Food Reviews: Panera (#1) & the Ten Vegetable Soup

As soon as my feet touched the property I saw tables remaining with dishes and staff almost at a standstill. I had similar experiences at Panera, a chain that seemed to pull in employees with little zeal. Brushing it aside, I looked forward to a different experience on the West Coast than I had had back East.

Vegan, I ordered the Ten Vegetable Soup, and I took a leap of faith: in a bread bowl. My favorite way to eat at Panera. The hostess helped me place my order, and I even re-signed-up for MyPanera, the membership program — hoping still that I could get that free pastry, whichever one smelled so amazing.

In a few minutes the waiter brought me my soup and kettle-cooked chips. One thing remained off however. I was looking at a white dish with the soup inside, not a bread bowl.

Heart broken, I put on a smile and approached the waiter. I hated to be that person, but I went for it anyway. “Excuse me, Trevor, but…”

I passed him my white bowl and asked him to just return the soup in a bread bowl. It was a charge for the bread bowl, of course, and I wasn’t going to be victim to grifters. Besides, it was an accidental right?

Bread bowls are popular. Which also means that the kitchen should be turning them out. Yet, as I sit inside the restaurant and enjoy my meal, I saw only sandwiches around me.

Perhaps I was just that weirdo ordering a soup made with “tomato, red and yellow peppers, onions, corn, carrots, Swiss chard, poblano peppers and garlic in seasoned vegetable stock with chickpeas, sprouted brown rice and red fife, black chia, spelt, wheatberries and dried Aleppo chili,” topped with a lemon wheel, in a bread bowl.

Regardless, yes. That’s what I ordered. That’s what I had paid for. That’s what I was expecting. Weird as it may be, I stood by my decision and was even rewarded for doing so. I had an additional load of bread beside my soupful bowl.

Good things come to those who stand up for themselves maybe? What other lessons could be gleaned? I mean, I even swiped an unfinished salad from one of those outdoor table rather than see it sit longer, wasting away. So karma? I don’t know.

The bread bowl was warm. The soup, hot. I was satisfied by the vegan, $6.99, purchase. Highlighting here, especially because terrorism and American responses in the Middle East: Aleppo chili.

As I began noting this, “You Belong Among the Wildflowers” by Tom Petty played. Here’s a link to the song. Wildflowers by Tom Petty.

The Aleppo chili pepper is well known in Arabic meals of the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean. Named after the ancient city in Syria, which is unfortunately not in the state that it once was in the previous century, it appears as a red spice, also called Halaby pepper. If you’re trying it in a dish, be sure to add some apricot for a flavor piquant to most taste-buds.

The last time I had eaten at Panera, also vegan, I had ordered a Vegetarian Black Bean Soup, again, in a bread bowl. It was marvelous, and rivals the Ten Vegetable Soup easily. Other vegan options include: Vegetarian Garden Vegetable soup, Mediterranean veggie sandwich, the Fuji Apples Salad, and others.

Remember: if it isn’t made with dairy, meat, or other animal products, it isn’t impossible to go out with friends and eat with them. Just ask the chef or Google what’s in something if you’re not sure. Remove meat and cheese and replace it with something delicious, like Black Beans or Eggplant.

Bread Bowl Pro-Tip: All for a Fork, Tabasco sauce, and Balsamic.

Final update: I got that MyPanera, initiative, free pastry. Yes, I took another leap of faith. A pumpkin muffin. Goes great with coffee!

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