Review: Roasted Harvest Turkey Salad from Panera
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For the past 6 months, Panera has been such a regular part of my diet that I’m a little bit ashamed. My other food blogging gigs often prompt people to ask me if I’ve been to any good restaurants lately, which sometimes inspires minor panic because all that comes to mind is Panera… and I don’t always want to cop to digging on some soup and salad while grooving to the always-terrible smooth jazz that is the curse of this fast-casual eatery.
My go-to meal at Panera is practically set in stone: the “Pick Two” with Broccoli Cheddar Soup , French baguette, and Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, hold the onions. But, curiosity sometimes gets the better of me, especially when there’s a new salad that’s not too far outside of my comfort zone. The Roasted Turkey Harvest Salad bears so much similarity to the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad that I felt confident giving it a whirl. It starts with the same base of greens, with turkey, d’Anjou pears, dried cherries, pecans, gorgonzola, and a cherry balsamic vinaigrette.
Several things about this salad are great. The greens are fresh and generously portioned, the combination of dried cherries, crumbled gorgonzola, and pecans is delicious, and the dressing is neither too heavily nor too sparingly applied. But, when you get down to the nitty gritty, it starts to fall apart, starting with the turkey.
Unlike Panera’s chicken, the turkey is not seasoned at all, which makes it far too bland. From a textural standpoint, the best way to describe it (unscientifically speaking) is floppy. And because it’s so flavorless, what moisture is there just makes it taste watery. For similar reasons, the dressing was also a disappointment. The cherry flavor was too subtle, and it didn’t have any of the tang you’d expect from a balsamic. Adding extra dressing wouldn’t solve the problem because it would just end up drowning the greens. What it really needs is more cherry flavor and more acidity. The pears weren’t too bad, but the mealy texture was a turn-off, and they just didn’t bring much flavor to the party.
The highlight was the dried cherries, particularly when combined in the same bite as the pecans and gorgonzola. While eating the salad, I found it hard not to treat it like a bowl of Lucky Charms. It was tempting to dig for those tasty morsels and (literally) cherry pick my way through it, but then I’d be left with a bunch of lettuce and cold, floppy bits of turkey, and nobody wants that.
With its sweet dressing and two fruit components, this salad desperately needs more of a savory counterbalance, and the cheese alone doesn’t cut it (womp womp). Had the turkey been seasoned or the dressing more tangy, it would have been a lot better, but as it stands, this tastes like a sweet, fruity salad with random bits of turkey on top. I’ll be going back to my usual.
Pros: Relatively healthy (fairly high in sodium and sugar, but low in fat and calories), large portion (even if you get a half-size like I did). Free Wi-Fi doesn't hurt either.
Cons: It's a "premium salad" with a "premium price" to match, turkey is bland, time spent waiting in line often results in an impulse baked good purchase (add 400+ calories to totals below)
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.00/10
Price: $8.99 for a full-size salad
Overall GrubGrade: 6.50/10
More Info: www.panerabread.com
Roasted Harvest Turkey Salad (12.25 ounces)
Total Fat: 36 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 70 mg
Sodium: 840 mg
Total Carbs: 29 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Sugars: 20 g
Protein: 26 g