I never even dared to try the former On the Go line of prepared salads, sandwiches, and portioned fruit or yogurt. I still have a vivid memory from first year of their haunting presence in the illuminating display case in Colman Commons: sandwiches with indistinguishable ingredients, salads wilting in tired dressing and hunks of watermelon oozing their own juices. However, I never expected anyone to do anything about the horror that was On the Go. Then—like a kind of gift for having almost made it through my four years—just a week ago I passed Chartwells staff giving away free samples and there in a refrigerated display case were the newly rebranded (and not the least bit haunting) On the Go products.
Again, I never actually did try the former line, but from the outside, at least, the transformation is comparable to that in a good episode of What Not to Wear. My fear subsiding, I decided to finally give them a go (when I was well and truly on the go). Thus, on my way from class to the gym before I had to catch a shuttle to Sheridan College, I swung by the Second Cup in the Innovation Complex to make my selection. It was tough.
Salads are now in large clear plastic square containers with each ingredient clustered in sections. Sandwiches are in tan card packages with flattering windows that welcome you to take a peak of what’s inside. Flavours span worldwide including a Jamaican jerk chicken wrap, curry chickpea salad, and tangled Thai salad. No word of a lie, I stood there for a solid 10 minutes to decide. (And then the cashier took another 10 to add it up, but that’s another story.) In the end, I chose a cross-selection of products including the California chicken ciabatta, lentil salad, and deconstructed blueberry crumble.
My total for this three-course lunch was $16.79. Fair, it is pricey. But equally true is that I would never need to eat that much to satisfy my hunger. In fact, I was happy once I had finished the sandwich, and I proceeded to eat the lentil salad right away only for our foray, reader, into this new offering. I saved the crumble for that evening. The sandwiches range from just under $4 (for egg salad on multigrain) to the $7.49 I paid for mine. Meanwhile, salads were around the $7 range.
Beyond the price, what actually made the choice even more agonizing was the nutritional information on the package. I completely understand where dietitian Kimberly Green is coming from when she shared her excitement at this addition in last week’s article “How to eat healthy with UTM vendors”, but boy does it make you reflect. I sometimes prefer being blissfully ignorant. I would have loved to try the roast beef, grilled vegetables, and Havarti focaccia, but at 730 calories (and knowing I wanted to try several products… again, all for you, my dear readers), I couldn’t justify it. That’s such a big number, right? However, along that same line, I love how clearly and simply the ingredients are listed, although it might have been nice to know exactly what made up the guacamole in my sandwich or the vinaigrette in my side salad.
Finally, the eating of the products. As I hinted before, I enjoyed mine from the back seat of our Sheridan shuttles and even though I dropped my pen several times, the food lived up to its name and survived the trip without any hiccups.
The box for the California chicken ciabatta was so easy to open and it even refolds just as easily if you’re not a glutton like me and want to save some for later. It was a very pretty, dainty, and neatly composed sandwich. On a first sniff, I immediately picked up on the sun-dried tomatoes. (Such a good choice in place of regular sliced tomatoes.) These tomatoes remained the star ingredient along with that fine, fine ciabatta bread. The guacamole was skimpy and I had to open up my sandwich to see if it was even there. The chicken was very plainly cooked and lacked absolutely any flavour. And then there were some greens too, but I mean, what’s there to say about greens? At the end of the day it was just a typical chicken sandwich that, despite how fresh and light it was, lacked something special or a real kick. I’d potentially get it again for the bread alone, though. (I know all you gluten-haters out there are probably mid-gasp right now.)
The lentil salad was hands-down my favourite of the three items. The vinaigrette, although the principal smell of the dish, did not overwhelm in taste—as Goldilocks once put it, it was “just right”. The cilantro was the best component. There was a nice contrast in texture from crisp cucumbers and red peppers to perfectly cooked lentils. This was a dish whose nutritional label didn’t scare me, either; in fact, it apparently had a ton of fibre and vitamin C. I’d say that it’s not only tasty, but also filling, cheap (just $3.79), and healthy. Like the sandwich, its freshness was actually noticeable. I think On the Go is giving the supposedly “Always Fresh” Tim Hortons or the “Eat Fresh” mentality of Subway a run for their money.
Later that day I could finally guilt myself into eating my final purchase, the deconstructed blueberry crumble, one the of dessert options I had to choose from that morning. Unfortunately, it was so-so. The granola was soft and lacked a nice crunch. Similarly, I found the ingredients list a bit naïve in that it just stated: “granola, blueberries, blueberry filling”—what’s in the granola, please? Or that filling? We’d like to know. Thankfully, whatever made up that granola was at least not sickly sweet. Then, shocker, the fresh blueberries weren’t terribly fresh, but slightly wrinkled and sour. When mixed with the layers of blueberry filling (which was nicely sweet) it made a confusing combination. I would have preferred just the filling and no blueberries—I mean, it is January; they’re obviously not coming from around here. Nonetheless, it was a reasonably nice, light dessert—in taste, if not in calories.
But I don’t think I could choose it over Chartwells’ giant chocolate chip cookies or those loves of my life, the chocolate-covered rice krispie squares. (Hint: please bring them back!) If I’m going to indulge, I don’t want to pretend that it’s kind of healthy… Just give me my chocolate.