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Pasta Perfection

Day Thirteen - Allison


Greatest Strength -- Using pure will, finished a very heavy pasta dish just for the refill
Weakest Weakness -- Lack of imagination due to extreme moral tenacity (see below)
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I haven't been here since college. From what I remember, the pasta isn't very good...but the breadsticks are."
"Okay," I begin, "your creative challenge is as follows. Imagine you are the health inspector for Olive Garden. You've been successfully bribed, and -"
Allison's face immediately hardens. "No, I haven't."
I'm at a loss for words. "Well...this isn't actually happening. It's just a creative exercise."
She shakes her head. "I would never take a bribe. Come up with something else."
Creative Challenge --What would you look for as a health inspector in an Olive Garden, as opposed to, say, Chili's or Applebee's?



What do the employees
do with the breadsticks
after hours??
[drawing of two happy employees, one normal and one cyclopean, wielding cricket bat-sized breadsticks]


Allison intially chose to match with me on tinder because she was certain I was a bot or viral marketing campaign, and she wanted a coupon. She enjoys travelling, correcting me, and long battles of attrition with her sworn rival: pasta.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Allison's Alimentary-Canal-Filler
Not Quite Jumbo

37 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Allison -- may all your dates be so fruitful!

Day Twelve - Chelsea


Greatest Strength -- Upbringing in theater from a young age left her immune to all forms of rejection (a very valuable skill to have when online dating)
Weakest Weakness -- Missed out on the part of a lifetime (Young Nala) for not being "ethnic enough"
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "It's terrible. I'd rather go to The Old Spaghetti Factory."
Snapshot: Chelsea and I are discussing how rude people can be to waitstaff. She tells me that when she worked as a waitress, people treated her differently.
"It's like," she says, jabbing fruitlessly at a dry rigatono, "the second you put on that apron, you're suddenly..."
"Ethnic enough?"
Creative Challenge --Olive Garden seems to focus the brunt of its marketing towards its core demographic of middle-aged suburbanites. How would you change the messaging to appeal more to millenials and the economically disenfranchised?



Marketing Plans for a Millenial Olive Garden

-More alternative Diner Options
-Gluten Free, Vegan, Organic Etc.

-More "culturally aware" procedures
-A buy one, give one structure
-More charitable opportuntes
-Promote their ethical practices
(Well paid employees, local farms)

-Lose their earnestness + participate in the current climate of social media (ie Wendy's sarcastic Twitter posts)


Chelsea is a former child actress (had to give it up due to chronological pressures) who was notably "on" throughout the date. As a struggling artist myself, I am keenly aware of this feeling. It's like you're always on stage, entertaining others. It sounds worse than it is, and I am probably overthinking it and putting too much of my own personal experience into someone I only sort of know. I can be a little self-obsessed. For example, in this paragraph that is ostensibly about Chelsea, I've used personal pronouns seven times.

Let's try again. Chelsea has a great deal of mental agility and is fun to talk to. She even has her own podcast about stupid movie sequels snappily titled The Stupid Sequels Podcast, which you can listen to for free! It's like being on a date with her without the hassle of going to Olive Garden.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Chelsea's Chow
Apparently, Not Worth Finishing

38 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Chelsea. My pick is The Fox and the Hound 2.

One Week Hiatus!


Hey everyone, Vino here!

There will be an approximately one-week hiatus on All Love Garden while I take a trip to Spain. If I am not murdered by Catalonian revolutionaries, you will see more dates and more pastas starting October 17th!

Thanks for your patience.

Day Eleven - Jee


Greatest Strength -- Mastery of the C language lets her keep a cool header under pressure. Helpful and always willing to give out pointers.
Weakest Weakness -- Specialization in computer science leaves her susceptible to hacky programming jokes
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I've never been. All my friends discouraged me from going."
Snapshot: "Okay," I say, "are you ready for your Creative Challenge?"
"Ugh...if I do one, you have to do one too."
Creative Challenge -- "Write a haiku that contains the word 'basic'."


