September 20, 2018

Harvest Bar: Healthfulness in Sherman Oaks

Why eat regular food when you can have “superfood”?
 
That’s the question Aric Haut sought to answer when he helped start the Harvest Bar in Sherman Oaks last May.
 
“I strive to eat all-natural foods with low sugar and no flour — not saying I’m perfect,” the 31-year-old bachelor said. “Being healthy is of the utmost importance to me, so eating well and working out makes me a happier person, and I want to share that with the world.”
 
The self-proclaimed “superfood cafe,” located in the corner of a plaza on Ventura Boulevard just east of the 405 Freeway, leaves no question as to its purpose. During rush hour one recent morning, a woman stood streetside with a sign asking passers-by to “Honk if you’re healthy.”
 
Inside, signs declare the value of consuming the various ingredients used in Harvest Bar’s bowls and smoothies, including goji berries (“the most nutritionally dense fruit on Earth”), spirulina (“formed from a blue-green algae that grows in warm, fresh bodies of water”) and hemp seeds (“high in protein and packed with all nine amino acids”).
 
The café’s black-and-white decor is interrupted by a pop of fruity colors at the toppings bar. Electric-green kiwi slices are joined by bulging blueberries and fire engine-red strawberries that scream freshness. 
 
“Our goal is to deliver the freshest ingredients, never adding sugar or dairy … in a customizable format,” explained Haut, who lives in Studio City. 
 
Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), the reddish-purple berry from Central and South America that is rich in antioxidants, is used in the base of many of the menu items. Other bases include pitaya (dragon fruit) and quinoa. These are blended with various frozen fruits and juices, then served in a bowl with a mix of toppings — chia seeds, granola, nuts, bee pollen, more fruit — or as a smoothie. 
The creamy quinoa, served hot, could be mistaken for oatmeal, while the chilly fruit-based bowls are remarkably similar to a frozen yogurt sundae in taste and consistency.
 
“The trick is blending it for the right amount of time and having the contents be at the right temperature so it doesn’t get soupy,” Haut said. “Instead of going to your local ice cream or yogurt place, it’s definitely a substitute.”
 
He added that the generously sized dishes are versatile enough to work for breakfast, lunch or a snack. Patrons can mix and match ingredients on their own or choose from numerous pre-selected concoctions —which are vegan but not certified kosher.
 
The tart and tangy Classic Signature Bowl blends acai and apple juice with strawberries, blueberries and banana — then tops it with those last three fruits, along with some granola for a nice crunch. The acai-based Island Bowl combines even more: a blend of eight fruits and juices that’s topped with a kaleidoscope of color — mango, kiwi, shredded coconut, granola and delicious goji berries that manage to be both chewy and crunchy.
 
The Super Protein Bowl features peanut butter (and 13 other ingredients and toppings), while the Super Greens Bowl combines everything you hated as a kid — kale, spinach and more — but now know you are supposed to eat.
 
“You’re going to feel great and less bloated,” Haut promised. “Because of the nutrients that the bowl is packed with, you’ll find that you have more energy. It feels guilt-free. You feel light afterward.”
 
Want to really power up? There’s the Energize Smoothie. It includes banana, dates, acai, agave, goji, bee pollen, pumpkin seeds, maca, cacao nibs, wheatgrass, hemp, vanilla and coconut. The result looks and tastes like melted dark chocolate.
 
While the Harvest Bar’s mission is consistent with how Haut lives his life, he’s by no means a food expert. With a degree in business management from the University of Arizona, he comes to the endeavor from more of an entrepreneurial background. A veteran of the sports and entertainment ticketing industry, he started at the online ticket resale site StubHub in its infancy and went on to co-found a company called Spotlight Ticket Management.
 
In 2013, his friend Chris Gors approached him with the concept for a superfood business, and they were later joined by Gors’ lifelong friend Dustin White (who, like Haut, is Jewish). All three are graduates of Taft High School in Woodland Hills.
 
“I’ve always been very interested in food fads,” Haut said. “Being an entrepreneur, seeing frozen yogurt and ice cream … seeing the cupcake fad and how that blew up, seeing juice most recently and how that has exploded … it’s always been of interest to me.”
He said the superfood trend is catching on among everyone from martial artists to fitness-minded moms.
 
“And just people who like delicious food,” he added. “Basically, it’s addicting.”