Typically, I like to support smaller businesses, however Panera is one of those chains that I can get behind. This is primarily due to their good food options as well as their Panera Cares program. If you're not familiar with the Panera Cares concept, check out their website. More businesses should take a risk and try this type of format out.
Today, I'm talking soup. When I lived in Madison, I'd often go to Panera because they have a fantastic selection of vegetarian options. They also do a great job of keeping their website updated with the days offerings. For instance, if you visit their Panera Soup page, you can click on a link to find the soup schedule for the day. I'd usually get the Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean or the Broccoli Cheddar. This time, I decided to get something I've never tried at Panera before-- the French Onion soup. The website describes the French Onion Soup as:
Sliced onion sautéed in sweet butter and seasonings, gently simmered in a light beef broth with essence of tomato, topped with our homemade croutons and Asiago-Parmesan cheese.Yes, please! I've have that! Now, my memory of Panera was that I could get soup and a sandwich, and it would probably take 10+ minutes for me to get my order. Not this time! Panera must have streamlined their operations because I had my meal in three minutes flat. It was just as fast as fast food without all the fat. I took my "You Pick Two" and I sat down at a table by the window. Here is where I had a blogger fail moment.... I pulled out my camera, and the SD card was missing from my dSLR camera!! DRAT!!!! You'll have to settle for a grainy picture from my cell phone instead....
My meal at Panera was exactly what I needed! It was warm soup in my tummy on a pretty cold day... The ratio of onions to soup was perfect. My only complaint was the it was a bit heavy on the salt. I'm not sure if it was the soup itself or if the croutons on top were a bit too salty. Regardless, since I was "on-the-road" for business, I was much happier eating Panera than I would have been with a greasy fast food order of fries and a sloppy veggie burger. I probably saved a lot of calories, too! (as long as you don't count the fresh danishes that somehow managed to jump into my hand as I walked out the door.... opps!)