Sorry for the hiatus. But I am working on some great posts!
I recently joined Au Bon Pain. They are brand new to Nashville, found predominately in the north. It seems like a great company, and I'm not just saying that. To be honest, I was a little hesitant to consider this position. I'm used to baking from scratch, and I freely admit that I'm a bit of snob when it comes to that. However, Au Bon Pain makes all the products. It's not contracted out or just Sysco products. It's their recipes made by their people in Boston, where headquarters is also located. The bread is prepared and shaped by an actual person. Breads come in parbaked, and everything else is frozen, raw dough. Everything is proofed, baked, and finished in house everyday.
From a customer's viewpoint, they have some great options. Sure, you can have a ham and cheese, but you can also have salmon on a freshly baked dill onion bagel with herbed cream cheese, wasabi mustard, cucumbers, and tomatoes. (left) Heavenly! They also have hot sandwiches, such as grilled eggplant with mozzarella on a ciabatta. (below) Their soups are awesome, as are the fresh salads. Every 3-4 months, new items are featured, so there is always something new to try. They have a more than decent selection of pastries, excellent cookies, bagels, bread, and breadsticks. (Oatmeal cookies are something special. Fleur de creme is the most sinful-but-worth-it pastry. It's a croissant baked with sweetened cream cheese, then stuffed with more sweetened cream cheese and dusted with powdered sugar.)
Portions are by far my favorite thing. They are bites, accompaniments, snacks, etc. There's fresh fruit, brie, hummus and veggies. (My favorite is the turkey rolls, filled with cranberry chutney, fresh asparagus, and Gorgonzola.) The cool thing is that whatever is inside will not exceed 200 calories. Great idea if you are watching your intake.
Speaking of watching your intake, the most innovative thing I've ever heard--a "nutrition kiosk." It's a touch screen computer where you punch in your meal, and it gives you the full nutritional value of your whole meal. Awesome for those with special diets, allergies, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
I spent two weeks in Chicago with their training baker, so I will have a post on that coming soon. I found some great bakeries and snarfed stuffed pizza. I even mastered the CTA!
If you are in Nashville, definitely check it out. June is the grand opening. It's located at Vanderbilt Hospital, across from Light Hall. It will be open 24/7! This makes my heart super happy. Night owls can rejoice in a late night option that isn't a bar or Waffle House.