SECOND HELPINGS

Squeeze Me: Everyone knows Phoenix isn't on the cutting edge of national trends. We get movies six months after they open in Los Angeles, and Howard Stern years after he's worn out his welcome in other markets.

Same with food. Tiramisu still qualifies as an exotic dessert here, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Hard Rock Cafe is coming to Phoenix only because it couldn't get tax breaks in Bangladesh.

If you need more evidence of our behind-the-curve trendiness, check out the sudden spate of juice bars.

Back in the 1970s, particularly in California, juice shops were a major rage. The shtick: a variety of fresh-squeezed juices, blended with all sorts of good-for-you add-ins, designed to appeal to the fruit-and-nut, pyramid-power crowd.

Well, Arizonans, it's back to the future--the health-juice bar has finally come to the Valley. I just checked out a couple of them, and now I'm ready to grow my sideburns and see if the leisure suit still fits.

Get Juiced, at 4515 North 16th Street (back behind the Circle K), looks like it came directly from Berkeley, circa 1975. The bulletin board at this funky spot offers a full range of New Age therapies. The earnest proprietors beam with nutritional correctness.

No jars. No cans. Everything's fresh squeezed. And just about everything's organic.

The various juice combinations come with helpful information about their specific benefits. The Southern Belle, for instance (carrot, apple, ginger), furnishes "smooth elastic skin." Arnold SchwarzenTonic (carrot, beet, spinach) "builds strength and stamina."

I opted for the Garden Delight (parsley, carrot, celery, apple, beets, wheatgrass), purported to be an "immune system booster." It tasted like a glass of vegetables. But, on the other hand, I've enjoyed perfect health ever since.

Watching the preparation is almost as much fun as drinking the stuff. I was fascinated by the process of extracting liquid from wheatgrass, which looks like something buffalo graze on. Apparently, it's 70 percent chlorophyll, and therefore full of therapeutic wonders. Get Juiced claims wheatgrass does everything but pick winning lottery numbers. It "rebuilds tissues, neutralizes toxins, improves blood sugar problems, relieves acne, helps heal scars and deodorizes the body."

And, for a few cents more, you can add health supplements to your wonder drinks--aloe, bee pollen, wheat germ, lecithin, garlic, ginseng. There are smoothies, sport drinks and cappuccinos, too.

The other new juice spot is Total Juice, in the Camelback Colonnade at 1747 East Camelback. Here, the emphasis is on smoothies, which blend fruit, juice and either nonfat yogurt or sherbet. (The orange and carrot juices are fresh squeezed; others, I was told, come from concentrates.) And, yes, you can add pick-me-ups like oat bran, soy protein powder and a "juice booster" ("a special nutrient powder that combines 51 vitamins, minerals and amino acids").

Here's looking at you, kid.

 
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