Jul 10, 2015

Review: Wendy's - Strawberry Fields Chicken Salad

Wendy's Strawberry Fields Chicken Salad features hand-sliced California strawberries, honey-roasted sunflower seeds, blue cheese crumbles, Applewood-smoked bacon, sliced red onion, and grilled chicken breast on top of a bed of mixed spring greens. It comes with Marzetti's Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette on the side.

I paid $4.79 for a half-size portion.

Despite how small the salad appears, it's actually filling due to the protein content. It definitely didn't leave me stuffed, but I was satiated for a few hours. Good for a light lunch, but you should get a full size if you have a bigger appetite or are averse to afternoon snacking.

My Wendy's actually ran out of the Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette, so they gave me Marzetti's Pomegranate Vinaigrette instead. I used just a little less than half the packet because the dressing is incredibly sweet and rather overwhelming.

According to the Wendy's website, the salad base consists of a mix of 11 different greens. From what I received, the bulk of the greens seemed to be iceberg lettuce, which surprised me because I expected a more even mix of various greens based on the promotional pictures. I would estimate over 75% of the salad was iceberg lettuce with a few bits of spring mix sprinkled on as if for show. I couldn't really taste nor differentiate much textural difference from the fancier greens. The salad was very crisp because of the iceberg lettuce, though, and the produce was fresh and of good quality.

The strawberries were lovely: ripe but still maintaining their firmness, and neither tart nor overly sweet. They paired nicely with the flavors in the salad and definitely delivered on the "Strawberry Fields" moniker as promised. I may be a bit biased, though, since I prefer my salads with fresh fruit (can't beat that salty-sweet combo).

The red onions on this occasion were so mild that I didn't even notice they were there, since they provided none of that acrid bite typical of raw onions.

One of the more interesting components of the salad for me was the honey-roasted sunflowers seeds. Eaten by themselves, they were a lot less sweet than I expected, with a very thin sugar crust. This light flavor was completely lost when the salad was dressed, after which point they only added a mild crunch. That might be due to the strong pomegranate dressing I got, though; I can't say how it would be with the Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette. A shame because the roasted sunflower seeds were really delicious on their own. I would rather just eat the bag of seeds by itself.

The bacon came in a few semi-large pieces, which provided some smoky, salty bacon goodness when I got one in a bite, but overall left me feeling like my salad needed a lot more bacon. Most of my bites were completely devoid of delicious bacon. Smaller bits would have done better for balance, but I must admit that the larger pieces maintained some of the nicer qualities (thickness and crispiness) of Wendy's bacon better.

The chicken was tender, lightly seasoned, and plentiful. It came in good-sized chunks and there was enough chicken to go around for most of the salad. Unlike the bacon, the majority of my bites contained chicken.

The main draw of this salad for me was the inclusion of blue cheese, so it was to my dismay when I discovered that this is blue cheese for people who hate blue cheese. As someone who adores strong blue cheeses like Roquefort (the funkier, the better!), I was woefully disappointed. Barely a hint of bitterness or tang, and the texture is too hard and borderline rubbery. At first I thought they had messed up and somehow gave me feta just because it tasted so salty and crumbly. Even when eating the cheese by itself, I couldn't taste any of the distinctive bite that makes blue cheese so polarizing. I expected the blue cheese to be milder, like a Gorgonzola perhaps, to cater to more mainstream tastes, but this wasn't even close to the mark.

Overall, Wendy's Strawberry Fields Salad was a bit of a bust for me. It featured good-quality ingredients and had fresh produce and a fair amount of chicken, but the sunflower seeds were completely lost in the shuffle and the blue cheese was terrible. Even Wendy's fantastic bacon couldn't save the day here, since the pieces were too large and few in between to offer a satisfying smokiness to the entire salad. I don't know if the Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette it's supposed to come with would have complimented the ingredients any better, but as I received it, the salad was overly sweet and lacked balance.

Nutritional Information - Wendy's Strawberry Fields Salad, Half-Size, with Apple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Calories - 300 (from Fat - 150)
Fat - 16g (Saturated Fat - 5g)
Sodium - 800mg
Carbs - 19g (Sugar - 13g)
Protein - 22g

By Renee.

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