I lack basic knowledge
I write an awesome haiku
I apologize

Vino's Sad Attempt

To see with the eye;
A fundamental level
visual basic

Jee has lived in more countries than I can name (four) and is also a master programmer! On top of all that, she taught me that writing a haiku on the spot is a lot harder than it looks. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop forcing people to do it, though. As someone once told me, "art is suffering".

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Jee's Jeers
Meat Blanket

39 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Jee. I hope your first ever Olive Garden experience was a good one!

Day Ten - Katrina


Greatest Strength -- Confidence. Katrina is still in college but already has her next two jobs planned out!
Weakest Weakness -- Traumatic experience at a young age left her unable to appreciate the cinematic stage presence of Radiohead
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I think it's really good. People act all superior, but come on. It's just pasta."
Snapshot: "I run a radio show. It was gonna be about love, cause that's universal, right? But love is boring. So it's about sex."
Creative Challenge -- "Consider the Olive Garden experience - a menu, a waiter, a check. Design, from the ground up, a fundamentally improved experience."


(Katrina's Explanation)
Okay, so, the table becomes your menu - it's a touchscreen, and you see photos of the food you can order. You swipe to find different entrees, and once you choose one, you can edit it to your liking. The food is brought to your table automatically by underground pipes. [Vino's Note: ???]

There's also a card reader in the table so you can pay right there.

Katrina seems to have no end of talents - software architecture, project managment, and radio show host are just a few of her many hats. Someone so clearly skilled deserved a special creative challenge, and I really think she knocked it out of the park! I hope Darden is reading this blog and taking notes, but since the Italian Sausage is still on the menu, probably not.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Katrina's Kuisine:
Two Cows

40 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Katrina. You're super nice!

Day Nine - Jenny


Greatest Strength -- Has thousands of LinkedIn contacts from the one time she accidentally hit "invite all"
Weakest Weakness -- Sunlight allergy necessitates constant wearing of fashionable hat and glasses combo
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Well. I'm half-italian, so my family has always felt kind of..." [literally thumbs her nose at the food in front of her]
Snapshot: Jenny and I are discussing whether Orange County is a suitable place for me to buy a home, put down roots, etc. She wrinkles her nose. "Don't. You've got the rest of your life to give up."
Creative Challenge -- "Write a limerick that contains the phrase 'weird kid'"


There once was a weird kid from Dakota
Who was as calm and as wise as Yoda.
He was quick of the wit
And the pasta he bit
I said "goodbye" as I got in my Toyota


People, especially those in Southern California, throw around the word "inspiring" a lot, but that's the best way to describe how I feel about Jenny. She has a go-get-'em attitude that makes you feel like all your dreams are just a few steps away, so go ahead and step 'em! Now!! Stop taking pictures of spaghetti and DO IT!!!

Also, we're currently workshopping her limerick into a spec script for a based-on-a-true-story Lifetime Original movie, with me being played by Danny DeVito. If you're reading this, Danny (I know you are), call me. You have my number.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Jenny's 'Gestible:
Shrimpy Night

41 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Jenny. I am looking forward to quiz night!

Day Eight - Gina


Greatest Strength -- CEO, lead designer, Unquestioned God-Matriarch of the bridal hair accessory megaconglomerate, Hair Comes The Bride
Weakest Weakness -- Potential business connections have become so scarce that she is forced to seek out exposure for her beautiful hair accessories on unrelated pasta blogs
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- [Before eating] "I...don't think I'd accept a date here." [After] "This is surprisingly good."
After a brief awkward exchange, Gina gets up to 'go to the bathroom', and since she takes her purse with, I assume she's leaving for good. To my pleasant surprise, she returns shortly after! I ask if she had trouble starting her car.
"Mm. Triple A's on the way."
Creative Challenge -- "Write a haiku that contains the word 'tickled'."



