If you live in the Amazon rainforest, you know that dipping your spear in the venom of a blue poison dart frog will make for a very effective weapon. You know that the massive pirarucu fish feeds at dawn, making for easy prey and good eating. You know the piercing danger call of the howler monkey signals that a hungry leopard is afoot. And you definitely know that snakes aren’t your friends.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, even a non-rainforest resident knows the power of the mighty açaí berry—how it can deliver a rush of energy, strengthen the immune system, boost virility (it’s commonly referred to as “Nature’s Viagra”), and uphold overall good health. Mashing the berries with boiling water produces a chocolatey-tinged drink that, in many regions of the rainforest, is consumed more often than milk.
- PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
- NATURE'S RED BULL: Looking for a pick-me-up? No fruit is more energizing than Brazil’s açaí berry.
Nature’s Red Bull? It’s not a stretch.
The deep purple berries (pronounced (ah-sigh-ee) may grow on towering palm trees throughout the swamps and floodplains of Brazil, but the fruit is just as visible in trendy cafes and health-conscious breakfast joints across the U.S. America’s love affair with the exotic fruit actually began in the 1970s—way before Dr. Oz began endorsing the fruit as a “miracle weight loss cure.”
Today, you can’t turn around without smacking against a new-and-improved açaí powder or supplement. Although these snake oil cures can’t get you back into your skinny jeans, real frozen açaí does make for a mean pick-me-up.
By now, it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced the famous slushy pulp, with its uniquely vivid hue and earthy-sweet taste.
But have you tasted açaí the way Mother Nature—and the Amazonians—truly intended? Spoon-n-Bowls is here to enlighten you. The SLO-based food truck is serving up traditional açaí bowls (“açaí na tigela” as it’s called in the Amazon), alongside a rainbow of modernized recipes.
The simple, fresh ingredients in Spoon-n-Bowl’s classic Wild Rio—featuring frozen açaí, granola, local honey, and banana—is as satisfying as a dessert yet healthier than most breakfasts.
- PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
- HEALTH HAPPY: Whether you’re into kale and apples or peanut butter and bananas, Spoon-n-Bowls food truck knows how to top your favorite açaí creation.
That’s miracle enough for me.
Spoon-n-Bowls Owners Michael and Brenda Ruiz whipped me up a few batches as we chatted in their converted ice cream truck, purchased last August. As the state-of-the art blenders whirled, I learned just what attracted the duo to the uniquely satisfying snack.
“We wanted to bring a healthy food option to people that don’t always have access to it,” Brenda said. “We felt that the idea of a mobile açaí truck would be super fresh, super delicious. It just doesn’t taste like you’re ‘eating something healthy.’”
Brenda, 24, hails from Sacramento while her husband of three years is a native of Santa Maria. The couple bonded over their shared love of the Central Coast.
However, Michael was not always the slim, energetic guy that he is today. When the couple first moved in together, Brenda, a vegetarian, began cooking for two.
“Michael was heavier before, but then he started liking the healthier food I was making,” Brenda said. “Three years ago, we got a gym membership and starting getting super into fitness.”
- PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
- DEEP PURPLE: Spoon-n-Bowls food truck is serving up healthy, vibrant açaí bowls topped with fresh, locally sourced toppings.
Sixty pounds lighter, Michael is a true believer in the power of the açaí bowl, which still provides a hearty breakfast for the couple most days of the week.
Whether you’re in the mood for a nutrient dense smoothie (choose from Super Açaí, Kale Yeah, or Datelicious) or a traditional açaí bowl (choose from Berry Berry, Nutty Butter, Go Green, or Wild Rio), Spoon-n-Bowls satisfies the innately human craving for healthy grubbin’.
“SLO has been amazingly supportive of us,” Michael said. “Before we even started the business, driving the truck around town, people were contacting us, saying, ‘Where are you guys going next?’”
Ingredients are always sourced from regional purveyors and farmers’ markets. Local honey is always drizzled on top. Of course, the açaí is always shipped from Brazil. Açaí must be processed immediately after picking, which is why you’ll almost always find it in frozen form.
According to the couple, a new bowl recipe is currently in the works.
“Brenda loves playing in the kitchen,” Micheal said. “Two years ago, my sister went to Brazil, and introduced us to the idea of the açaí bowl. We were really intrigued.”
Back then, açaí bowls were certainly “cool” with the Bohemian types, but not as supremely fashionable as they are today. After a bit of research, Brenda began experimenting. What would happen if you topped açaí with kale and green apples? How about banana and peanut butter?
“We tried to figure out the texture, if we liked it runnier, thicker, and what toppings we liked,” Brenda said. “Now that it’s our business, we aim to give customers a real variety. Our goal has always been to travel directly to those customers.”
Sweeter options like the Berry Berry, overflowing with ripe strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, are a powerful elixir indeed.
“Parents have even been able to trick their kids into thinking the bowls are ice cream,” Michael said.
According to the couple, there could be no higher compliment. In life, so few healthy choices are truly decadent and delicious. Although a mac and cheese truck is nice, it also makes you want to take a nap.
In contrast, Spoon-n-Bowl offers up a rich, satisfying pleasure that only feels guilty.
“Our açaí bowls and smoothies fill you up, give you the nutrition you need, and keep you energized,” Michael said. “It’s just a super fun food—that’s why we fell in love with it.”
Hayley Thomas is deep into her yoga pose at [email protected].