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Day 18

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New waiter today. Fortunately, I have the speech I give to the new ones pretty much down pat, now. I'm ready to go with it by the time he walks up to me and tells me his name.

"Hey, I'm Vino, and I'm doing a -"
"Yeah, I know."

Apparently, news travels fast in the tightly-knit community of Olive Garden employees. My waiter regards me with a friendly, yet hard, stare. It's as if he's daring me to order my first pasta. His hand rests with a practiced ease on his notepad, like a sheriff ready to draw his gun. I begin to sweat.

"I'll have, the, um...spaghetti with roasted mushroom sauce and --"
"Chicken fritta?"

I scramble to check my notes. How could he have known that I hadn't tried that one yet? I try to regain my composure, but my nerves are shot.

"Y...yeah. Chicken fritta."
"I'll be back with that, and your Coke Zero."
"That...that sounds good. Thanks."

But he's already gone. I'm up against a professional, and it looks like I've already lost round one.

NOTE: A lot of people have asked me about the "arbitrarity" of my 5-star scale. I hope these pastas will help decode how I look at a dish and where the rating comes from. There are four main elements, so today I've picked four dishes that exemplify one of each.

Lunch was Presentation.

Dinner was composed of three plates of pasta:

Synergy
Juxtaposition
Quality

I'm sure I'll see that waiter again. Hopefully I'll be ready next time.

A special thanks to my dining companion, this person who wants everyone to be aware of the existence of breast cancer!

Presentation

Presentation
Alfredo pumped chock-full of Chicken Fritta, lovingly sheltered within a pile of Fettuccine
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There's an old saying among pasta connoisseurs - "presentation is nine-tenths of the law - the law of pasta, that is!". They say this and then make a kind of face that implies this is very funny.

Whether or not they're right about it being funny is less important than the statement itself, which is entirely true. Our eyes are our second-most important organ when eating, and far and away our most important when reviewing. After all, taste is subjective - but anyone can see what a food looks like, and in the case of a review, it's all you have to go on other than my vague ramblings. You may or may not agree with my assertion that "chicken tastes good", but you can definitely see from this picture what it looks like.

Pictured here is Presentation, which was clearly garnished by a skilled hand.

Synergy

Synergy
Meatballs nigh-erotically tossed on a baseless basin of Spaghetti, drizzled with Spicy Three Meat Sauce
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When two things work well together, that's synergy. Choosing the right pasta to go with the right sauce, and the perfect topping to cap it off, well, that's synergy. It's the difference between a classic dish and a failed experiment. Sure, a new twist can be exciting - but the old standbys are still around for generations because they work.

Consider this dish - the meat in the Spicy Three Meat sauce is actually identical to the meat that the meatball is formed from. This creates a natural continuity and makes the dish feel interconnected, intentionally designed - it doesn't "feel" like a Pasta Bowl dish of three random ingredients slopped on top of one another.

Pictured here is Synergy - it just works!

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition
Italian Sausage hybridized with Five Cheese Marinara, replete with Spaghetti
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Welcome to your word of the day! Juxtaposition is the combining of different things to highlight the differences between them. One could argue it's the opposite of synergy, but that doesn't mean juxtaposed elements don't work well together!

To illustrate this concept I took the three most disparate ingredients I could find within the context of the standard NEPB. Cheese sauce just feels *wrong* on spaghetti, and italian sausage is just wrong on pretty much anything.

Pictured here is Juxtaposition - perhaps two wrongs can make a right!

Quality

Quality
Chicken Fritta richly kissed with Roasted Mushroom Alfredo, skillfully tucked away inside a deep well of Whole Wheat Linguine
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To paraphrase the motto of a company that, frankly, has no business using it - better ingredients, better food. Strip away the fancy garnishes, the mixing of flavors, and the pretentious words, and you're down to the base ingredients.

This particular dish is the first time I ever really felt like I was getting my dollar's worth from the premium sauce. Actual whole chunks of mushroom that had texture and flavor all their own, not just a grey goop incorporated into the sauce like a can of Campbell's cream-of-blah. The chicken was crisp, and the pasta was actually properly cooked, which is difficult to do for whole wheat.

Pictured here is Quality, which might just be my new favorite on the menu - it's that good!

