I'm coming to you from an outpost of Panera Bread, where when you log on to acquire free wifi, Panera's website informs you that during peak hours you're only permitted to be online for one 30-minute session so as to accommodate all computer-wielding customers. You know what I say? Don't sweat it, Panera. I'll make it snappy. This is because right now there are:
- No fewer than 18 people with a hacking cough
- One heavyset man watching woodpecker videos on a laptop while periodically harrumphing like they are personally disappointing him
- 3 lazy eyes
- 2 mustaches employing wax
- 1 crying baby
- 1 sad family walking from table-to-table with a cardboard sign begging for food and/or money
- 1 bearded lady and
- 1 dirty, older, tooth-free gentleman gumming a sandwich
It is dismal in here, people.
[Confession: despite my adult acne, reading glasses and sweatpants I do feel like one hot mama. That's a valid benefit that comes from mingling in this carnival/hotbed of disease. If it weren't for the occasional cute hipster I'd feel downright supermodel-y.]
To add insult to injury, my ordering interaction was like a series of cruel riddles:
I approach the register.
Me, cringing: "Yeah, I'll take the....'You Pick Two'."
I hate it when you're forced to say gimmicky menu lingo aloud. I won't step foot in a Denny's specifically because I may hear someone utter the words "Rooty, Tooty, Fresh and Fruity."
Panera Guy: "Great! Which two today?"
Overwhelmed, I scan a wall menu the size of that flippy departure board in Grand Central Station.
Me: "Um. I'll have the turkey artichoke panini and the chicken soup."
PG: "Did you want to make that cup of soup a bowl for just 80 cents more?"
PG: "Would you like bread as your side?"
Me: "No. That's okay. No side."
PG: "How about an apple?"
Me: "No thanks."
PG: "How about some chips?"
Me: "No thanks."
PG: " But it's free. It comes with the 'You Pick Two'."
Me: "Uh. I already have the sandwich. So no bread."
PG: "Well, what about chips or an apple? You could save that for later."
OH MY GOD. SERIOUSLY?
Me: "Ok, uncle!"
He scrunches his brow.
PG: "Uncle, Ma'am?"
Me: "Nothing. Sorry. Just...gimme the apple."
PG: "And to drink?"
Me: "Just water."
PG: "Just water? Sure you don't want a soft drink? Or coffee?"
I wonder if he gets paid more the longer I stay at the register. He reminds me of a secret agent trying to keep someone on a phone call so they can track a perp.
Me: "Nope. The water will do it."
He checks his magic register.
PG: "Oh! For just 99 cents you also qualify for anything in our bakery! Look around."
He sweeps his arm over the baked goods, trying to put me in a spell.
PG: "Are you sure? Just 99 cents!"
He sing-songs that last part.
Me: "No thanks. It's okay."
He lifts his eyebrows and shakes his head at my preposterous refusal.
PG: "Are you a MyPanera member?"
Me: "Um. No. What's that?"
PLEASE GOD WHY DID I ASK THIS.
PG: "I'm glad you asked! It's our rewards program."
Me: "Oh. Yeah, that's ok. No thanks."
PG: "It's at no cost to you! I just swipe the card now and you can register later online! You'll just answer a few simple questions and you can begin earning rewards immediately!"
I stare at him.
Me: "Well, when you put it that way, sure."
Guess what my greatest reward is? Never coming back here again.
BTW, nothing in the Panera bakery assortment looked anywhere NEARLY as good as these cookies! What is so perfect about these biscotti (other than their serious chocolate factor), is that they are a little bit softer than their regular counterparts. You won't have to work hard for them. Hey, even our toothless Panera friend could enjoy!
Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
yields about 3 dozen
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 3/4 cups flour
6 T cocoa
1 t baking soda
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 T finely ground dark-roast coffee or espresso
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the walnut pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 6-8 minutes, or until fragrant. Watch them carefully so they don't burn! Meanwhile, mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa together and set aside. In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, ground coffee and salt. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl when necessary. Add the flour mixture bit-by-bit, taking care not to overmix and then softly stir in the chocolate and nuts. Chill the dough in plastic wrap for at least an hour and then divide into 3 parts. Shape each part into a 12" log and bake on 2 parchment lined baking sheets (still at 350) about 25 minutes. You want the logs to be firm yet a tad spongy in the center. Cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 325. Slice the logs into 1/2" slices on a slight diagonal and then toast them in the oven, cut sides down for 10-12 minutes or until dry to the touch.