You know that meme that says “name a more iconic duo” and then hits you with a pic of anything from Keenan and Kel to a guy jumping off a bridge with another guy watching the Cleveland Browns?
I tend to think apples and walnuts fall into that category of stuff that belongs together.
Apples, walnuts, feta, bacon, chicken, and cranberries? Now we’re complicating things. Perhaps that’s why I’m ambivalent towards Wendy’s new Harvest Chicken Salad, which not only attempts to Noah’s Ark-it out of pretty much every Wendy’s salad ingredient but also skates a little too close to the regular-menu Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.
I don’t mean to imply Wendy’s homage to autumn-in-salad-form isn’t good. Like most of Wendy’s salads, the ingredients push into fast casual territory. Skin-on red and green apples are crispy and mildly sweet; the chicken juicy and slightly smoky; the vinaigrette tangy and a tad bit tart. Add in crunchy, meaty glazed pecans (which were left off the first full-sized salad I ordered, unfortunately), and you’re looking at a filling meal.
But then there’s the bacon, complicating things. It’s not bad in and of itself since, duh, it’s a scientific impossibility that bacon detracts from anything and because Wendy’s makes really good bacon -— thick cut, substantial, with a great balance of fat and smoke. But I have no idea why it’s on this salad. Not only did it arrive on my full-size salad (I bought another half-sized one later since Wendy’s forgot my walnuts) in strips meant for sandwiches, but it took away the spotlight from the apples and walnuts.
Much like the bacon, the feta cheese feels out of place, like me when I show up to a wine and cheese party with a six pack of Shinerbock. Perhaps Wendy’s didn’t want to infringe on the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, but the salty, mostly flavorless feta lacks the tang and funk of blue cheese that helps complement the apples. Even goat cheese would have been a better option than feta, especially since it’s tangy and has a slight sweetness that would have played well with the oddly-included dried cranberries.
I’m usually a big fan of Wendy’s salads, and while I loved the quality of the ingredients featured in the Harvest Chicken Salad, I can’t deny there’s a genuine lack of cohesion binding the salad together. Is it jump off a bridge because the Browns still haven’t won since 2016 dysfunctional? Goodness no. But when your iconic duo gets lost amidst even well executed extra ingredients, it’s time to get back to your bread and butter — or apples and walnuts.
(Nutrition Facts – Full Size – 570 calories, 23 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1300 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 37 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of protein.)
Purchased Price: $6.79
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Apples are surprisingly crisp and flavorful for a prepackaged salad. Great execution on individual ingredients, especially the juicy chargrilled chicken. Meme potential in the apple and walnut combination.
Cons: Too many ingredients crowding up that apple and walnut synergy. Feta cheese is a real disappointment. Why are their cranberries in this salad? Botched salad construction.