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I Tried Panera's Newest Ham Sandwich & It Had Only One Flaw

If you love ham and cheese, you're going to want to try this ASAP.

When Panera launched sandwiches on its longest bread earlier this year, it represented a departure from the norm for the bakery chain. The three sandwiches made on the chain's fresh baguette could not be split and wouldn't be a part of the famous You Pick Two deal which included a choice of any two of half portions of its sandwiches or salads, or a cup of one of its soups. The gamble worked as the large format Toasted Baguettes became the chain's top-earning sandwich. This week, Panera added a new sandwich to the popular line with a meat that has been absent from the chain's menu for years: ham.

The Black Forest Ham and Gouda Melt features sweet and smoky ham, smoked gouda cheese, arugula, and the chain's own special blend of mustard it calls "country mustard" on a fresh baguette. It joins the Green Goddess Caprese Melt, Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt, and Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt, which are the original members of the Toasted Baguette line.

The new melt is available early to My Panera Members—which is free to join—through the app and online and will launch nationwide to all on June 22. The Black Forest Ham will also be featured in a smaller sandwich that will debut on that same day. The Deli Ham sandwich will have ham, emerald greens, sliced tomatoes, red onions, and the same country mustard on Country Rustic Sourdough.

When I tried the original baguettes I thought they were tasty, but a few had some flaws, including the amount of filling not living up to the hefty choice of bread. Here's what I thought of the new ham-based baguette.

 I Tried Panera's New Toasted Baguette Sandwiches & There's Only One I'd Get Again

The Look

Panera ham gouda baguette melt taste test
Meaghan Cameron/Eat This, Not That!

The new baguette looks just as good as the three other sandwiches and is just as big. The crusty baguette is the perfect golden-brown color with tiny bubbles that suggest a crispy, crusty exterior. I could see greens, the deep pink ham, and some melted cheese peeking out the side. The best part about this sandwich, though, was the smell. The smoky ham made its presence known before I could even get a taste and it mingled with the scent of sweet and spicy mustard. The new country mustard is a blend of three types of mustard, according to the chain's press release—as a mustard-lover I was intrigued

First, I sliced the sandwich in three to get a look at the layers of ingredients. I was pleased to see a good amount of ham piled up. I did worry that it looked like there wouldn't be enough cheese to stand up to the other toppings. Also, while I loved the addition of arugula, it looked like too little to add the right burst of freshness.

The Taste

Panera ham gouda baguette melt sliced
Meaghan Cameron/Eat This, Not That!

While the baguette looks heavy it was actually super light and airy. It crackled audibly as I bit into the sandwich. The smoky ham is slicked with the melted cheese and the mustard has a wonderful sweet and spicy flavor that brings everything together. I love the arugula for the burst of freshness but the sandwich needs more. Ditto for the cheese: there needs to be more of it or a different kind, because the smoky ham dominated the smoked gouda and I didn't really taste it but more felt the texture of it. Swiss would have had a better flavor and is a classic choice with ham.

The glaring flaw with this sandwich, just like the other baguettes, is the size. This sandwich is very large and it has the calorie count to match at 960, with 32 grams of fat and 116 grams of carbs. It does, however, have the fewest calories of the baguette line.

Still, Panera should offer this in a half-size just like most of its other sandwiches. I personally cannot wait for the Ham Sandwich to come out because then I can enjoy the delicious Black Forest ham and the awesome country mustard without the crazy calorie price tag, plus, maybe a cup of amazing soup on the side. All in all, ham being back on Panera's menu is amazing and this sandwich is worth a try, just save half for later.

Meaghan Cameron
Meaghan Cameron is Deputy Editor of Restaurants at Eat This, Not That! Read more about Meaghan