City Bakery’s Maury Rubin: New York’s New Juicing Iconoclast
Maury Rubin, creator of City Bakery and Birdbath, is best known for mousse-thick hot chocolate and butter-ific pretzel croissants. His annual February hot chocolate festival has added untold inches to the collective waistline of New Yorkers. Yet, his newest undertaking uses no butter or flour. Rubin is the city’s newest, and, perhaps most unexpected, juice-apreneur.
“The City Bakery has always had a dual personality,” Rubin explained to Well+Good during a tasting of his summer collection of juices. “One half of the room is eating greens and grains; the other is eating butter, sugar, and eggs. That’s very unusual in the food business.” With his juices, which he’ll bottle come September, Rubin may have figured out a way to merge both mindsets.
You’ll never find bee pollen, chlorophyll, chia seeds, or any of-the-moment juice bar ingredients at City Bakery, where the juicing operation is currently set up behind the diner-style counter. Instead, the made-to-order beverages were inspired by seasonal, greenmarket ingredients that taste surprisingly good together (fennel and cucumber, anyone?) and will change with the seasons.
His green drink on the menu right now contains greenmarket kale, cucumber, apple, orange, lemon, and extra virgin olive oil; the citrus and the olive oil act as a counterweight to the kale’s grassiness. The pineapple, cucumber, and purslane combo was refreshing, not cloyingly sweet like so many pineapple-based juices. A shot of cold-pressed sweet potatoes tasted as smooth and elegant as an amuse-bouche at Brushstroke. (This last item is off-menu, but go in and ask for a sweet potato shot and maybe it'll start a craze.)
Rubin also takes an unconventional approach to blending the juices. “I cold-press some of the ingredients and send others through the juicer,” he explained. The sweet potato, for example, gets really starchy when it goes through the juicer, whereas when it’s cold pressed there’s just a hint of starch at the end.
In addition to Rubin’s gourmand, artisanal approach to juicing (who else would add sugarcane to a green juice?), Rubin was also motivated to show that juices shouldn't cost $10. The prices being charged for juice “are very emperor’s new clothes,” he says, chiding the recent New York Magazine story that made current juice prices sound totally warranted and reasonable.
Coconuts are a sore point. “I recently bought young coconuts for $1.75 a piece. That New York Magazine story has a source insisting they’re $4 a piece. C’mon. At $4, that coconut was picked by an elephant listening to classical music,” says Rubin. "And the elephant probably went to private school."
For now, the juices are only sold at City Bakery's 18th Street location. Sometime this fall, Rubin plans to stock bottles of juice at his Birdbath locations, where the kale-lovers and the croissant-lovers will no doubt both covet them. —Alexia Brue
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