Table Settings: Ari Shapiro

September 15, 2014 |

Full disclosure: The author and subject are personally and professionally connected.  

Ari Shapiro  Photo: Kate Roberts

Ari Shapiro
Photo: Kate Roberts

Ari Shapiro is a Tucson transplant who has spent well over a decade establishing his food and beverage concepts in this city. A vegetarian and avid commuting cyclist, his businesses naturally fit into the spectrum of being healthy with a focus on quality and an emphasis on plant-based eating. Craving a quick breakfast or light lunch option? Xoom Juice has you covered with three locations and a spectrum of smoothie combinations. Sparkroot, the downtown coffee shop, just celebrated its third year anniversary and provides a creative space to get a caffeine buzz or unwind with a beer. Falora, a Neapolitan pizzeria, and the recently opened craft cocktail lounge Sidecar, round out his roster. With his slate filled each day, it’s no wonder his approach to food is so routine.

This New York native finds a way to balance his plate and his palate.

1. Flavor: sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami?

Morning, bitter. Day, sweet. Evening, sour/salty.

2. Mouthfeel: creamy, chewy, crunchy, dense, dry, light, hot, cold?

All of the above in one mouthful, can molecular gastronomy do that yet? Until then, a fresh baked bread is my lifelong favorite, which surprisingly achieves most of these!

3. Ambiance: indoor or outdoor?

I love al-fresco, but mostly in picnic or camping settings. Restaurants, I prefer inside, to take in the decor, details, smells, energy. It also feels cozier, as I’m if in the arms of the staff, especially in open kitchen environs. Of course, if both can be achieved… like a meal I just had in British Columbia; the table was indoors, yet almost on the backyard patio, with floor-to-ceiling windows wide open. Huge fan of places with roll-up garage doors for this reason.

4. Breakfast, lunch, dinner?

I’ve had the same two things for breakfast and lunch for over a decade: coffee & smoothies. Somehow, I never grow tired of that eating rhythm. Alas, dinner is my meal to break ranks, to eat creatively. I immensely enjoy a slow burn, good conversation, wine, company… things that are generally better sans sunlight.

5. Appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, drinks?

I’m a small plate fan all the way, so I don’t really see these distinctions. I’ll take a version of each, at any time during a meal.

6. What meal or food experience changed your approach to cooking and eating?

All hail the mighty Vitamix. When I discovered the art of blending, my whole food world changed for the better. To be able to pack so many flavors, ideas, nutrients into one incredibly edible form is brilliant.

7. Recipe?

Almond milk, acai, blueberries, banana, mango, kale, flax and chia seeds, cacao, dates: blend until creamy. Top with chopped avocado, prickly pear extract, shredded coconut, cashews, goji berries, local honey.

Kerry’s Unblended Parfait Variation

2 large avocados
½ cup cacao powder
10 Medjool dates, pitted, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 cups almond milk (any milk or yogurt of your choice will work)
2 tablespoons maple syrup, local honey or agave nectar
variety of toppings: berries, chopped fruit, seeds and nuts, coconut flakes

In a food processor, blend together the avocado, cacao powder and soaked dates. Slowly add the soaking water from the dates as needed to keep the mixture moving. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together chia seeds, almond milk and maple syrup. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, whisk again, and let sit in the refrigerator until the chia has absorbed the liquid and the pudding is thick, about an hour.

Once the cacao pudding and chia pudding are prepared, gather a variety of toppings: berries, dried fruit, chopped nuts, granola, etc. Layer the puddings and toppings in individual serving containers (wine glasses are nice, small jars, ramekins or tea cups). Have fun and experiment with a variety of flavors and textures. Enjoy immediately or keep in the fridge for quick breakfast options during the week!

Category: FOOD & DRINK