My co-worker and I go to the Panera Bread on 5th Avenue in Manhattan near Bryant Park almost every day for lunch. It’s gotten so that a few of the cashiers there know my typical lunch order by heart (You Pick 2: Chopped Chicken Cobb with Avocado Salad and Sonoma Chicken Stew), and my co-worker was shocked when someone stole the Foursquare mayorship from me.
He’s also fairly consistent in what he orders for lunch there — he swears by the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad (with a different soup each time) so I decided to try it out for dinner at the Panera location near my house to taste for myself what he raves about.
My verdict after having tried this particular salad is that while it tastes pretty great, it’s personally not one that I could eat on a more frequent basis.
There isn’t any sort of “hint” of apple flavor in this salad — we’re talking full blown, in your face apple flavor from not just the mountain of dried Fuji apple chips sitting atop the chicken breast, romaine lettuce, field greens, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, and Gorgonzola crumbles but also the balsamic Fuji apple vinaigrette they douse all those ingredients in. Make no mistake about it: this is one sweet salad!
That’s not to say that it’s not a delicious salad — it’s really more about my love-hate relationship with apples (I have a relatively mild allergic reaction to many varieties of apples with Fujis being one of the few exceptions) and my overall aversion to sweeter salads (I’m more of a savory salad type of guy) that makes this particular entree a little bit of a challenge.
However, seeing as how most of the the ingredients blend together pretty well — the mild sweetness of the apple chips works quite nicely with the nutty flavor of the pecans and the sharp accent of the red onions to complement the savory goodness of the chicken and Gorgonzola — I think this could work for me if I requested that they reduce the amount of dressing… or even eliminate the vinaigrette altogether.
Despite my own taste preferences I have no qualms about recommending this to other Panera patrons, especially those with a love for Fuji apples, as it really is a flavorful salad with some great ingredients.