Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Panera Sonoma Chicken Stew [Review]



For years now, Panera Bread has been serving up under the radar fast food.  By creating a cozy fire place induced atmosphere, serving impulse buy pastries, deli style sandwiches, salads, and soups, charging premium prices for average food, and never needing to hire bus boys because the customer provides that service, no one has really connected the dots that Panera Bread is in fact fast food.




The biggest evidence of the fast food factor is the fact that the general public feels that because none of this food is fried or that particularly amazing, that it can't be that bad for you.  Cold hard fact in your face is that Panera bread serves up calories and fat just like the rest of them, just wrapped up with a prettier bow.  Case in point, is the comfort food offerings being touted there for the winter months.  This includes gimmick soup of the month: Sonoma Chicken Stew.  Remember, that comfort food is the equivalent of saying fat ass anti-depressant.  In the short term you'll enjoy indulging, but in the long term your pants will feel the side effects.  


Wine country Sonoma, CA is the apparent origin of this stew, a connection that my public university education can't seem to make.  But the simple idea of a stew is to throw a whole solid meal into a slow cooker, add some stock, broth, or water, and let it simmer for a Kardashian marriage, and you have yourself a meal.  Panera accomplishes this task by throwing chunks of chicken, red potatoes, carrots, and peas into a thick chicken stock and topping it off with what they call a Dry Jack Cheese biscuit.  I think that's a fancy way of saying, this biscuit is filled with more cheese than a Dane Cook set.  Somewhere along the way, fat and saturated fat rear their ugly head, with the You Pick 2 cup variety hoisting 20 grams of fat, with 11 of them being saturated.  Who knew stew was that comforting? 



Upon arrival, the stew is topped off with the biscuit plopped right in the middle.  This whole proposition threw me off more than LeBron James during crunch time.  In my humble opinion, the biscuit should have either been pre crumbled into the stew, or just served on the side. Putting the whole thing on top the stew just made for a messy extraction.  




After crumbling it up and distributing it throughout the stew I was ready to submerge my spoon deep into the depths.  Fighting my way through the glossy film that had permeated onto the top, I was immersed into a world of chunks. Bulky red skin potatoes, big hunks of carrots, smorgasbords of green peas, and lumps of chicken that were quite immense, were dispersed throughout this concoction.  The cheesy biscuit added a rich and carbohydrate laiden flair I haven't come across since visiting Cheddar Bay.  



While the meat and potatoes were quite impressive, the life line of any stew is its brothy liquid setting.  We'll just say that this stew's heart beat flat lined before the 911 call was even placed.  Bland as can be, I thought I was watching a Ben Stiller movie.  How can something so fatty not have a rich flavor? It had the look and feel of a thick and smooth gravy, butthe flavor and allure of a drinking cold chicken broth out of the can.  

Yeah that's all chicken!
Despite the terrible stew sauce, the grandiose display of steroid induced chicken chunks and other monstrous vegetable variations save the Sonoma Chicken Stew into a 2 star rating.  If you really want to be comforted opt for the Mac n' Cheese. That'll knock your pants into next week.

Panera Sonoma Chicken Stew: 2/5



~Andrew

Sonoma Chicken Stew (cup):

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I ate this Saturday in Tallahassee and I have been raving about it ever since. Thank you for the delicious stew. It was very comforting.. Left me wanting more. Unfortunately I live 60 miles away and can't get it too often..

Fast Food Geek Staff said...

Yeah, it was definitely a comforting food. A little bland for me, but I could have just had a bad batch.

Anonymous said...

Well obviously its going to be high in calories, they never claim for it not to be. I love Paneras, but just like the name says, its BREAD high in carbs and calories. Common sense would tell you something with a lot of bread or a creamy base its not going to be your "healthy choice"

Fast Food Geek Staff said...

