Sunday, September 27, 2009

POM Wonderful

Recently, the generous Ms. Peters from POM sent me samples of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice to review and share. As a big health and fitness buff, I am always glad to show others a better way of living. Devotees will remember the positive POMx review I wrote last year.

POM Wonderful

POM prides itself in using the "Wonderful" pomegranate varietal which POM claims to possess "superior antioxidants, delicious taste, and deep crimson color". Since I come from a strong biological sciences background, naturally I felt compelled to verify these claims by hopping over to PubMed and download a handful of articles. I could bore you all to death with a bunch of bio-babble, but in the interest of time: darker aril (the fruit around the seeds) = better. Indeed, Wonderful does have one of the darkest arils in comparison to other common varietals.

On an interesting side note, one should also juice the peel in order to maximize antioxidant intake. The result is not as tasty as regular pomegranate aril juice, however.

Coincidentally, I grow the Wonderful varietal in my backyard. These are harvested at their peak in October, but because I am due for another long trip, I had to pick some of them early. Now for the test: POM Wonderful VS home-grown/juiced:

POM Wonderful (left) and backyard Wonderful (right)

POM Wonderful comes in a much deeper shade and appears to have been filtered, unlike my home-grown pomegranate juice which is opaque. I do not have access to a lab anymore so I can't say which has more antioxidants, but in my opinion, one would be splitting hairs when comparing the two. Both pack a real punch to boost cardiovascular and prostate health. Researchers have all concluded that pomegranates are the single best source for obtaining antioxidants, surpassing even blueberries, the much touted superfood. All it takes is 8oz. of pomegranate juice daily to greatly reduce arterial plaque, reduce plaque formation, lower your risk for prostate cancer, and even help men with their embarrassing bedroom failures.

But how do the two taste? POM Wonderful is a concentrated dose of juice that is light, crisp and explodes with pomegranate flavor. Its acidity and tartness is akin to cranberry juice but with subtle tannins in the background. Sugar levels are not over the top like many other juice brands. However, the sweetness tastes "synthetic" and "syrupy" as opposed to fresh-squeezed and natural. This syrupy "fake" taste is common in nearly all juice brands and I was hoping POM would deviate from the pack. POM Wonderful does earn major points for not using any added sugar, though. A pleasure to drink. POM's commitment to quality health products is clearly demonstrated here.

But surprisingly, my own fresh-squeeze pomegranate juice is the superior tasting juice. While not as concentrated, it is a much smoother and balanced juice to drink. Acidity is held back and the tartness and puckering feels a tad more subdued in comparison to POM. Tannins are comparable. What really makes this juice shine are the sweetness and mouthfeel. POM's juice tastes synthetic simply because its type of sweetness is so intense and overbearing to the point that it feels like it came from a syrup. My own juice is actually sweeter, and yet it feels more rounded and gentle. POM immediately hits your palate hard while my fresh-squeezed sort of allows itself to spread out and settle. The type of sweetness is completely different. Also, because my pomegranate juice is not filtered, there are more particles present, which contributes to the increased viscosity and smooth mouthfeel.

Blind tastings I conducted showed that some folks prefer POM over my fresh-squeezed juice, but the general consensus is that fresh-squeezed is better. This brings us to a very important point: convenience and consistency VS taste. POM is able to sell a very high quality consistent product year-round at attractive prices, thoroughly trouncing its competitors who needlessly corrupt their products with added sugar and filler juices. In comparison, my home-grown/squeezed juice does taste miles better, but I am limited to a small one-time harvest every year. Then there is the great inconvenience of juicing pomegranates. Believe me, it's a real chore to pick out all the individual aril, crush them, and dispose of the seeds. To make matters worse, one average sized pomegranate yields around 4oz. Sometimes less. There is more work than reward when squeezing fresh pomegranate juice. When preparing juice for my family, it took me 45 minutes to pick out all the aril, another 30 to juice them, and less than one minute for my family to finish it all--three cups.

Next time I'll just buy a bottle at Costco.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Plenty of over-rated restaurants in La Jolla. Nine-Ten isn't exactly one of them, though this is really up for debate. Here's a bargain $30 three-course lunch I was able to enjoy towards the end of July.

pre-meal simple carbohydrates

Organic green salad

Very light and subtle dressing. Faint taste of shallots and maybe champagne vinegar. Well balanced acidity and sweetness. Most leaves were fresh and crisp (as they ought to be) but I found a few wilted ones in the mix. Wasn't so pleased about that. The hearty and robust olive oil drizzled on crostinis provided a bold contrast to this starter.

Duck confit

While the duck confit is impeccable, it is my opinion that the accompanying arugula salad steals the limelight. The combination of flavors and textures was just brilliant. One should expect no less from a restaurant of Nine-Ten's caliber. Pungent goat cheese is cut by puckering pickled onions whose acidity is dampened and smoothed out by delicately sweet plums. A well thought-out harmony of flavors. Texture runs the gamut from the soft cheese to the crispy nuts. Definitely an exciting salad. And needless to say, Nine-Ten's duck confit is prepared with the same high standard in mind. Use of a knife is wholly unnecessary for the meat needs only gentle encouragement from a fork to fall cleanly off the bone. It is seasoned precisely to my liking while holding back on the salt. Compared to 1500 Ocean (too salty) and Avenue 5 (slightly too heavy on seasonings), Nine-Ten strikes a medium between the two.

Peach crisp w/ cherry ice cream

Epic is the word that comes to mind when shoveling down this behemoth. The light and airy ice cream gives your tongue a brief respite from the thick warm syrupy peaches underneath a layer of vanilla-scented granola. This is truly the epitome of comfort food. Sinfully good. I dare say it offers real stiff competition for my idol Mariah Swan's desserts. Easily makes my top five.

Nine-Ten has received much accolade over the years and it isn't hard to see why. However, I believe that the restaurant should improve upon several key issues. First, wilted greens in a salad is unacceptable. Second, service ranges from spotty to over attentive. Third, my water glass does not fill itself so any help is appreciated. Lastly, pacing needs significant work. I felt rushed when my duck confit arrived as I was finishing the last 40% of my salad. Despite these stumbles, lunch at Nine-Ten was a pleasurable and relaxing experience akin to a refreshing day at the spa. I want to give Nine-Ten the benefit of the doubt and say that it was an "off day" and that my server simply was not up to standard. Surely such great food does not get paired with questionable service! Only a second visit will tell, I suppose.

On a side note, I attempted to contact general manager Neal Wasserman for a digital copy of the menu I perused during my visit since the Nine-Ten website menu does not reflect the one I browsed. It would have been tremendously helpful in identifying ingredients and presenting additional dishes to 5-dS readers. Unfortunately, Neal completely brushed off my sincere, polite, and very flattering e-mail. What an insult. Even a simple "sorry I don't have time for amateurs like you" as a reply would have sufficed. Why on earth would management ignore a potentially loyal customer capable of generating favorable reviews to hook the general populace? Honestly, this experience makes me think twice about coming back.

Nine Ten
910 Prospect St
La Jolla, CA 92037