Tickled by my meal
The company was the best
Pick me to win please


It's great to find someone as positive and bouncy as Gina. Often, these qualities are tied to a tiring ditzy-ness (and this is true of both men and women), but she is savvy on top of being fun to talk to. Also, since I plugged her store, I expect full cross-promotion in the form of a breadstick tiara in time for my wedding.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Gina's Grub:
Event Horizon

42 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Gina. You go, girl.

Day Seven - Lu


Greatest Strength -- Fearless nature led to perhaps the greatest heist in Olive Garden history (see Snapshot below)
Weakest Weakness -- Easily distracted; finished maybe 1/10th of the stories she started
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I'm ambivalent. Oh. Once I came here with my mom, and her friend, and her friend's daughter. Anyway. We had a waiter named Quest. I'll never forget that." (editorial note: I have no idea if this was a joke, or a reference, or something of that nature -- I leave the interpretation to the viewer)
Snapshot: Throughout the date, Lu continually flirts with our waiter, each time getting him to bring back more and more shrimp (which she barely touches). Watching her work her craft enthralls me. There's something deeply primitive about the way the waiter returns again and again, overflowing her salty ocean shrine.

By the time we leave Olive Garden (half an hour after closing time), Lu has bilked Olive Garden out of 23 shrimp and a colorful cloth napkin, which she repurposed as a trendy scarf that really tied her whole outfit together.
Creative Challenge -- "Write a limerick than contains the word 'camera'."



I once went on a date from Reddit
& my God I wanted to end it.
I struggled with rhyme
The whole FUCKING time
I tried but in the end I didn't.


Lu was a gamble that paid off, and not just in ill-gotten toppings. She found me through a post I made on Reddit.com, an internet message board famous for its campaign to make Bernie Sanders so popular that Hilary Clinton would lose the race for the presidency (WE DID IT, REDDIT!).

As you may expect, the clientelle of this site is all over the place. That was my original point. So a date with a redditor can, potentially, be just about anywhere on the scale. This one was right up there at the top. Lu has the "demure exterior, sharp-tongued interior" thing down pat. One minute she's giggling coquettishly, the next she's tearing your heart out and mocking your height.

Not that I'm even sensitive about that. I don't know how much more clear I have to be. I must have said so, like, five times.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Lu's Larceny:
The Ocean Called!!

43 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Lu -- and it's not like you're that tall, either, y'know.

Day Six - Zoie


Greatest Strength -- Finely-honed nose for news enabled her to get in on the ground floor on what will assuredly be the pasta blog/reality tv dating game show hybrid of the season.
Weakest Weakness -- Fierce independent streak which involved a week-long phase of referring to herself as "Xoie"
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I love it! When I lived in Orange County there were not that many unique or interesting places to eat, so I fully embraced the chain restaurant lifestyle."
Snapshot: As usual, I explained the concept of the date's Creative Challenge, and its purpose, to Zoie. When I completed my summary, she smiled, picked up her pen, and brightly chirped "Wow! I hate this!"
Creative Challenge -- "Write a haiku that contains the word 'breadsticks'."


Alyssa gave breadsticks to-
go. She's the greatest
waitress in OG history.


Zoie works for Los Angeles magazine and, since she was "assigned" to me as if I were a natural disaster, must have a boss with a sense of humor. I usually play the interviewer role in my dates, so it was a weird change of pace to be asked so many pointed questions about Olive Garden that went beyond making polite conversation. It gave me a new sense of empathy for the women on the other end of the salad bowl, that's for sure.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Zoie's Zupper:

44 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Zoie - I know you'll get that big scoop one day!

Day Five - Crystal


Greatest Strength -- Crafting D&D characters that have a tragic backstory reminiscent of a Game of Thrones antihero, but different enough to not be sued by George R.R. Martin (yet)
Weakest Weakness -- Brought shame upon our table when she misheard the options of 'soup or salad' as "Super Salad" and tried to order it
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I love the breadsticks. I was just talking about them with my Uber driver, we bonded over it."
Snapshot: Feeling a little constricted by my creative challenge format, I asked Crystal if she had any other creative talents she could comfortably display in a booth in an Olive Garden. She suggested music, tempting me with this: "My singing is like...really, really, really, really shitty Amy Winehouse."

