While your correspondent can't speak for the rest of the country, on the West Coast, the not-so-humble açai bowl is a favorite Instagram subject of everyone from models to pro athletes.
It’s often referred to as “a smoothie bowl,” because the ingredients are essentially the same, only with the addition of açai — a Brazilian berry similar to a blueberry — and toppings like granola, honey, seeds and nuts.
Done right, it’s like eating a bowl of frozen yogurt that’ll make you feel big and strong like warrior. Done wrong — as is the case when most of us try to replicate these things at home — it’s like a strange, sweet soup.
So we tapped Dan Goddard, one of the men behind Backyard Bowls, to show us how to do it right. Dan and his partner Pete Heth cottoned to the bowls while surfing in Hawaii, and have spent most of their waking hours since perfecting the concept.
“Nothing beats one of these after a day in the water,” says Dan. “It’s totally nourishing and doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed.”
Here are Dan’s tips on how to make a mindblowing Backyard Bowl. And if you’re ever in L.A. or Santa Barbara, stop by their stores for a bowl; you’ll thank us.
Invest in a high-quality blender
“A Kmart blender won’t cut it,” Dan says. “You'll ruin it.” Put the coin towards a Vitamix or Blend Tech. These machines are guaranteed to last a decade, with super strong blades and a robust motor. Say hello to your new food processor.
The tamper is your friend
The tamper — that mixing tube that lives in the middle of some blenders — is also a necessity. That’s because you need to force the ingredients into the blades. When you make a smoothie (or a sauce) the liquids do this for you. But, as you’ll see from the fourth tip below, you want mostly solids for this job — only 3-4 oz of liquid.
Higher quality ingredients will make a huge difference in taste
Obviously. Right? Well, most folks skimp on this. “Particularly with açai,” explains Dan. “There’s a lot of adulterated açai in the frozen section because it’s a relatively new fruit for Americans who typically don’t know the difference.” He recommends Tambor or Amazon Planet. Don’t see those in the fridge? Go for a smaller label.
frozen ingredients (2 images)
All of the ingredients going in the blender must be frozen
This was is another step we had all wrong. “All ingredients that are to be blended must be frozen,” says Dan. “You can use fresh ingredients if you want, especially in the case of leafy greens like kale, but you want to freeze them first.
Aim for the consistency of frozen yogurt. You’ll know you’ve done it right if you can turn the blender upside down and nothing comes out.
Pro tip: the Whole Foods 365 brand is solid for frozen fruits and veggies and not outrageously expensive. “Get the organic frozen Individually Quick Frozen,” says Dan. “These are harvest peak season and a better quality than you’ll find in the produce section.”
toppings (5 images)
Toppings are where you go big
Keep your ingredients strong here, too. Especially the granola. “Our default granola is Nature’s Path Hemp Plus,” says Dan. “It’s got that airy, crunchy sweetness that everyone loves.” Backyard Bowls also makes its own granola, which isn't that difficult: on a baking sheet, take rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, spices and cover in coconut oil and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes (check periodically and stir). It saves for several weeks.
Then add your toppings: chia seeds, hemp seeds and nuts will give you an extra boost of protein that’s on par with eggs.
And, of course, sliced seasonal fruit and honey.