a POM wonderful time!

fresh5

I’ll just come right out and say it – I’ve been neglecting you as of late.  Between working on new site Refrigerator Soup and trotting off to surreal adventures in Califorinia, I haven’t been there for you.

But boy, have I got a story for you today!  You see?  I’m really doing it all for you, dear readers. :-)

My intention was to have this post up by yesterday at the absolute latest.  Other bloggers on my adventure (we’ll get to that) were quite impressive with their fast and furious blogging each step of the way, giving their readers real-time updates.  I’ll admit, I felt inferior to their dedication and posting pace.  However, now that a couple of days have passed and I’m back to the “real world”, I’m actually glad I allowed myself some time to reflect on everything, to let the experience really sink in before I began to pass it along to you.

For me, this was one of the best experiences I’ve had to date.  Truly.  And I haven’t exactly spent my life avoiding exciting experiences, either.  Yet this one, for so many different reasons, will remain with me for years to come, and most likely forever.

Let’s start at the beginning…

It’s another day in the life of me.  Kids off to school, coffee in hand, fingers at keyboard, ready to dive into the world of social media and food blogging.  Check on The Wicked Noodle and make sure everything is running smoothly?  Check.  Scope out my Facebook page and see what friends and fellow bloggers are doing?  Check.  Open email and…and…find out that I am one of fifteen bloggers chosen to be flown to California, all expenses paid, and tour the POM wonderful orchards and juicing plant, be fed fabulous dinners, meet the staff and be treated like an absolute queen?!!  Is this really happening?!!

It was happening, and now it’s actually happened.  I wearily arrived back to my home and subsequent reality just a short 36 hours ago, sneaking back into my world around a tiring 1:30 am.  And I still held the smile that had been carrying me through the past three POM wonderful days.

Friends, it was glorious.  That word is perhaps a bit cheesy, but it’s the best way I know to describe to you what an absolute fabulous time this was.  It was like arriving to a party where you’re the guest of honor and the sole job of everyone around you is to make sure you know it.  And the best part of the adventure?  How freakin’ awesome the POM folks are.  I can’t stress this enough. By now, you all know that I’m all about good people.  Fun adventures and generosity aside, if it doesn’t come from folks that I can feel good about supporting and promoting, then it doesn’t ring true for me and it’s usually thanks, but no thanks.

The POM people are different.

I’m in love with them.  Every last one of ‘em.  From Andrea and Jeff  who organized this entire trip and are two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, to Jim and Brad who took time out of their lives to give us tours, share enough information about pomegranates that I could quite possibly write a book, and actually read every single one of our blogs so they could get a better feel for each one of us…they were all just great people that I feel immensely honored to have met.  It was apparent to all of us how much they believe in the POM products and how hard they all work to put out the absolute best product possible.

How cool is that?!!

I know that I could give you a play-by-play of every little thing we did during our stay, but it will probably be more fun for you to see it in action through pictures.  So, without further adieu, here is my amazing journey!

bj dinner At our meet-’n-greet dinner at BJ’s brewery (that’s me in the pink)

pace at bj dinner Pace from Taste of Pace at BJ’s Brewery dinner

eric at bj dinner Eric from Eric Rivera Cooks at BJ’s Brewery Dinner

Side note about Eric…he and I have been “Facebook Friends” ever since “meeting” out in the food blogging world.  We did a Johnsonville Brat Throwdown together and have supported each other’s blogs ever since (a very common practice in the extremely supportive world of food blogging).  It was great to meet someone that I was familiar with – the name to a face sort of thing.  He’s a super nice guy who kept us all laughing!

breakfast Breakfast came early…

kristy in front of plane …but we had to get to the runway!

POM Wonderful has 18,000 acres of orchards (where they also grow pistachios and almonds!!), and they took us all up in their company planes to check out all 18, 000 acres from the sky.  I got to go up twice, and the second time I sat in the co-pilot seat, complete with headset and amazing front-row-seat-view.  There are pictures of this somewhere – when they’re sent to me I’ll update you with them!

the planes

the planes

our pilot

our pilot

andrea and daniel and pistachio bins Andrea, Manager of Interactive Marketing, talking to our pilot.  Those huge silver bins in the background hold pistachios.

kristy and eric at plane

kristy and eric

k,eric and pace at plane

pace, kristy and eric

all of us at the plane all of us

After our flyover, it was off to see the orchards up close and personal.  We were allowed to pick pomegranates – and we ate quite a few of them, too!

kristy at the orchard 1 Arriving at the orchard.  There were ooh’s and aah’s from everyone as we pulled up.  The orchard is so impressive and the pomegranate trees are quite beautiful in person.  Fun fact:  “Wonderful” is not just part of POM’s name, but is also the variety of pomegranates that they grow.  This variety is sweeter than most others grown overseas.

