Mellow Moods

November 23, 2008


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Mellow Moods is right in the middle of downtown Shepherdstown at 111 W. German Street, yet it is very easy to miss as the building is only 6 feet wide and two stories high.

When I entered, I thought I had fallen into a time and space warp. I was transported to Hawaii and California in the late 1960s or early '70s. I blinked, aging hippy that I am.

"Is this your first time here?" long-haired Laura asked.

I nodded.

"Welcome," she said. She indicated her menu, written in chalk on a blackboard over our heads.

I was very hungry, and I noticed there was no meat listed. I saw salads, sandwiches, smoothies -- but I wanted substance.


"I need protein," I said.

"I will make you a cheese sandwich," said Laura. "I will make whatever you like. You know, we make everything ourselves -- the hummus, the smoothies, the cream cheeses."

And so she made me a sandwich of hummus, Meunster cheese, sprouts, tomatoes and lettuce with honey-mustard sauce on sunflower-and-onion bread from the Cookie Jar bakery in Hagerstown. This huge sandwich, at least 4 inches tall, was satisfying and tasty. A half a banana was tucked into the brown paper bag.

I looked around. The tiny kitchen was open to view and wedged under a staircase. Perhaps, I thought, Harry Potter might appear. Instead, there were other children here. A child in a backpack stared at me as his golden-curled sister danced in place. Their parents were dressed in bright colors and wore their hair long. Bob Dylan sang somewhere in the background. There was limited seating inside -- a couple bar stools and a couple rattan chairs.

When I returned two weeks later, I ordered the poppy seed bagel with the lox-and-cream cheese spread. The bagel was fresh, hot and toasted. The spread was authentic, tasting like good lox, smoked salmon. I looked around again. There was time and space here for conversation.

"Lots of Hawaiian stuff," I observed.

"Yes," said Laura, "the owners married in Hawaii. He told her he wanted to open a juice bar. And he did. Far from Hawaii in the Mountains of West Virginia."

Peter, Paul and Mary were singing a love song in the background. The next week, I ordered a Straight A sandwich -- almond butter, agave nectar and thinly sliced apples on apple cinnamon bread. The sandwich was crunchy and sweet, big and healthy. This time, I found a half orange in the bottom of my brown paper bag, alongside brown paper napkins.

Although this small refuge feels like the past, it is very much of the present. They emphasize ecological products, biodegradable cups made from 100 percent corn, paper containers, organic produce, vegetarian foods and health supplements. This day, The Beatles sang and I sang along: "Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?"

Coffee is part of the Mellow Moods scene, and my cup was excellent, tasting faintly of amaretto. The taste was natural, though I was assured it was not a flavored coffee. Laura opened a new container of organic cream for me.

For such a small space, there was so much of interest. In the kitchen, there was a tropical overhead fan. I saw wind chimes in the corner, coconut husks on a shelf, a wooden carved statue of a surfer with grass hair in the seashell, aloe vera plants, pictures of geckos and oak trees.

The next time I asked for wheat grass. "It will give you a lift," Laura said. She cut a hank of live, green wheatgrass from the perfect miniature lawn on the counter. She put it in the juicer and a bright green liquid poured into a shot glass and a twisted slender rope of cellulose was put in the compost pile. I loved it. The pretty green liquid smelled like a meadow. It tasted very sweet, then bitter, then like licorice. It did give me a lift.

(My partner has an allergy to grass and said that wheat grass would have been deadly. So use common sense.)

A salad was a natural accompaniment, safe and familiar. I chose the goat cheese, walnut and apple salad with a balsamic dressing. The salad was a study in contrasts -- soft lettuce and cheese, hard nuts and apples, tart vinegar and sweet apples, red leaf lettuce, white cheese, brown nuts and pale green escarole. The dressing was piquant and thicker than expected.

On my last visit, I was sick. I intended to order the Kauau Sunrise smoothie, which had mango, pineapple, banana and coconut milk. But decided to try spirulina, a blue-green algae. Mellow Moods' Green Mountain smoothie is made with strawberry, mango, pineapple and spirulina.

"What is spirulina like?" I asked.

"Green," Laura said mysteriously.

And when she placed the smoothie before me, I saw a vile, drab, olive-green liquid.

"Drink it," Laura ordered. It was delicious, very cold, sweet and fruity.

"Now for a cold, you need garlic," she said. "I would suggest the hummus wrap."

She made the wrap with hummus and raw garlic, red leaf and romaine lettuce, chunks of carrots and cucumber. There was half an apple for dessert.

"I hope you feel better," she called to me as I left.

I know this. If I ever want fresh, healthy, well-prepared food, Mellow Moods is the place. And if I ever need a cup of lovingkindness, I will walk up the narrow stairs and enter the 6-foot-wide restaurant and be refreshed.

Omni Vore is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Mellow Moods

(out of 5)

Food: 5 stars

Service: 5 stars

Ambiance: 5 stars

Value: 5 stars

Address: 111 W. German St., Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Hours: Mellow Moods is open 7:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Style: Juice bar; vegetarian and health food

Range: A sandwich and drink costs about $10

Phone: 304-876-0608

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