"It's the coal in your pizza stocking."
In making my way through one of Jamba Juice's new California Flatbreads, I could only find one reason to be thankful— that they didn't call them "pizzas." To have done so would've constituted a disgrace to the name of pizza. As it is, they're only a disgrace to flatbreads, and California. Which, I presume, readers of this blog don't care about quite as much.
Currently in limited release in New York City, the $4 flatbreads are marketed as a healthy alternative to fast food lunches, an on-the-go personal pizza for the conscientious eater. The four varieties (get ready to groan)—Tomo Artichoko, Smokehouse Chicken, MediterraneYUM, and Four Cheesy—are all under 350 calories, all free of corn syrup and preservatives.
The one problem? They all taste like cardboard.
Well, maybe not cardboard. "Cafeteria food," "rubber," "glue," and "Lean Cuisine" might all be fairer comparisons. But they do not taste like anything a person should sacrifice a meal for. Under any circumstances.
As Adam put it: "It's the coal in your pizza stocking."
The MediterraneYUM was perhaps the least vile of the four, its taste dominated by the bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions on top. But the vegetables were limp, and the crust—on this pizza, as on every other—was gluey, pale, and entirely lacking in flavor. Any flavor. So little that it was really quite incredible. Had Jamba Juice created the first entirely tasteless foodstuff?
The Four Cheesy had mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses, and tasted like none of them; the only flavor came from the candy-sweet tomato sauce.
Incredibly, the barbecue sauce under the Smokehouse Chicken flatbread was even sweeter, an unhappy saccharine underlay to the rubbery nubs of chicken.
The Tomo Artichoko, the cheery cashier at Jamba Juice told me, was the worst of the bunch. ("I love the others. But that's some vegetarian shit.") The pizza did taste like artichoke, though not in a good way—in the manner, rather, of the tough bits near the inedible end of the artichoke leaf, straw-like and dry.
Your smoothies are fine, your oatmeal incredible; but Jamba Juice, if you're reading, please don't subject the rest of the nation to these flatbreads. No one needs soggy microwave-quality pizza. Especially at $4 a pop.