I was hungry, but really what I wanted was something comforting. I wanted soup. Soup, for me at least, is the ultimate comfort food. Warm and soothing. Since we were in the Cascade area of Vancouver, Panera Bread immediately came to mind.
Location: 914 SE 164th Avenue, Vancouver, WA Store #1063
Order: French Onion Soup in a Sourdough Bread Bowl; Iced Tea
Specifics: I ordered my soup to go. In my bag, I received a sourdough loaf that was cut at the top. In order to form a bowl, I needed to hollow out the bread. Also in my bag was a bowl of french onion soup, a bag of croutons and a bag of chips, as well as cutlery and napkins. The iced tea was self-serve from their drink station.
What I Think:
It was a few minutes before we arrived home with my “bagged lunch” from Panera Bread, so I warmed the soup up in the microwave for a few minutes because it had already begun to cool.
While I waited the minute or so for the soup to reheat, I hollowed out the bread bowl, and then I began munching on the chips. The chips are tasty, kettle style (thicker cut), unflavored chips that are lightly salted. I liked them because I enjoy the thicker cut of kettle style chips, as well as the crunch!
Now that my soup is hot – let’s move on! The broth is a bit thicker than I am used to with a french onion soup. I don’t know if that’s because it’s in the bread bowl and the bread has thickened it (or perhaps the croutons thickened it) or if it is usually this way. It isn’t bad like this … just different. The broth is rich, well-seasoned without tasting too salty and flavorful. The onions are sweet and tender. So far, so good… but then… not so good. I come across a little “withy” in my soup – a tiny (about an inch long), very thin branch or stick or twig or something. What it actually looks like to me is the branch from a sprig of thyme, and it very well could have been. Unfortunately, finding a withy in my soup was not a very appetizing thing, so I couldn’t finish my soup.
The best thing about Panera Bread is, of course, the bread. The sourdough was very good. A very pleasing texture both inside and out: a nice, crispy crust with a chewy inside. The sour flavor of the sourdough was just right. It is one of the better sourdough breads I’ve encountered, and I really enjoyed the flavor of the bread that had been soaked with the soup broth.
The iced tea appeared to be freshly brewed (or so it said on the brewing vessel), and it tasted alright… it wasn’t anything spectacular to write about so I’ll not invest a lot of time doing so.
My Final Thoughts:
The bread was excellent. The soup was delicious until I came across the withy, which made it less appetizing for me. Overall, not too bad, and I don’t think that coming across a withy in my soup will keep me from stopping by Panera Bread again in the future. And even though I didn’t order one this time, they have excellent muffins!