OMG I just had the best dinner!
Recognize this place?
This should help…
If you guessed Panera, you’d be…RIGHT!
Since I’ve made it clear that I love Panera so much, John, the Marketing & PR Manager from Panera Iowa, asked if I wanted to get together and try some of the restaurant’s new Fall offerings. Of course I said: YES AND HOW SOON CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN?!
He replied: AS SOON AS YOU’D LIKE AND BRING WHOEVER YOU WANT! So I did! The rents. Ben was invited too, but he had to work late. Psshht.
FYI, Panera has 5 themed “celebrations” each year – one for each season and an additional one for the Holidays. Right now the Fall celebration theme is Reconnect with the Comforts of Fall.
The company introduces new products, or brings back old favorites, for each celebration and John generously hooked us up with all the goodies that were in the Fall celebration release! Including the hand-shaped, vanilla, honey and brown sugar flavored Pink Ribbon Bagel studded with cherries & cranberries!
These babies ROCK, and not just because $.25 of each Pink Ribbon Bagel sale during the month of October goes to the Susan G Komen foundation. I went a bit bananas for them at the Walk for the Cure event I attended last year, and for good reason. They are mouth-watering. Even if you don’t like dried fruit, I bet you’d love these. Sweet and chewy. GET ONE!
Reconnecting with the comforts of Fall also means reconnecting with one of my favorite sandwiches at Panera – Bacon Turkey Bravo.
Salty bacon, creamy cheese, and that Tomato Basil Bread! I’ve never tasted a more flavorful crust!
John told us that he took a loaf of it home last Christmas and his Mom and sister demolished an entire loaf in a day and a half. I believe it. YUM.
Another one of Panera’s old favorites returning this season is the Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad.
Seasoned chicken, lettuce, dried cherries, fresh pears, Gorgonzola cheese, toasted pecans & cherry balsamic vinaigrette. (shhh don’t tell but we asked for a second helping of this salad to take home! The balsamic vine is to die!)
John busted out another old favorite for dessert, a Cranberry Orange Muffin. Tasted homemade and we will DEF get again. ‘Nuff said!
We thought we were done there. We were wrong. We were oh-so wrong!
John brought out the big guns next…Panera’s Signature Mac & Cheese.
I’ve always avoided their Mac & Cheese because the calorie count seemed too high (btw Panera now posts calorie counts for all their items right on the order menu!) but tonight I was feeling a bit randy, so I went for it! Insanity.
I think my Mom said it best when she proclaimed “You would never know that this wasn’t made in someone’s kitchen at home!” It was Mom’s finest! Cheesy, thick and DECADENT. A must try (even if you just split it with someone!)
We were umm…stuffed at this point…so John offered to send us home with halvsies of their new Mango Smoothies.
Panera’s smoothies are made with all natural Stonyfield Yogurt, ice and fruit puree. That’s it!
SO glad he didn’t give us a whole one each because we totally would have finished an entire one if we had the option! Super tropical and clean tasting.
Now, AS IF John hadn’t outdone himself already, he sent us all home with a nice little seasonal care package!
Panera’s traditional Iced Pumpkin Shortbread Cookie, their new M&M Studded (just wrote stuffed!) Sugar Cookie,
and some Strawberries & Cream Scones!
Like I said – OMG I just had the best dinner!
Honestly, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever tried at Panera, and tonight was no exception. We all commented on the fact that everything, per usual, tasted so fresh and homemade. Even though we ate a ton of food, it was all surprisingly light!
Ok, except for the Mac & Cheese. That’s rib stickin’ food!
Thanks to John and Panera Iowa for an exceptional meal – and great conversation. Love nice people.
Time to go army crawl my way to the couch for the night. My last day of the week is tomorrow – wheeeee!
oh ps: I charged John with finding out whatever happened to Panera’s Potato Cream Cheese soup that I used to get, legit, 4 days a week in high school. BEST SOUP EVER!
What’s your favorite item from Panera?
The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel seriously warms my soul and, in fact, I got one for breakfast tomorrow!