Can we talk about smoothies for a minute? Not milkshakes — ice cream is a topic for another delicious food column. And I’m not including protein shakes, although those are the only reason I go to the gym. I’m just talking about smoothies — that sublime blend of milk and/or yogurt with fruity goodness, plus the occasional exotic bonus ingredient.
I could live off smoothies (and I’m pretty sure some smoothie makers are living off me). Smoothies are my sanctuary, my place of calm. When I record my multi-platinum R&B album, it will be called Just Get Smooth, and I’ll be drinking a smoothie on the cover. If smoothies were a municipality, I’d run for office there, like Mayor McCheese gets to run wherever McDonald’s land is.
Thankfully, smoothies are everywhere. Advocate staffers — myself, designer Jennifer Levesque, staff writer Amanda Drane, and editor Kristin Palpini — ran around the Valley and found some good ones you’ll probably want to go try. As if you needed convincing.
Taro Bliss Smoothie with boba, $5
50 Main St., Amherst
If you’re 30+ like me, you might wonder from time to time what the college set is chatting about these days. LimeRed is a good place to get up to speed — the crowd skews young here, especially in Amherst (this bubble tea and smoothie joint also has a location in Northampton). It’s bright and friendly in the shop, which somehow manages to feel spare and cozy at the same time. Pop music plays over the speakers. Pastel colors abound.
My top choice here is the taro smoothie. Taro is a tropical root vegetable — one of the first ever cultivated, actually. You can spot it in African, Asian, South Indian, and Pacific nations dishes, plus every now and then in an American Chinatown. That it took us until the 20th century to distill it into sweet syrup and put it into smoothies is a crime.
The taste — sort of nutty, or a little like sweet potato with vanilla — is hard to describe, but harder to forget. LimeRed makes their smoothies with blended ice, and the consistency is perfect. You can order it with a dollop of ice cream for an additional 75 cents, but even without it, LimeRed smoothies have that cold, rich, milky sensation down pat. Served with a yogurt-flavored Kit-Kat, it’s an invigorating reward for your sweet tooth, best hunted down late at night.
The Francis Farmer, $5.25
Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe
235 Main St., Northampton
Sam’s Pizzeria and Cafe is definitely not just a pizza shop. Their brownies won our brownie Taste-Off! back in August, and they have all sorts of other goodies, including smoothies.
I have to be honest. The only reason I ordered the Frances Farmer to begin with was because of the Nirvana song “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle.” Yes, I know she was an actress back in the day, but I’m a huge Nirvana fan so that stood out to me. I’m glad it did.
The combination of peanut butter, chocolate milk, banana and frozen yogurt are pure perfection for any peanut butter lover. The most dominant flavor is the PB, but you can taste a hint of the banana in the background. Its medium thickness is enough for an actual lunch if you’re not all that hungry. On the other hand, it goes perfect with one of their slices (I like to pair it up with the Margarita).
I could be in the worst mood, ever, until I have one of these — instant smiles and pick-me-up.
Life Force, $5
My Main Squeeze
48 Shaker Road, East Longmeadow
I grumble my way past a smiling little orange hanging over the door as well as a sign that beckons everyone to “attack the day with enthusiasm” and up to the uncluttered counter of My Main Squeeze. A cheerful woman in a cream cardigan allows me a moment to peruse the smoothie and raw juice menu on the blackboard. It’s 8 a.m. on a Tuesday and I have been unexpectedly up for the past four hours. I want to attack enthusiasm right in its happy face more than I want to get all buddy-buddy with it. I select a smoothie with coffee, almond milk, banana, dates, almond butter, cinnamon, and vanilla from the list. It’s called Life Force and that seems like something I could use. I order it and wait a few minutes in the apple-scented cafe before a rich-looking 12 ounce cup of Force is placed on the counter. I take a sip and, no shit, a smile spreads across my face. It tastes like Mexican chocolate and robust coffee that’s been tamed by coconut milk and almonds. Chewy sweet date bits are a fun treat in each gulp. It reminds me of biscotti without the dry crumbs and I take sip after satisfying sip. So enamored am I with my smoothie, that when I leave, I forget where I’m going and keep on my merry walk — right past my car.
185 Main St., Northampton
It’s hard not to smile while ordering up a Spanking from Haymarket Cafe in Northampton. “I’ll have a Spanking, please,” I tell the barista each time, as I grin wildly and work to suppress my inner chortle. It’s gotten easier over the years, and perhaps I’ve grown more mature. Still, I dare you to order it without at least smirking.
Down to its hot magenta color, everything about this drink screams mood-booster. It’s made with raspberries, banana, frozen yogurt, mango, and cider. It’s sweet like a healthy-tasting Jolly Rancher and the raspberry seeds give it texture. The beautiful, blended happiness costs $5.15 — recently increased by 50 cents in order to incorporate gratuity, per the establishment’s new living wage policy — so you can sip assured that the person who made it for you makes at least $14 an hour, as that’s the cafe’s new starting wage.
I step outside and downtown Northampton falls briskly into view. As I take in the bright pink beverage in my hand, I forget for a moment to check my windshield for a parking ticket. The parking department rep is just a few cars away and I’ve underpaid by a minute! Not today, parking enforcer — I’ve been spanked by happiness this fine, sunny morning. Not today.•
Contact Hunter Styles at email@example.com.