It’s that time of year again when your lunchtime gets a lot more festive! So we headed to three popular chain restaurants to sample their Christmas favourites:
Starbucks Holiday Turkey and Stuffing Panini:
This is a repeat item on the Starbuck’s Yuletide menu, and we’re still surprised that this festive flop of a sandwich got a first run, let alone an encore.
This sandwich is remarkable only in that it’s managed to replicate what Christmas dinner in the trenches of WWI must have tasted like. It’s supposed to evoke a traditional holiday meal, but peeling back the dry panini bun reveals a smear of brown bread stuffing with a few gratuitous dried herbs, exactly three cranberries (which, ironically, was the one ingredient that actually might have saved this holiday horror), plus two slices of bog-standard deli turkey breast. Was there gravy in there? Who knows, because the thing about bread stuffing is that it absorbs liquid, so we’ll have to take Starbucks word on that one. Oh, and “warm and toasty” meant it took a spin in the microwave. It looks horrible, tastes bland, and the mouth-feel of the mushy stuffing left us feeling queasy. Save your $7.49.
Rating – 0 stars
McDonald’s Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger
After tasting McDonald’s Seasons Cravings Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger, we can easily deduce that the McDonald’s executives sole instruction to the product development team was, “Just use up the leftovers.”
So what’s on this seasonal delight? Nothing that remotely evokes “Christmas in Switzerland,” which is where we assume McDonald’s was trying to go with this burger. Don’t let the word “rosti” fool you: Despite photoshopping the “rosti” on the Seasons Cravings web page so it looks traditionally round, on the burger it’s a rectangular hash brown repurposed from the McDonald’s breakfast menu. An attempt at an actual rosti might have given this burger a better grade, but clearly McDonald’s decided that the breakfast cast-offs were close enough to a traditional Swiss rosti to earn it a a place of honour on their holiday burger.
The Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger also boasts a processed cheese slice, an oh-so-Swiss sprinkling of bacon, and the only nod to a vegetable are thick slices of white onions. Oh, and it’s all topped off with a blob of mayo. Considering that McDonalds serves vegetable wraps and salads, it’s a bit odd that not even a tiny hint of lettuce could have been chucked between the buns. Speaking of buns, the brioche was nice, but the oatmeal flakes stuck to the top look someone in the product development team swept the crumbs off their bread board onto it and thought, “That’ll do.”.
Is it terrible? No, but that’s mainly because the McDonald’s business model means that all their food is engineered to be somewhat pleasing to the tastebuds. But the novelty factor – which was why we ordered it in the first place – was so low, we’d pass on eating the Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger twice.
Rating – 2 stars
Panera Bread Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar Sandwich
Panera Bread was bustling when we dropped in to try their seasonal Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar sandwich served on cranberry walnut bread, but, as we ordered it “to go”, it was 45 minutes before we could sit down and unwrap Panera’s festive offering.
At first glance the sandwich had suffered a bit during transit: The apple and cabbage slaw had made the cranberry and walnut bread a little soggy, and a bit had spilled out when we cut it in half. But who cares – the cheddar was sharp, the slaw was tangy and crunchy, the turkey was real chunks of meat in a mustard horseradish sauce, not deli-style slices. Rather than remind us of Christmas dinner, the Roasted Turkey, Apple & Cheddar sandwich left us looking forward to the awesome turkey sandwiches we’ll be stuffing ourselves with on Boxing Day. And that’s a good thing.
Rating – 4 stars