Week Five - Thinning Out

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Turns out that losing pounds is a lot less fun than gaining, and a lot slower. At this rate I should be back down to my original mass by the end of the experiment, but it'll be close. Guess we'll just weight and see.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS AND IMAGES CONTAIN FOOTAGE OF VINO IN HIS UNDERWEAR.
If you do not want to see me in my underwear, do not click these links! Thank you!
Video (in case someone accuses me of photoshopping these)
Front (flexing like a fool)
Front (making a weird face)
Back (as opposed to front)

Turnabout

Turnabout
Cavatappi drenched in Asiago Garlic Alfredo, festooned with Chicken Fritta
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My mind has actually come around completely on the garlic alfredo sauce since its original launch in 2015. Perhaps the recipe has changed, or maybe my palate has been deadened by years of conspicuous consumption, but the flavor is actually fairly mild and the grated cheese adds a bit of depth to the traditionally bland alfredo.

Al Dente-l Plan (1)

Al Dente-l Plan (1)
Angel Hair sauced with Marinara, tastefully covered in Chicken Fritta
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Olive Garden’s pasta is cooked exactly to specification, without fail. When you’re a chain restaurant that serves millions of people, you can’t leave such things to chance, or the capricious whims of a chef. So when people complain about the food being over- or under-cooked, I usually look upon them with suspicion. Things at the OG aren’t freeform enough to allow for misjudgments in cook times. Nine times out of ten, the complaining party’s issue is simply a matter of personal preference not being met.

Al Dente-l Plan (2)

Al Dente-l Plan (2)
Chicken Fritta combined with Angel Hair, garishly sauced with Five Cheese Marinara
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That said, I think most pasta connoisseurs would agree that Olive Garden’s food is cooked beyond the point of al dente (italian for “to the tooth”, meaning firm when bitten). My assumption is that this level of cooking was found to be the most palatable to the target demographic of the restaurant. A sort of ‘lowest common denominator of pasta’. Which, incidentally, was originally the subtitle for this blog.

An Unrelated Anecdote

An Unrelated Anecdote
Asiago Garlic Alfredo blissfully accentuated with a generous portion of Angel Hair, heaped with Chicken Fritta
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One of my many part-time jobs in college was an assistant veterinary surgeon. Our facility was almost entirely run by volunteers, and we provided services at-cost and often free to needy families. We did good work, but the staff had more enthusiasm and love than they did training. I have more than a few stories of minor surgical mishaps, and the occasional dropped dog testicle. We’d eventually find them in some corner or another, their thin, shriveled membranes flaked with bits of dust.
Anyway, here’s some food. Eat up!

November 29th

November 29th
Chicken Fritta smeared with Alfredo, set upon a lump of Angel Hair
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Do you remember being a young child, waking up some cold morning, and pressing your hands against the frost-laced window of your bedroom as you took in the sight of the year’s first snowfall? A landscape you knew so well transformed literally overnight into an entirely different world. That’s the feeling that I’m trying to evoke here.

Behind Every Good Pasta, There's A Great Breadstick

Behind Every Good Pasta, There's A Great Breadstick
Meat Sauce richly set upon a agglutination of Angel Hair, studded with Chicken Fritta
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Whenever I talk with a non-professional about Olive Garden, the first thing out of their mouth is almost invariably breadstick-related. It’s unfortunate that due to the focus of my blog - the never ending pasta bowl - I can’t really give them the time and respect that such a core part of the brand deserves. So I found this photo in my reel of pictures of an otherwise mediocre and unimpressive combination, and am hijacking this review for the sake of everyone’s favorite comestible: the humble breadstick. Soft, warm, and seasoned generously with buttery garlic salt, it has truly earned its popularity. With bread like this, who needs an entree?

Alice, Your Days Are Numbered

Alice, Your Days Are Numbered
Five Cheese Marinara hidden in a blanket of Rigatoni, embedded with Chicken Fritta
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My waitress, one of the faceless hundreds who have for three years tirelessly marched to and from Olive Garden’s kitchen in a futile attempt to fill the black hole that is my pastabelly gracefully places my meal in front of me.
“Here you go, sir. Don’t worry. The chicken’s just hiding under the sauce. Hehe.”
This is a clear breach of NEPB protocol - pasta, covered by sauce, covered by topping, every time - and I don’t particularly care for anyone else anthropomorphizing my food. That’s my job.
I make a mental note to leave a strongly-worded direct message with the official Olive Garden twitter to have her fired. It’s been a few days now and she still seems to be working, so I’m not really sure what’s going on with that. But we’ll wait and see.

Grilled Chicken Makes Everything Better

Grilled Chicken Makes Everything Better
Asiago Garlic Alfredo uniquely put upon a lump of Rigatoni, incorporated with Chicken Fritta
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Traditionally made out of little more than butter, flour, and heavy cream - and coming in at a whopping 720 calories - alfredo sauce is definitely a heavy addition to any pasta. Pairing it with rigatoni and grilled chicken definitely lightens the load and makes for a much more enjoyable eating experience. Compare a forkful of this dish with that of, say, Mario’s Malaise, and you’ll immediately see what I mean.

Courage Under Fire

Courage Under Fire
Rigatoni adorned with Chicken Fritta, united at last with Alfredo
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In this photo I really tried to capture the tensile strength of rigatoni. Note how the eyes are drawn to the central piece, which holds its shape despite the weight of another rigatoni atop it. Truly an engineering marvel. The top rigatoni, however, is sagging! Perhaps there is also a more metaphorical meaning here - that pain is relative. Not everyone responds to pressure the same way, and there are many kinds of strength.

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever
Chicken Fritta expertly coated in Five Cheese Marinara, enveloped by a bundle of Spaghetti
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I find the browning on the grilled chicken really visually appealing, especially when looked at with the striations of the chicken muscle. Olive Garden’s food has always looked a little plastic, a little too manufactured - see the spaghetti and five cheese marinara in this photo for an example. But the grilled chicken is real. I love it.

Week Four - Moratorium

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Hey everyone! There weren't any pasta reviews last week due to the untimely death of Linguini, my beloved chinchilla.

The experiment continues, however, and I'm working through the pain by redoubling my jumping jacks. This bicep's for you, Linguini.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS AND IMAGES CONTAIN FOOTAGE OF VINO IN HIS UNDERWEAR.
If you do not want to see me in my underwear, do not click these links! Thank you!
Video (in case someone accuses me of photoshopping these)
Front (flexing like a fool)
Front (making a weird face)
Back (as opposed to front)

Pasta Combination Selector