kristy at the orchard 2 kristy at the orchard 3 trees at the orchard brad showing us pom 1 Brad did a great job of explaing all there is to know about pomegranates.  I believe his title is VP/General Manager of the fresh fruit division.  I like to call him all-around-nice-guy.

brad showing us pom 2 brad showing us pom 3 arils listening to brad at orchard open pom pom on tree eric taking pic of pom you know you’re with a group of bloggers when the pictures never stop!

sagan at orchard Meet Sagan of Living Healthy in the Real World.  She was one of my favorites.

the pom team at orchard The POM team hanging out with us at the orchards.  Daniel, Brad, Andrea and Jeff.  Daniel is the PR guy and was basically there to make sure we didn’t do anything stupid. ;-)  He was hilarious and I was glad he rode in our van – made the two hour drive to the orchards a lot more fun!  Jeff works closely with Angela and was the driver of our van.  He’s also super funny and just a really great guy.  Really looking foward to continuing to work with him and Andrea.

all of us at orchard the whole gang

That night, the hosted a special “Harvest Tour” dinner at The Vintage Press in Visalia, CA.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  The food was outstanding and the ambiance was perfect.  Of course, great dinner companions and conversation never hurt, either!  Jeff gave a great talk on how POM picked us over the other zillions of bloggers out there, and it was very touching.  He said they really wanted to support bloggers who had a good message and that they could feel good about supporting.  It literally almost had me in tears (although that coulda been the wine)!

at the hotel leaving for dinner leaving the hotel for The Vintage Press

all of us in front of restaurant in front of the restaurant

harvest dinner set table harvest dinner menu poms on the dinner table mushroom appetizer salad dessert jim and brad at dinner Jim and Brad – can’t recall what Jim’s exact title is, but he’s definitely one of the head dudes.  Another super nice guy.

jim speaking at dinner 2 Jim giving us his background with POM.

daniel at dinner brad at dinner eric, kristy and sagan at dinner pace on the shoe chairs the chef The chef came out to check on us often.  He gave us a tour of his fabulous restaurant at the end of dinner.

factory The next morning we all headed to the POM Wonderful factories.  Their technology is amazing!!  I’m not sure how much of it I’m allowed to talk about, but I will tell you that the process of choosing which pom’s are “perfect” and can be shipped to stores near you and which pom’s will get juiced and bottled is really something to see (I will say that it involves cameras and computers)!  They use every bit of the pomegranate and leave nothing to waste.  These are clearly folks who care about the environment and putting out the best product possible!

me with my hairnet We all had to wear hairnets, hardhats and earphones so that we could hear the tour guides (Jim and Brad).  Don’t I look fabulous with no makeup and a hairnet?!!  I think I hear Vogue calling!

poms at the factory poms at the factory 2 factory factory 2 factory 3 factory 4 factory 5 factory 7

factory 8 factory 9 factory 10 factory 11 factory 13 making bottles

goodbye 3 All good things must come to an end…

goodbye 2 …but we’ll take with us all the generosity and good spirit shared with us!  And lots of healthy and delicious fresh pomegranates, pre-packaged fresh arils (the seeds of the pomegranates), POM tea (the green is my favorite!), and POM bars.  And the groovy t-shirts the had made for us, and…okay, I’ll stop now.  But you get the idea.

A better writer could probably put this experience into words better than I can.  But I really hope I’ve been able to convey to you just how wonderful (no pun intended) this company really is.  The entire trip had the overall feel of being with great new friends who where sharing their passion with us, not company executives who were simply doing their jobs.  It’s this passion that has made me a lifetime fan!

Check out the POM Wonderful website and discover for yourself all of the good things eating fresh pomegranates and drinking pomegranate juice can do for your body.  It doesn’t hurt that they’ve posted a couple of my recipes, either :-)  I actually made the recipes months ago but didn’t want to post them unti POM had the chance to post them first, so  I’ll be sharing those recipes with you shortly.  Now you have no excuse but to go out and buy some of their delicious juice!  Or if you’re in or around NoVa, drop me a line and I’ll have you over for dinner!

I’d really like to thank Andrea, Jeff, Brad, Jim and all of the POM folks who shared their time, passion and generosity with us.  I’m really looking forward to many years of collaboration and POM friendship.  And a special thanks to Lynda, owner of POM and – according to those who work for you – gave the green light for this project without hesitation.  I just found out we’re all receiving a signed copy of her new book, “Rubies in the Orchard“!

Maybe all good things don’t have to come to an end, after all! :-)