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Panera Bread opens second Santa Clarita Valley location

Fine bread, great soup

Posted: March 19, 2009 5:46 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2009 6:00 a.m.

The bacon turkey "Bravo" sandwich ($6.79) is made with tomato basil bread with smoked turkey, bacon, Gouda cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and Panera's "signature" spread. The sandwich comes with a pickle and potato chips. Lemonade ($2.29) is extra, but comes with free refills.

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Yes, Panera Bread is a chain, but I like bread. Actually, I like GOOD bread - the kind of bread hardly anyone makes and you can rarely find. For me, bread is like candy. Given the choice of a Snickers candy bar and a loaf of good bread, you can bet I'll choose the bread.

On the scale of 1-10, with a score of 1 - the kind of bread you wish you'd never put in your mouth and 10 - bread that makes you weep from the ecstasy of it all, Panera Bread's bread rates a respectable 8.

However, it is the sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts that make Panera Bread worth a visit.

Panera Bread's soup schedule is a bit complex - a bit on the order of "if it's Tuesday and it is the second full moon of the year and the date ends with an odd number" you may choose from broccoli cheddar, French onion, low fat chicken noodle, cream of chicken and wild rice or low fat vegetarian black bean.

However, I commend Panera on supplying customers with more than one "soup of the day." A bowl of any soup with a baguette is $4.99.

I do believe the broccoli cheddar soup (served in a sourdough bread bowl for $5.49) is perhaps one of the best soups around. It is remarkable soup for a "chain" restaurant.

In addition to soups already mentioned other soups currently on the menu (the soup menu changes seasonally) include baked potato, low fat garden vegetable and New England clam chowder.

Panera Bread also knows how to make a good salad. I highly recommend the Fuji apple chicken salad made with all-natural antibiotic-free chicken, field greens, romaine, tomatoes, onions, pecans, Gorgonzola cheese, dehydrated apple chips and a white balsamic Fuji apple vinaigrette ($7.99).

I love the combination of the sweet with the vinegar, as well the unique pairing of pecans, apple and onions.
Other "signature sales" include orchard harvest ($6.99) with pears and a cherry balsamic vinaigrette; Asian sesame chicken ($7.29); and a grilled chicken Caesar ($7.29).

Café salads include a Greek salad ($6.59); Caesar ($6.29) and classic ($5.99).

Sandwiches make delightful use of the various artisan and specialty breads including stone-milled rye, three cheese, focaccia, whole grain, sesame semolina, three seed (poppy, sesame and fennel seeds), ciabatta, asiago cheese, sourdough, tomato basil, white whole grain, honey wheat, cinnamon raisin and French. Many of the breads are available as loaves, baguettes, demi loaves and/or rolls.

If you want to enjoy your bread in a sandwich Panera offers a host of "signature," "café" and "signature hot Panini" sandwiches.
I firmly believe that everything is better with bacon and/or Gouda. Lucky for me Panera has a sandwich that incorporates both items.|

The bacon turkey bravo on tomato basil bread ($6.79) is made with smoked turkey, bacon, Gouda, lettuce, tomatoes and Panera's signature spread. This sandwich is a true party in your mouth.

Other sandwiches include an Italian combo ($6.99); asiago roast beef ($6.99); chicken Caesar ($6.89); chipotle chicken ($6.99); Sierra turkey ($6.99); tuna salad ($6.59); chicken salad ($6.29); Mediterranean veggie ($6.29); and smoked ham and Swiss ($6.49).

Hot Panini sandwiches (all at $6.99) include tomato and mozzarella; smoked turkey and applewood-smoked bacon with cheddar; Frontega chicken with mozzarella; turkey artichoke; and chicken bacon Dijon.

Among the specials at Panera is a the "you pick two" which offers customers the option of choosing two from either a cup of soup, one-half café salad or ½ café sandwich for $7.29. A variety of "upgrades" are also available.

If this menu sounds a bit sophisticated for the children in your house, fear not, the Panera Kids Menu offers grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly and kid's deli sandwiches.

Stop by for breakfast, too. A variety of egg and cheese (made with Vermont white cheddar) sandwiches are available ($3.39 to $3.99) to start the morning. A wide variety of desserts, sodas, espresso bar drinks, coffee and tea, iced drinks, fruit smoothies and iced coffee drinks are also available.

I'm rather fond of the lemonade, which comes with free refills. This is nice "mellow" lemonade, neither too tart, nor too sweet.

Panera Bread just opened its second location in the Santa Clarita Valley. Located in the new Golden Valley shopping center near Target, residents of the "eastside" (my neighbors) can stop wondering "Hey! What about us?"

Panera Bread is located at 19185 Golden Valley Road, Santa Clarita, (661) 298-3333 and 24133 Baywood Lane, Valencia, (661) 287-3900. For menu and more information visit www.panerabread.com.

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