We never said Panera claimed they served all healthy food. Panera is one of the only American restaurants listing their caloric content next to each menu item so consumers can make informed decisions. However, we at Fast Food Geek believe that the overwhelming sentiment across this fair land, is that Panera=healthy. That's what the average Joe believes, and we're just trying to let people know that this isn't always the case. Especially with these "comfort food" options.

Anonymous said...

This is completely tasteless! I don't know how they do it, but they now manage to cook all of the possible taste out. You can only identify the chunk of chicken by looks alone, there is no chicken taste left whatsoever. Our serving did not come with a biscuit, so I cannot speak to that. 'Delicious' is not a term I would use for it. It is a disappointment, as I used to look forward to their soups, and am disappointed not to be able to purchase a tasty soup out. Our grocery store's prepared soups are actually much better.

Anonymous said...

The Sonoma Chicken Stew is one of the best soups I have ever had. So much flavor and the biscuit really tops it off. I go to panera 2 or 3 times a week just to have that soup when they have it. It's so disappointing that it's only a seasonal soup. They should carry it all year round. Me & my friends can't get enough when they have it. Can't wait for it to come back!

crazychocolatefan said...

I love this stew. It is nice on a cold winter day. My mom is hooked. :P

Anonymous said...

I had this today for lunch. It was delicious. I do like the bland taste once in a while. It was very comforting!

Anonymous said...

For the weight watchers reading this review, the Panera Sonoma Chicken Stew comes in at 10 hefty points using the Weight Watchers Point Plus 2012 calculator.... for the cup serving in a U-Pick-2 combination.
Rich and creamy, the flavor was much improved by the addition of 4 pepper packets and half a salt packet.
However, definately not worth using 10 of my 26 daily PPV!
No return visit to this dish, I'll stick with the onion soup.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by some of these bad reviews...maybe I had a good batch but it was very flavorful, not bland at all. I ordered it thinking it would be just an average fast food soup and I was surprisingly blown away. I've been looking for an online recipe that comes close all day.

Kim Clark said...

I loved it, ultimate comfort food. Sorry you had to take the bread out. Couldn't your butler do that for you? I've been trying to find a recipe online but I'm sure the thick stock is probably full of butter and cream, but you don't have to eat two cups. This was the bitterest review I have ever read. You can't review chicken soup without the same old tired celebrity lash-outs of the Kardashians and Le Bron James? Where was the Linsay Lohan joke? I think this critic is such a bitter person and his snide jokes are sooo stale he should bath in this soup. Call it Chicken Soup for the Soulless (not to mention humorless.) Good soup, bad writing. Get a life!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I imagine the thick stock is full of corn starch. Cream will only go so far to thicken it and butter has to be whisked in at the end to have this effect so don't imagine that's happening in the back of Panera's. Sounds like flavors vary from Panera to Panera. I used to like the Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice but at the Panera I live near now it is very mediocre & I haven't returned for the privelege of paying $10 for half a sandwich and a cup of soup that I get to bus myself.

Anonymous said...

Anyone find an online recipe? I am crazy about this soup and the biscuit!

Anonymous said...

We never said Panera claimed they served all healthy food. Panera is one of the only American restaurants listing their caloric content next to each menu item so consumers can make informed decisions. However, we at Fast Food Geek believe that the overwhelming sentiment across this fair land, is that Panera=healthy. That's what the average Joe believes, and we're just trying to let people know that this isn't always the case. Especially with these "comfort food" options.
January 25, 2012 10:16 AM



I'm not sure who your "Average Joe" is, but those of us with common sense and who make healthy food choices know that Panera can get unhealthy based on what you select from the menu and the size of your portion. That's true for ANY restaurant or food establishment.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I don't know what you are talking about this is by far the best chicken soup I have ever ordered ANYWHERE (Aside from lobster bisque, its probably my favorite soup EVER) so delicious. nom nom nom going to get a bowl right now. Unfort. Itsall i can eat all day because of the calories LOL but its still good i dont know how anyone could give this a 2/5. Smh