I had been wanting to try Panera Bread for years, but being the penny pincher that I am, I couldn't justify spending so much money on a salad or sandwich, and it's not the type of place I would ask my husband to take me out on a date to, so I just assumed that I would never get to try it. Then, yesterday, some suppliers bought everyone lunch from Panera Bread. I was so excited! I chose the strawberry poppy seed salad. It was beautiful. I dont think I had ever seen such a beautiful salad. It was colorful with bright red strawberries, ripe blueberries, mandarin oranges, nuts, pineapple...just so pretty and it came with a piece of crusty French bread and a cranberry-oatmeal raisin cookie. I poured a cup of "sweet" tea, but found out the suppliers had ordered sweet but there was unsweet in the sweet bottles?? Hmmmmmm....ok, no biggie. The salad looked great. Before tasting the dressing, I decided to trust the recipe creators of Panera Bread and pour it all over my salad. I tossed it around a bit and took a bite. Omg the dressing was . It literally tasted like they had mixed water and cornstarch with splenda and threw a bunch of poppy seeds in it. I do NOT like the taste of artificial sweeteners so this was pretty dang bad. I thought....mmmmk, I learned my lesson with the dressing thing, I'll just eat the salad and try to ignore the dressing, until I started seeing all of the brown mushy pieces of lettuce. Oh Lord, seriously? So, first it was the sweet tea mix up, then the dressing, now the mush lettuce. So, I moved on to the bread. I love French baguettes and this was pretty good. Then, I ate my cookie which was ok. I like the cookies at Kroger more, but it was ok. Just seemed like it had a lot of fillers and preservatives in it. I guess what bothers me so much is that they consistently boast about freshness and oh so clean and fresh and natural, but everything except for the bread tasted so plastic and yuk with a tone of preservatives and artificial sweeteners. It was just so much of a disappointment. So.....not dogging on all Panera Breads, and certainly not complaining about a free meal and I am absolutely grateful. This is merely my experience with my very first Panera Bread meal.....it was not what I thought and goes to show....looks can be deceiving, or even don't judge a book by its cover and all those little sayings of wisdom. I think I will just continue making salads using the pictures of the Panera Bread salads as a guide.
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