I've never actually ordered seafood at a Long John Silver's, but I've seen commercials, which is more than enough for me. My rule of thumb is that any restaurant who's food can't even look appetizing for 30 seconds with access to lighting, makeup, props, and smiling actors is not worth attempting.
Pictured here is Long John Silver's, which tastes like what the aforementioned commercial looks like: white-ish gravy with a hint of heavily breaded seafood. Not even cavatappi can save this, though I dread the day when I'll have to try this with Angelhair.
Anyone who has ever been poor, or been lazy, knows the sodium-dripping logo of Stouffer's, purveryor of fine frozen foods. One of their most popular entrees is "Swedish Meatballs" in a thick cream gravy, over a bed of broad noodles. This was the closest I could get at Olive Garden, though why I tried to do so is beyond me.
Pictured here is Stouffer's, and, true to its namesake, it is easily more gravy than pasta.
The day - a beautifully clear and crisp autumn, the kind which exists in North Dakota only for a few fragile, perfect weeks - was ideal for the start of a journey. A journey that would take me from the lowest caste of mortal to the highest echelons of noodles, sauce, and toppings (starting at $2.99). A journey of pasta.
Lunch was "The Classic+".
Today, I took my first step on that journey. It was not easy - even now, my stomach aches with the effort of digesting a bolus of pure carbs - but nothing worth doing ever is. And I say without irony that this journey is the most worthwhile thing I've ever done.
A special thanks to my dining companion, Nick!
I admit that the presence of the Shrimp Fritta topping among the Pasta Bowl options puzzled me. It seemed that there were very few sauces and pastas in the repertoire that would be well-suited to pairing with shrimp. The answer to my quandary came from my dining companion on Day One, Nick, who pointed out that the breading of the shrimp made it a natural pairing with marinara sauce - and I daresay he was spot-on. Cavatappi is always a joy to eat, and only adds to the experience of this surprise favorite.
Pictured here is the Catch of the Baltic, and the first and only time when I've gotten depth of field to work.
As an alternative to the more traditional Meatball or Italian Sausage, Chicken Fritta adds a fresh, comparatively bright feel to the dish - though one would hesitate to call it "lighter" thanks to the meat sauce and the breading of the topping.
Pictured here is the Cock of the Walk, strutting proudly before being cut down in its prime by a hungry pasta pass holder.
To say the five cheese sauce is "rich" is to criminally undersell the Olive Garden's ability to melt together cheese and butter. The sauce has a noticable tendency to completely fill a given piece of penne, causing an altogether unnerving "splurt" of pure cheese into your mouth if consumed carelessly. This dish in particular badly needs a topping for balance - one can only handle so much of a good thing.
Pictured here is the Cheesetube Extreme, with a gaze into the abyss of a single tube forming the focal point of the work. One cannot help but notice that penne seems to draws the eye much as it draws in thick, creamy sauce.
The Classic is further enhanced with the addition of meat to the marinara sauce. This is, pound for pound, one of the most calorically dense combinations one can attempt at the Olive Garden, and, assuming a dinner portion is ordered, likely to hamstring your efforts at getting your "money's worth" from the pasta bowl.
Pictured here is the lunch to-go portion of The Classic+, which I only was able to get one messy shot of before my instincts overcame me and I devoured it wholesale. Also, my coworkers were staring.
PASTA PASS UNBOXING!
Note: if I appear to be annoyed in this video, it is because I am FRUSTRATED at the postal service in my town, NOT with Olive Garden corporate. Shannon at their Customer Service Department was very helpful and patient.
Today I did some research for the blog. I am very excited to eat pasta.
TRANSCRIPT (NAMES CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT):
Jennifer - Hello, and thank you for calling Olive Garden. My name is Jennifer, how may I help you?
Vino - Hello, Jennifer. I have some questions about your Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion.
Jennifer - Certainly.
Vino - Does this Olive Garden location serve all six pastas advertised on your site?
Jennifer - Um...yes?
Vino - Excellent. And what of your sauces? Will all six be available to me?
Jennifer - *a note of hesitation creeps into her voice* Y...yes. Who is this?
Vino - What about the toppings, Jennifer? All four toppings, including the NEW Shrimp Fritta?
Jennifer - *voice cracks slightly* Yes. Sir...how much of the pasta are you planning to eat?
Vino - ...see you soon, Jennifer. *click*