Panera Bread may be America's most popular restaurant chain according to the latest Zagat Survey, but it's not so big in my book. A recent lunch at the branch in the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station proved a major letdown. I decided to try a new addition to the menu, a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. What I got bore little resemblance to the following description, on the chain’s website:
“These days it’s hard to find a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato. That’s why we only use fresh vine-ripened tomatoes to make our new Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad. Marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette with cucumbers, onion and fresh basil, our tomatoes are plump and juicy. And they go perfectly with fresh, bite-sized mozzarella and freshly baked Asiago croutons. Lunch doesn’t get any better.”
I'd have to differ with the above assertion. True, I did request the dressing on the side, but my supermarket-quality tomatoes had not been marinated in anything. What's more, there wasn't a hint of basil in the bowl. When I went to the counter to ask for some, the answer I got was, “The amount is portioned out.” I persisted and received a cup of basil leaves, some brown at the edges, others with stems attached.
Makes me want to hit the farm stands and make for myself the tomato-basil-mozzarella salad so beautifully described on Panera’s website.
Panera Bread is at Walt Whitman Mall, 60 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station, 631-424-0060
My tomato, basil and mozzarella salad at Panera Bread