Fitness chain Equinox is about to get even more upscale with the introduction of Creative Juice, a healthy juice cafe developed in partnership with famed restaurateur Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group.
The cafe, which will debut in two Equinox clubs (one on the Upper West Side and one in Midtown) next month, will feature drinks curated by James Beard Award-winning chef and Director of Culinary Development for USHG, Michael Romano, along with Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, a nutritionist who serves on Equinox's Nutrition & Health Advisory Board.
Chef Romano said his goal in developing the menu -- which features several ingredients not often seen in cold-pressed juices, including kohlrabi, sea beans and kaffir lime leaf -- was to blend flavor and function.
"I do want to keep an element, as Danny [Meyer] puts it, of the hedonism in the health," he told The Huffington Post. "We're trying to get across the point that just because you're trying to be healthy doesn't mean you have to give up pleasure and delicious food."
Romano said he developed the juices the same way he would develop a dish.
"I want all the elements to come together to present a finished product that has a beginning, middle and end," he said. "That has good sweetness, acidity, balance, and distinct flavors."
Romano said that his personal favorite -- called Clockwork Orange, featuring carrot, papaya, orange, pink grapefruit, dried apricots, young ginger and cacao nibs -- features carrot as "a major supporting character in such proportion that it doesn't dominate or become a carrot drink." He described his green juice -- Green Means Go (featuring kale, cucumber, kohlrabi, baby spinach, swiss chard, cilantro, parsley, sea beans, jalapeño, ginger, dill and mint) -- as "a nod to people that want something hardcore," and another -- Soothe Operator, featuring jicama, pineapple, cucumber, mango, cilantro, young ginger and jalapeño) as a "fun" drink that gets warmth from the jalapeño.
Dr. Morrison said that the 14 oz. juices come in around 200-300 calories, with most under 250 calories, and feature ingredients that are ideally suited for exercisers, such as ginger (anti-inflammatory), kale (improves circulation) and sea beans (helps with muscle cramping).
"We've used ingredients that decrease inflammation, help with aching muscles and joints, and help with recovery," he said. "They do have good carbs, because all juices have some sugars. That helps to give energy for the workout, with all the antioxidants that come with fruit and vegetable juices."
The juice cafe will also serve food that Chef Romano views as a 3-D version of the juices.
"I realized that some of the juices, if you broke them down to their parts and didn't juice them, would make a lovely salad or a soup," he said.
Creative Juice will also develop cleanse options, including a detox cleanse, a digestion cleanse and an immune-boosting cleanse, as well as smoothies with rice protein for those looking to bulk up. Dr. Morrison said he expect that all of the options will be incorporated into gym-goers' training programs.
But will any of the concepts make their way to one of Meyer's restaurants, like Union Square Cafe or The Modern?
"Maybe," Romano said. "I could see some kind of application happening. We haven't gone that far yet, but it's a possibility."
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to a "kefir lime leaf" instead of a "kaffir lime leaf." Kefir is actually probiotic yogurt beverage.