Thursday, August 11, 2011

aka "The Chewy Bread Company"

Monday's newspaper invited the public to a "baguette breaking" from 9 to 11 a.m. at Panera, 1511 Hawthorne, Redondo Beach 90278 310-793-4129

Panera is a breadmaker that branched out into sandwichs (hor or cold,) soups and salads. The company began in 1981 and today there are 1,493 stores in 40 states and (oddly) Ontario, Cnada. Their stock market finder is PNRA. Yesterday it was $90/share. Clearly, they're doing it right and astonishingly, solely by word-of-mouth. Management doesn't believe in having an advertising budget.

Day 2 after the grand opening, there was a line out the door! A petite young lady walked down the line offering us mini-cherry Danishes which had more frosting than is usually found and better tasting cherry goop. The line moved so quickly that I was chewing my last bite as I approached the counter to give the order.

It's a wall-mounted menu. You order and are given a numbered flag to put on your table in either the sparely decorated dining room or the patio outside. A lot of the customers were by themselves. Office workers? Clerks from the mall next door?

We had a five minute wait for the food, but they were doing a booming business. Panera appears to be very well-staffed. They seem to be a real team with one goal: service. If one noticed a table that needed to be bussed, they were on it personaly. A server, leaving your food on the table, noticeing that the next table over needed more water - bingo! they brought it and always with a smile.

The Bacon Turkey Bravo had smoked turkey (must have been nearly a pound) with applewood-smoked bacon, smoked gouda, lettuce, tomatoes and something called "our signature spread" on tomato-basil bread. The bread was fantastic with a soft, not strident, tomato taste spiked with pepper. It was chewy with a supple crust.

The Italian Combo is roast beef, smoked turkey, smoked lean ham, salami, Swiss cheese, peperoncini, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and "our special spread" on ciabatta. Richie ate every bite. Both sandwiches came with a little bag of lacy, thin chips.

I'd grabbed a baguette to go and when I tasted it, I got that same chewy texture I'd found on the tomato-basil bread. It's pleasant enough and it'll do -- until I can get back to Paris!

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