In the “battle” between Safeway’s and Panera’s Tomato Bisque, Panera is the clear winner.
I have never been a fan of soup – ramen excluded -, but I became fond of Panera’s creamy tomato soup during the pandemic. It’s warm, creamy and hearty – and most importantly, not too acidic – and feels just like a hug. In retrospect, it’s not a surprise that I would like it. It’s really just a thinner version of pasta sauce, and we all know that pasta is just a vehicle for sauce.
During the pandemic, when I still had kids at home (insert empty nest tears here), we usually got the soup as part of a family feast – my vegetarian daughter didn’t really like the sandwiches, but she did enjoy the soup. Later, I found out that they also sell the soup at the supermarket, it’s almost as good, and at $12 for 32 oz, it’s considerably cheaper than at the store (unless you are ordering a family feast). The store-bought soup is also vegetarian and, as I mentioned, quite tasty. Here are the ingredients: Tomatoes, Water, Heavy Cream, Onions, Contains 2% or Less of: Butter (Cream, Salt), Sugar, Salt, Spices, Corn Starch, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nisin Preparation and Garlic.
This week, Panera tomato soup wasn’t available at Safeway, so I decided to get their Signature Cafe Tomato Basil Bisque instead. It looks very much like Panera’s and, truth be told, it doesn’t taste that differently. It’s a bit spicier – something I don’t really like -, and seems to have less umami than Panera’s, but it’s also very comforting and good. What it is not is vegetarian. The soup contains chicken base and chicken broth.
Safeway’s soup also uses tomato paste instead of tomatoes, as well as a variety of other ingredients to, I presume, enhance the flavor. That, I imagine, is the purpose of the chicken base and broth. It’s thus interesting that it’s not as tasty as Panera’s far simpler one. For just $2 less for a 32 oz container, it makes little sense to buy the Safeway Signature Cafe brand, unless the Panera brand is out of stock, or they change it.
Here are the ingredients for the Signature Cafe tomato soup:
Water, Heavy Cream, Tomato Paste, Contains 2% or Less of: Butternut Squash, Onions, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch Tomato Concentrate, Butter (Cream, Salt), Chicken Base (Chicken, Salt, Rendered Chicken Fat, Dextrose, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Safflower Oil, Chicken Broth, Turmeric), Organic Canola Oil, Cultured Dextrose, Garlic, Organic Roasted Tomato Flavor (Organic Tomato Puree [Organic Tomato Paste, Water], Sea Salt, Organic Molasses, Organic Soy Sauce [Water, Organic Soybeans, Salt], Organic Onion Powder, Natural Flavor, Yeast Extract, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Natural Flavor, Organic Canola Oil, Organic Spice), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Yeast Extract, Sea Salt, Basil, Beta-Carotene (for Color), Alpha-Tocopherols (Antioxidants, Citric Acid and Spice.