It's Wheatgrass Wednesday on Bank Street, and despite the off-putting prospect of juice squeezed from grass, a steady trickle of sippers sidle up to the Juice Bar for a hit. A wiry, khaki-clad guy (and wheatgrass virgin) knocks back his very first shot at the stand. "I'm going to have this every morning instead of Starbucks," he enthuses as he sets down the empty glass.
With every fresh order, Steph Steeves — for two years the juice-bar supervisor at Healthy Living — turns and grabs a handful of freshly cut grass from a Ziploc bag and stuffs it into the funnel-like top of her press. Then she hand cranks out the frothy, forest-green juice, which she decants into a beveled apéritif glass.
It's been a few weeks since Steeves and her partner, Mike Winters, built a solar-powered stand from repurposed bicycle frames and set it up as a juice bar along Bank Street, against the parking garage. "It's a ball. We get to hang out and chat," says the buoyant Winters, who left a Middlebury law firm to start peddling juice (and health, as they like to say) to unsuspecting Burlingtonians.
Eventually, they'd like to open a bricks-and-mortar juice bar somewhere in town. For now, they're doing the pop-up circuit — Monday through Fridays on Bank Street, and weekends at both the Burlington and South Burlington farmers markets. Steeves explains that wheatgrass days come but once a week because that's how long it takes to grow each new batch of grass at their home.
While Winters takes orders and chats with customers (he also doles out occasional off-the-cuff legal advice), Steeves cranks and blends away. Besides wheatgrass, the pair sells a rotating roster of organic and local fruit and vegetable juices, including a recent strawberry-rhubarb juice "that was like pie!" according to Steeves. Other concoctions include a blend of watermelon, apple, lemon and mint, and another of beets, carrots, ginger and apple that they call Runner's Remedy.
Despite the gloomy day, or maybe because of it, I order a frothy, citrusy Fountain of Youth, which Steeves pours over ice. And despite avoiding wheatgrass since the days I lived on a commune in my late teens, I know in my bones how good it is for me. One shot, sure.
It probably works in her favor that Steeves is a regional Golden Gloves champ — it takes muscle to run the crank. Within moments, she's decanted the slightly viscous liquid into fancy stemware. I sip rather than shoot, reacquainting my buds with a juice that's not as bitter as I remember, and has a welcome hint of sweetness at the end. It tastes like liquified chlorophyll laced with super-powered nutrients, and about 10 minutes later, I feel a little tweaked and racy.
Steeves and Winters have their eye on a space along Main Street and hope to be in there by the fall. Until then, find them on Bank and get your fix.
Each week, Grazing highlights new finds and dishes and drinks that reflect the season. If you know of a local edible (or libation) worth seeking out, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.