. “We are offering a transparent and honest approach to clean and healthy food that can’t be found anywhere else on this scale in Annapolis,” Jim said. “We don’t use mass produced, frozen produce. If we have seasonal products, we freeze them right here in small batches, just like you would at home. And we don’t use ice in our juices, which means you don’t pay $8 for a glass of what would essentially be flavored water when the ice melts”.
Rutabaga doesn’t sacrifice good taste in its aspiration for better health. “We laugh about developing the menu because with my background in wine and love for food, and his insistence on health and fitness, we had to put our good chef/bad chef heads together to make fantastic flavors that offer a substantial hit of holistic nutrition,” Stacey said.
I’ve tried 6 of the items on the menu, with recent juice iterations from both Whole Foods ad Robeks fresh in my mind, and found Rutabaga’s to be utterly fresh, clean and absolutely delicious. My body and my mouth were thankful.
My palate tends toward strong, complex flavors so I especially enjoyed the Zest, which has ginger, grapefruit and turmeric. Stunning! Awesome. If you know me, you know that is absolutely incredible for me to say, much less put down on paper.
Other juices could use a tweak here or there to make them more interesting to me. For example, I think the beet could use a little flavor boost, but this could be because I have the most quintessential, superlative beet juice experiences in Kauai and those are my benchmark. Or because I just odd. In general, I think that folks will find Rutabaga’s juices to be the best in town.
Rutabaga offers more than juice. “Blends” are smooth, creamy and filling mixtures of nuts, house-made nut milks, dried fruits such as dates, holistic spices and super food extras like raw cacao, lucuma, chlorella, chia seed, coconut oil or vegan protein. “The Blends are our versions of smoothies”, Stacey said. “We don’t like the word ‘smoothie’, because it implies an sort of warped idea of nutrition that usually includes sorbets, ice creams, sweetened yogurt, concentrated juices, additives and unnatural ingredients. We don’t use any of that”. AMEN! Love it!! Rutabaga has two blends oriented to the kiddos. each are $5. These are already much loved by #1 & #2, and I can see I am going to have to start hoarding my spare change for them.
‘On Tap’ offerings include Barefoot ‘Bucha, a craft kombucha from the Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia. The kombucha tap rotates. I tried the Spiced Pear and it was so good. My first shot of kombucha and I am officially addicted. (“How could this be your first shot?”, you ask. Well, don’t ask.)
The shop serves Ceremony nitro-brewed coffee on tap. “With the cold brew you don’t get the astringency of a hot press”, Stacey explained. “The coffee is naturally sweet and the nitrogen process gives a smoothness and creaminess that means most people take this coffee black. It’s so sweet and creamy that you don’t need anything else”. She’s right. You don’t. Coming from a splenda lover. Don’t ask about that either. I know, its heinous. It is what it is.
Lastly, the Rutabaga menu includes a small breakfast and lunch offering. Swiss muesli is a bowl full of nutritious, comforting and healthy whole grains and other ingredients like organic sultanas and Ceylon cinnamon, topped with greek yogurt and local raw honey, bananas and cashews.
Lunch includes a rotating menu of salads and sandwiches. “Our breakfast and lunch will be seasonal items that inspire us and give us a chance to be creative”, Stacey said.
Stacey and Jim say they are excited to use local produce, honeys and jams and are looking for local producers they can support. “We are a small business, we put passion into our food and that is a domino effect and that is important to us.”
Here are the Muesli and homemade nutmilk recipes from Rutabaga. I love both because they are versatile, clean and wholesome. Oh, and also easy!
Serves 4 people
- 3 cups organic oats
- 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons of organic unfiltered apple juice
- 3-4 tablespoons organic sultanas
- 1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon (any cinnamon will do but Ceylon is best)
- Pinch of sea salt
- 2 organic granny smith apples, grated
- 4 tablespoon walnuts or cashews
- 1 banana
- Raw honey and Greek yogurt to serve
1. Combine oats, apple juice, sultanas, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and stir until cinnamon and salt are well combined.
2. Cover and put in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and preferably overnight.
3. Grate two granny smith apples into the soaked oats and stir. Loosen with a bit of almond milk or more apple juice for a looser consistency if desired.
4. Portion into four bowls. Top with a large spoonful of Greek yogurt, sliced bananas, a sprinkle of your choice of nuts and a raw honey drizzle. Serve chilled.
Homemade Almond Milk
Note: You could also try cashews or another favorite nut for this recipe.
- 1 cup (measured dry) organic almonds shelled, skin-on
- 4 cups water (more for soaking)
- 3 tablespoons old fashioned organic oats
- 1/2 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
- 1 date, pitted (more if you prefer a sweeter milk)
- Pinch of sea salt
1. Soak the almonds overnight in a bowl of water. Almonds should be covered by at least an inch of water. The almonds will increase in size overnight and produce around 1 1/2 cups once soaked.
2. Drain and rinse the almonds and put in a blender with the remaining ingredients and whiz for about 60 seconds. The almonds should have broken down into fine pieces. If there are still large pieces, whiz a little longer.
3. Pour the entire contents into a nut milk bag or into a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl. Squeeze (or press firmly) all of the milk from the nuts. You can save the almond pulp for later use in cookies or to make an almond flour (it also makes great compost.)
4. The initial milk will be thin and smell of sweet, subtle marzipan. By allowing the milk to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight) the milk will naturally thicken slightly thanks to the oats and have a lovely texture similar to 2 percent dairy milk. The almond milk is good in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
If you can’t get to Rutabaga (and you should try!) then break out your Vita Mix or juicer and try one of these ideas or recipes:
- Click on each individual juice at Kauai Juice Company to get some information on how each ingredient works internally and to get great ideas on combinations to make at home.
- Eating Well Magazine has some nice recipes; unfortunately you have to dodge adverts to get to them….
- But OF COURSE Williams Sonoma would have plenty of information, tips and recipes. The graphic designer for this piece was on their game. So pretty.
- You know I love Lisa Consiglio Ryan of Whole Health Designs. She has personally made me her signature juices, which are an amazing treat. She has many recipes on her very comprehensive website.
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