Full Disclosure: I was invited by POM Wonderful to sample a POM Wonderful inspired menu prepared by Chef Adam Sobel at RN74 in San Francisco.
Let’s start with a little history and some fun facts about pomegranates. Pomegranates are native to Iraq, but California is home to an extensive amount pomegranate groves (over 18,000 acres). 100 years ago, a Porterville farmer named Mr. Bearss brought pomegranate cuttings from Florida to California and began propagating them. This variety was sweeter and juicier than the others already there, so he aptly named it the Wonderful variety (source: pomwonderful.com). Pomegranate season is October through January. POM Wonderful juice is exclusively grown and sourced in Central California. For eating or juicing, select pomegranates by weight, not by color. The heavier they are the more juice they contain. They store well, too. You can freeze pomegranate arils for months.
I had written off eating pomegranates when I became an adult (read – a teenager who thought they were too cute to eat “messy” food). They were difficult to maneuver and I was guaranteed to stain and ruin whatever I was wearing with the juice. I now walk by them in the grocery aisle, conjure the sweet and tart memory of the arils, remember how hard it was to get them out, the stained clothes left in its wake …and just keep walking.
I have to say, we have been reunited and it feels (tastes) so good. The POM Wonderful menu Chef Sobel prepared was eye-opening, not just from the beautiful plates presented, but by the versatility of a fruit that I had written-off so long ago. It was a glaze, it was sprinkled, it was juiced, it was mixed, it was frozen; I couldn’t wait to see how it was “twisted” with each new dish.
As a vegetarian, there are at least 4 reasons for you to check out the POM Wonderful inspired menu at RN74 in San Francisco:
- The Starter – Marinated beets with lemon labneh, POM arils and juniper. The beets are tender and savory with a hint of sweet. The labneh (a Middle Eastern cheese made from yogurt) smoothed out the tartness of the POM arils. It is vibrantly presented and almost too pretty to eat (see slide show).
- Middle – Salad of Brussel Sprouts and Baby Kale. A small bounty of crisp brussel sprouts, slightly salty but extremely creamy and smooth L’Exlporateur cheese; crunchy, seasoned pretzel croutons, thinly sliced Bartlet pear and fresh POM arils for a hint of sweet.
This is definitely my new favorite salad (mind you, I view almost a hundred recipes a week, so I’m not very loyal). However, this salad is one to hang on to and enjoy over and over and over again. It can be recreated at home but you’d be hard-pressed to duplicate the pretzel croutons and afford the L’Explorateur cheese on a regular basis (L’Explorateur, produced in Ile-de-France, is 75% butterfat and not the cheapest of cheese, but worth every penny).
The salad was paired with a POM-Tree fizz made with POM Wonderful, gin, mint, lime and ginger beer; perfectly light and refreshing.
- Main – Pommes Anna, grilled pearl onions, reduction of black olive-pomegranate glaze and sliced Butternut squash. You had to put a little bit of everything on the fork to get “it.” Sweet, silky, smooth, salty, tart, crispy and tender.
The dish was served with POMS-Away made with Mezcal, sweet vermouth, cassis and burnt orange. It is a very aggressive cocktail in flavor and in scent. I’ve never been a fan of martinis, and the vermouth was a gentle reminder why.
- Sweet – Flavors and textures of Autumn. Parsnip gateau on a soft pillow of pumpkin mousse, topped with pomegranate sorbet, paper thin wafers and a sugared hibiscus leaf (we were told not to eat the leaf, as tempting as it was). Although I didn’t really care for the presentation (see slide show), the cake was exceptionally moist, the arils provided a little bit of acid, the mousse was delicately spiced and pumpkin seeds added a little texture. It is not a sweet dessert. Everything was had just a “hint” of flavor. Even the pomegranate sorbet was light.
My favorite cocktail, POM-kin Patch was made with bourbon (I am a bourbon girl), angostura and pumkin butter. I was tempted to ask for another, but I was driving. It was strong, sweet and charming. Just like my husband (maybe that’s why I wanted seconds). Even though you wouldn’t normally pair a salad with bourbon, I would return to RN74 for the Salad of Brussel Sprouts and Baby Kale (with extra pretzel croutons) and a POM-kin Patch Bourbon.
Needless to say, by the time I had finished, I had forgotten all about my “messy” pomegranate memories. I had experienced pomegranates in a whole new light. If you are like me and had written off pomegranates, give them another try. Celebrate Pomegranate Month with POM Wonderful. They’ve made it easier (and cleaner) than ever to enjoy. Check out their new POM POMS (ready to eat, fresh arils). Pomegranate Month is officially on my calendar and pomegranates are back in my shopping cart.
Simplicity expert and purveyor of provocative vegetarian cuisine, A.Michelle Blakeley is the curator of the new online magazine, The Vegetarian Aficionado. Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle. With a focus on plant-based seasonal and local fare, vegetarianism is a harmonic balance between your mind and body that gives rise to an appetite for life. Connect with her on Twitter at @vegaficionado or Instagram at vegetarianaficionado