"Ah..." I replied. "Well... for now, what's your second-favorite cartoon?"
Creative Challenge -- "Draw Mojo Jojo from memory"


Mojo jojo



Equally at home in an obscure anime cosplay or sharpening some corporate tool in her work as a consultant, Crystal is the sort of renaissance millenial that is single-handedly ruining our country, according to Parade magazine. She's the rare kind of person who is considerate in a way that feels genuine without being obsequious. Anyone can read a guy's pasta blog (though many, for some reason, do not), but few actually go to the lengths that Crystal did in her helpful and positive feedback.

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Crystal's Concoction:
Gravity Well

45 dates to go! Thanks for dining with me, Crystal! I hope you were able to find your way home!

Day Four - Sonal


Greatest Strength -- Making uncultured midwesterners uncomfortable by forcing them to guess how her name is pronounced (pro tip: SOH-null)
Weakest Weakness -- Unpriviliged upbringing (ie, not in America) gives her the mistaken belief that this is not the greatest country in the world. Tragic...
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "It's not very good. It's very heavy. And expensive. And not a good place for - " (I cut her off here and changed the subject)
Snapshot: In order to establish dominance, Sonal asks me how many tinder matches I have. When I tell her, she kind of smirks and then gives me her phone, revealing over 60 times as many matches as what I thought was a respectable count.

Okay, she's attractive, I get it. What kills me is that she gets all these guys and doesn't even have a pasta blog. What am I even doing, here?
Creative Challenge -- "Draw a chicken, and two chicks."


A Chicken & Two Chicks!


Sonal is a highly educated (3 degrees!!) woman with a dry sense of humor. I'm not entirely sure about those credentials, though -- she told me that they were two masters' degrees and a bachelor's in psychology, with a minor in art. But after finishing the creative challenge (above) she looked at it, looked at me, and said, "Well. I more meant that I appreciate art."

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Sonal's Supper:
A Chicken & Two Chicks!

46 dates to go! Thank you for dining with me, Sonal! You get +1 point!

Day Three - Jessica


Greatest Strength -- Owns three games for the Nintendo Switch, which accounts for 150% of the system's playable library.
Weakest Weakness -- Overly agreeable nature leads to accepting propositions for mundane first dates (see below)
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I think this is the first time I've been here since college."
Snapshot -- Ever the gentleman, I offered Jessica a rare glimpse into the brief non-pasta portion of my day-to-day after dinner.
"Do you want to help me buy garbage bags at Albertsons? I'm all out. This isn't code for anything. I'm literally going to Albertsons and buying garbage bags, then I'm going home."
Amazingly, she accepted, and was an insightful companion for this task. She noted the relative cost-per-bag of various brands, and weighed the value of certain features. Vanilla fragrance, puncture resistance, that sort of thing. In the end, I walked out with the optimal garbage bags, thanks to her procurement skills.
Creative Challenge -- "Compose a haiku that contains the word "salad".


Vino* orders salad
It looks to be quite tasty
Why did I choose soup?

(*Transcriptor's note: Jessica chose to use my christian name in this poem, which I do not recognize from the dates of 9/25 to 11/19. I have replaced it here, but I assure you the meter and syllable count remain unchanged from her original poem)

Jessica is a procurement specialist for a company that manufactures computer motherboards and similar technowizardry things. She gave me an insider tip that soon 7-11's may feature digital touchscreen displays for their famous Slurpee machines. Personally, I cannot think of an interface less suited to the human hand than a machine that blorps out a thick, sticky sludge directly onto the user. But I'm no computer jock, and I'm certainly no procurement specialist, so I'll leave it to the professionals.

She also agreed to a brief second meeting when I realized that we forgot to get a selfie. Rookie mistake on my part. I been out the game too long.

47 dates to go!

Vino's Vegan Victual:

Jessica's Jam:
The Mixup

Thank you for dining with me, Jessica! You're rad.

Pasta Combination Selector