It’s that point in the semester when things are starting to get a little crazy. My best bet is to exit my apartment, leaving my bed, the kitchen, the tv and my cat behind in order to get some serious work done. Today I decided that it was time for my bi-monthly Panera fix. The music is their own, rather than the radio, and just the right volume to drown out the gossip without tempting me to sing along. The lighting is low, which is a must for me, and the food is great too.
I walked in thinking I would get the You Pick 2 with my usual favorites: the greek salad, black bean soup, tomato and mozzarella panini, I knew I had time to decide considering the line was pretty long. I looked up at the list of soups and saw an advertisement for their newest menu addition: The Thai Chopped Chicken Salad. I love thai-inspired dishes (read here for one of my own) so I knew I had to try this! Plus, with school so crazy and being forced to put this blog on the back burner, this would be a great opportunity to get a post up!
I decided to stick with the tomato and mozzarella panini since the Thai was bound to be strong and flavorful, so I wanted to pair it with something on a simpler side. Great choices!
This is how Panera describes their new salad: “Sometimes really great food can take you on a journey. With just one bite of our new Thai Chopped Chicken Salad, you’re halfway across the world.”
Does that not sound like me? They had me at journey.
Beyond that, I have to agree with their super corny assessment that just one bite takes you halfway across the world. I cut up the chicken and mixed the salad a bit before my first bite. Literally as soon as I closed my mouth and my tastebuds had the opportunity to meet their new best friends, it was like a thai explosion in my mouth. It was a strong, bold multi-faceted flavor. I could taste the roasted vegetables, the super moist chicken, the peanut, lime, clinatro. I couldn’t wait to find out exactly what is in this salad.
So here it is:
- Fire-roasted veggies: red pepper, edamame, carrots, etc.
- Crispy wonton noodles
- Tender, all natural (and perfectly cooked!) citrus and pepper chicken
- Thai-spiced cashews
- Thai-Chili vinaigrette (must be where the heat is coming from!)
- peanut sauce
- Hints of lime and cilantro
I was pretty close! Many times at chain restaurants, or in any salad for that matter, all of the flavors blend together creating one pretty good flavor. Not this salad. Here all of the flavors are differentiated from one another, allowing you to taste each and every one. Each bite is a little bit different, too, which I love. Many pretty great flavors!
Caution: This meal is spicy! It doesn’t knock you on your butt, I didn’t need milk or any other “chaser” but there’s some definite heat. I’m assuming it is from the Thai chili vinaigrette, because it is a delicious heat! Sometimes I eat spicy things and that’s all they are – spicy. This spicy flavor is just that- a flavor. The heat doesn’t overpower the actual taste.
If you can’t already tell, I absolutely love this salad. Usually just a salad from here doesn’t leave me satisfied, but next time I’m going for the full sized salad and skipping the panini!
Has anyone ever tried their breakfast?
Have you tried this new salad? What’s your favorite at Panera?
Dare I ask… Panera or Cosi?