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Pour Me A Peach – Juiced About Carrots, a Haven for Healthy Eats and Drinks

10/01/2008 01:28PM ● Published by Anonymous

As part of an establishment that focuses on fitness and wellness, Carrots Juice Bar and Café offers a menu that one would expect: a tempting variety of salads, light fruit and veggie plates, and no-fat fruit smoothies, to name a few.

There are also a few surprises on occasion, such as meatball subs (albeit served on whole wheat bread and with low-fat mayo) for the times when the appetite yearns for heartier fare. Then there’s the delectable combination of strawberries and champagne available upon request.

Carrots is tucked inside The Spa Fitness & Wellness Center at Eutaw Shopping Center.

“It’s a one-stop shop,” said Manager Erin Morris. “It’s a fitness center, spa and restaurant. There’s no other place like it in Fayetteville.”

The restaurant, she said, concentrates on people who want to live healthier. Although it caters to guests of the spa, officially the Renaissance European Day Spa, the café is open to the public. And more and more people are discovering Carrots for lunch or a light dinner, said Morris, who has been manager for a year and a half. Not only does the restaurant strive to offer an appealing menu but it also attempts to serve dishes fast and efficiently – a service appreciated by workers on a lunch break.

Smoothies, at $3.50 each, are a specialty of the café. The fruit-juice smoothie is described as “basically a healthy meal in a cup. It is easily digested and therefore won’t bog you down after you drink it.” Most of Carrots’ smoothies have no fat, leading to the claim that the smoothie “is fast food that’s good for you. The power drink for the future.”

The most popular smoothie is the Rainbow Symphony, a combination of vanilla frozen yogurt with strawberries, raspberries, peaches, blueberries, banana, a little coconut, and a mix of fruit juices. Another favorite from the menu’s nine selections is the Picasso Smoothie – vanilla frozen yogurt combined with peaches, bananas, coconut and pineapple juice. For chocolate lovers, there’s the Chocolate Fruit Smoothie featuring chocolate frozen yogurt, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, banana, chocolate syrup and milk.

For those who want an additional boost, vitamins and supplements (called bonus mix-ins) are available for an additional dollar each.

On a recent morning, workers whipped up one of their signature smoothies for a spa customer as fitness club members trickled in and out of the cafe, gym bags in hand – a former mayor, a city police officer, retired couples, young mothers. The café sits in the heart of the fitness center, and a small cluster of regulars sat chatting, watching the traffic, before their 9:30 aerobics class. Bertha Taliaferro has been coming to the gym for 25 years. She is 73. “We talk, meet new people, show our love,” she said.

And the view isn’t too bad either, Mimi Disler observed as some of the young male trainers walked by.

This is the coffee-drinking crowd, long gone by the time the mid-day meal is served.

But a wave of working folk who squeeze in a quick exercise routine during lunch line up for the café’s specialty sandwich selections. Chicken salad is one of the most popular, Morris said. It is made with white meat, grapes, celery and pecans with a chardonnay dressing or reduced-fat mayonnaise, served in a spinach tortilla wrap or over mixed greens. Sandwiches are $4.50 or $6.95 with a side salad or a cup of soup.

The most requested item among the salad selections is The Renaissance – mixed greens with tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives, pine nuts, feta cheese and sliced grilled chicken breast served with balsamic vinaigrette. It sells for $8.95. Salads are served with focaccia bread sticks, and there’s a choice of dressings.

The soup du jour may be Chicken Gumbo, Tomato Florentine or White Bean Chili. The chili is made from a recipe created by Morris, who describes it as mild with just a hint of spice.

Among the daily specials are an Italian grilled cheese sandwich on fresh focaccia bread, pesto tuna melt, hummus vegetable wraps and a meatball sub.

Explaining the selections that might seem a bit out of place on a light-fare menu, Morris said they are in response to requests.

“We cater to everybody and try to serve what our employees want and what our members want as well as nutritious food. If you want to eat healthy, you have a choice.”

Desserts are not on the menu. Right now, carrot muffins are as close as it gets. Some sweet selections may be added in the future, Morris said.

Carrots also has a coffee bar, and herbal teas are among beverages that are available.

Clients of the day spa get special pampering. They can choose from an expanded menu, and a spa tender will submit the order and deliver the food. How about a glass of wine while getting your hair done? Just make a request. Then there’s the couples massage (it could be a husband and wife, mother and daughter, or friends) followed by champagne and strawberries. A complimentary seasonal hors d’oeuvres plate is available upon request.

The restaurant has limited seating, but carry-out is offered. Catering is also available. It is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Lunch service begins at 11 a.m. Prior to that, bagels and beverages are available. Around 8:30 in the evening, there’s a run on smoothies as people come from their workouts, Morris said.

In the near future the facility will undergo remodeling, and plans are for the café to take on a relaxed coffee-shop atmosphere where customers can bring their laptops and enjoy a meal or their favorite beverage. Outdoor tables are to be added for warm-weather dining. The menu will get some new dishes with an emphasis on proteins.

For now, Carrots has a tempting selection for people who want to dine on the light side, plus those meatball subs for those days when something heartier is desired.

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