The image on the menu portrays an elegant arrangement on a diamond-shaped plate, but the JetBlue EatUP@ Café’s $9 “Garden Fresh Kale Salad” is delivered in a long plastic coffin that one might more reasonably expect to contain an oversized action figure. It is sealed with wide sticker that states, unapologetically, “LETTUCE EAT.”
Upon tearing the sticker and lifting the lid of this synthetic sarcophagus, one cannot help but wish for a better placement of the plastic-wrapped fork. Buried under the top layer of quinoa and cranberries, it requires a slippery and delicate extraction which leaves the hands greasy. It would be better situated attached to the outside of the container using the alrady-present sticker, perhaps accompanied by large letters that declare “FORK IT.” (If we must have puns, let them at least border on obscenity.)
This is not a salad to be experienced as a fully-realized dining experience, but rather a police lineup of vaguely related snacks atop a bed of mixed lettuce. The ingredients promised in the description — “Cannellini beans, dried blueberries and cranberries, quinoa and grape tomatoes” are portioned out in stripes down the long rectangle, bracketed by the six tomato halves divided into the top and bottom corners, separated by color. Any overlap in these stripes, though inevitable, seems unintentional, the odd pale bean turned a mottled purple by proximity to dried blueberries.
Tossing is not an option. Neither is dressing, at this juncture. The tiny container of “white balsamic vinaigrette” will be swallowed up long before reaching the lettuce, and so is best put aside until the top layer is dispensed with. That layer: tasty though unbalanced. I would have preferred the number of blueberries and cranberries to be reduced in favor of a greater portion of quinoa, beans, and more tomatoes. Though delicious, the sweetness of the blueberries (and to a lesser extent, the cranberries) dominates the palate.
The lettuce is mixed, as promised, but the kale component, for a dish describing itself as a “Kale Salad,” is minimal. By my count, it is comprised of exactly two leaves; one small, and one far too large for comfortable tray-table consumption, filling up nearly a third of the bottom of the container. I manage to devour it in the most elegant manner possible: by hunching over and gnawing at the foliage like a giraffe, an exercise which no doubt intrigued my rowmates. All of the greens remain somewhat crunchy, though have that general air of listlessness invariably conveyed upon vegetables by enclosure in plastic. The dressing is barely worth mentioning, conveying more lubrication than flavor.
Conclusion: Aside from the words “Garden-Fresh,” which join “Gourmet”, “Fancy” and “Kobi” in the pantheon of words drained of all meaning by American Marketing, and an underwhelming portion of Kale, the salad delivers fairly well on what it promises. Chopping the kale into smaller portions would render it more conveniently edible and enable a wider distribution amongst the other leaves. Reducing the dried fruit in favor of the more savory toppings would provide a more balanced and saladesque experience. Despite this, the Garden Fresh Kale Salad could hold its own against a prepackaged salad at any altitude, and with the 50% discount for using your JetBlue credit card, it is certainly worth the price.