A few years ago, a Missouri-based company took a chance and opened in the Coachella Valley two eateries with a distinctive twist: a combination of an artisan bakery and restaurant. Since the grand openings of the Panera Bread locations in La Quinta and Palm Springs, the chain locations have increased in popularity due to their engaging menu, which includes a nutritional breakdown of everything they serve, and, of course, their fabulous handcrafted bread — artisan creations sold as a loaf, baguette, demi, bowl, roll, or miche. They also make delicious bagels, scones, muffins, brownies and cookies, and other baked goods; individual-sized soufflés; sandwiches; salads; soups (five choices every day); and frozen and hot coffee drinks.
For the summer, Panera Bread unleashes a special menu featuring fresh flavors and fresh takes on seasonal classics. A fan favorite, the strawberry poppy seed and chicken salad returns to the menu for its eight consecutive year, made with antibiotic-free citrus pepper chicken, crisp romaine lettuce and accented with mandarin oranges, pecans and fresh strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple chunks tossed in Panera’s signature fat-free poppy seed dressing. Fresh (never frozen) strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple make this a true seasonal special. With only 13 grams of fat and 340 calories, this is a guilt free summer indulgence.
Despite the double-digit heat, Panera customers still love their soup, as evidenced by the popularity of the eatery’s new Mediterranean-inspired lemon chicken orzo soup, part of head chef Dan Kish’s love and appreciation for the “soups of the world.” Made with all natural chicken, orzo pasta, spinach, carrots, oregano and basil, simmered in a lemon-infused broth then topped with a lemon wheel, it’s modeled after the traditional Greek soup, Avgolemono, according to Kish. “The acidity in the lemon brightens the soup, making it appropriate for the summer months,” he adds.
Rising temperatures also give rise to the need for refreshing. flavorful beverages to cool hot pipes. Panera Bread’s frozen strawberry lemonade is made with real strawberry puree combined with its signature lemonade with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. It’s a great complement to a meal or snack as it’s fat free and only 180 calories for 16 ounces.
While you’re there, partake in two other Panera Bread summer pleasures: Panera’s fruit cups and new flower cookie. Bakery-cafes are offering two fruit cup choices, both made with the season’s best watermelon. One is all watermelon and the other is a mixed fruit cup with watermelon. Flower cookies begin as shortbread, which is then shaped into a flower and decorated with sunny yellow icing and a sprinkle of pink sanding sugar.
Check out either Coachella Valley location for Panera Bread’s inexpensive, refreshing summer additions. In La Quinta at 79124 Highway 111 and in Palm Springs at 5200 E Ramon Road (in The Springs business complex, near Home Depot). For more information, visit www.panerabread.com.