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Purée, Amy Waldman's Upscale Juice Bar on Elm Street in Downtown Bethesda


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I've been hearing about this insanely expensive, insanely good, juice-smoothie bar next to Equinox gym in Bethesda, but didn't get around to trying it until this morning.

Jake Parrott recently told me, about New York Avenue Beach Bar, "It's not about lowering your expectations; it's about changing them."

I haven't yet been to New York Avenue Beach Bar, but I cannot imagine there is much overlap in clientele. In fact, I cannot imagine two more polar opposite houses of beverage.

And when you see the prices at Purée, you'll change your expectations right quick, too. I walked in today and was hit by an overwhelming whiff of freshly cut wheatgrass - it was everywhere. Pints of juice *start* at $9, and go up from there when you add supplements.

Dare I say that for a splurge, it's worth it? This is the change of expectations I was talking about. A pint of coconut water was $9, and with tax plus tip was $12.71!

But. It came in a remarkable screwtop glass container (which I suspect you can reuse there), and, if you've only had Vita Coco or Zico, was almost unrecognizable as the same product. *This* is what I envision fresh, unpasteurized, coconut juice tasting like - straight from the coconut and chilled. It was so sweet, and so good, that I almost couldn't believe it.

So what is worth more: a $10 16-ounce hand-crafted smoothie here, or a $10 8-ounce frozen margarita from the swirling machine at New York Avenue Beach Bar?

No question in my mind. As Terry Theise says, "I like truffles and I like tortilla chips, but I’m not confused about which flavor is more beautiful."

Price aside, I cannot imagine anyone in the world not liking this place. If I had unlimited wealth, I would spend $50 a day here for the rest of my life.

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They have a booth at the Pike Central Farmers Market too.

Alas, I think I must not be there demographic because I can't seem to get them to talk to me while at the market even when I catch an associate's eye who isn't doing anything and say, "Excuse me."

However, I am often next door at Equinox so I really should just go in and see what all the fuss is about.

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Puree is about a once-a-week thing for me. They initially said they couldn't take the glass bottles if you left with them and brought them back later, but that may have changed. I suspect the bottles are re-useable but the lids have to be trashed. Or, you could have a growing collection of them in your cabinets, like I do.

The store is cute; a lot of the traffic does seem to be of the bethesda-housewife/lululemon-clad-yogi/latest-cleanse-devotee type, but even so it can be strangely relaxing to pull up a stool at the bar and watch the mysterious process of transforming wheatgrass into a brilliant green shot. Service can be a bit distracted, but I tend to cut some slack to teenagers.

The "mean" lemonade can be a brilliant thing after a hard workout or a frustrating day. The smoothies are generally fantastic, but I confess I occasionally hear Travolta's incredulous voice in my head: “You don’t put bourbon in it or nothin’?!”

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For those wanting to start the New Year with a healthy change in dietary habits, Purée Juice Bar in Bethesda has started a home delivery program.

I must respectfully dissent from the encouragement for this and related concerns. The fact that so many people are willing to spend $10 or more for a glass of juice is, I'm fairly confident, the end of western civilization as we know it. Yes, yes, I agree that it's very good juice. But I got an even better glass for approximately $2-$2.50 at the market in Jerusalem last summer (still swooning about that one), which is approximately what these should cost, too, even accounting for the fact that the fruits and veggies can't be sourced locally in the winter. Not blaming the proprietors -- they're running a fine business and they know the market will bear it in these parts. But we've gone collectively out of our minds.

P.S. Yes, the $10 8-ounce frozen margarita from the swirling machine at New York Avenue Beach Bar is nuts, too. This didn't start with juices. I think it started when Starbucks discovered that people were willing to spend $5 a day -- every day -- for something that costs a few cents to make . . . and was exacerbated by the new cocktail craze, which is very welcome but also absurdly price-inflated.

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