Day 17

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As any of the waitresses unfortunate enough to be stuck with me can attest, I drink a lot of Coke Zero. It's my favorite beverage, and pretty much the only thing I drink, besides water. Those of you wondering if I ever get bored of it would do well to remember my diet as of the past two weeks.

The "Share A Coke" promotion seems to have gotten a lot of traction, and kudos to Coca-Cola for coming up with something so simple yet compelling for the consumer. What I've found particularly amusing, though, is the discrepancy between Coke Zero's names and Diet Coke's.

It's no secret that Zero is marketed more towards my demographic - young men who typically don't drink "diet" soda. Diet Coke invites you to share it with your "Mom", a "Go-Getter", or, my personal favorite, your "BFF". Coke Zero ain't got time for that sissy garbage, and it knows you don't either. You gotta share it with your "Bros", a "Legend", or a "Gamer". Aw yeah. Just lemme pop this Zero quick, bro, then we can get back to some truly legendary gaming.

Lunch was Sunrise on the Savannah.

Dinner was composed of three plates of pasta:

The Lonely Inuit
Vesuvius
Weekend Warriors

I know today's update is only tangentially related to the Olive Garden or the pastas thereof, but I'm using this site as a platform to discuss all the hard-hitting issues.

A special thanks to my dining companions, my Legendary Gamer Bros!

Sunrise on the Savannah

Sunrise on the Savannah
Angel Hair sensuously accentuated with a generous portion of Italian Sausage, accompanied by Five Cheese Marinara
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As the sun crests over a dusty dune, you grant yourself a brief break from your tireless trudging through the sandy soil. For the fourth time today, you bring your empty waterskin to your cracked lips, but it remains as dry and empty as it was yesterday afternoon. All hope is lost.

Then, in the distance, you see an orange glow. It can't be...but it's unmistakable! A five cheese marinara oasis! And, peeking up from beneath its rolling waves, two succulent links of sausage. Your journey is at an end - you will not die here tonight.

Pictured here is Sunrise on the Savannah...or is it just a mirage?

The Lonely Inuit

The Lonely Inuit
Italian Sausage hidden in a fistful of Angel Hair, perfectly joined with Roasted Mushroom Alfredo
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Your journey has taken you to the icy reaches of the north, where stoic men with thick necks chew blubber without even being on a reality TV show. You're searching for the only woman in the world who can help you. Somewhere in these frozen hills is the antidote for your brother's lycanthropy, caused by the venomous bite of a were-polar bear.

Huddled in an igloo some three kilometers from your current location, the shaman you seek watches you through the colored smoke of her fire. She knows the hour of your approach long before you arrive - but she isn't yet sure whether you will be able to withstand her trials to earn the cure you need.

Pictured here is the Lonely Inuit - dare you take on her challenge?

Vesuvius

Vesuvius
Meatballs intriguingly drowning in Spicy Three Meat Sauce, merged with Angel Hair
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A symbol of power long dormant, but still deadly, Vesuvius stands as a constant reminder that no matter the stength of mankind's belief in its dominance, Nature will always reign supreme. The best laid-plans of mice and men often go awry, particularly when covered in molten lava.

Pictured here is Vesuvius, the very picture of quiet strength.

Weekend Warriors

Weekend Warriors
Marinara pleasantly crossbred with Fettuccine, combined with Shrimp Fritta
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The scene is familiar - a group of accountants out for a weekend adventure to escape the humdrum routine of their day-to-day lives. This weekend is white water rafting down the Ococee river, though the thick Georgia clay colors the water, making it less white and more a dull red, an ominous portent that escapes their notice.

In the eight years that the Ococee Board of Recreation has operated, no serious injuries have ever been recorded from rafters. Today, that untarnished record will be tragically broken.

Pictured here are the doomed Weekend Warriors, though it is better to die living than live dying.

day 16

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(i do not know when it is that the olive garden closes
and opens;only something in me understands
that if i show up too early they serve smaller portions)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small bowls

            lunch was fourpaws

dinner was
                         composed of
three

plates

          of pasta

love
rain
death

with apologies to mr cummings

a special thanks to
          my dining companion
" "

Pasta Combination Selector