What is this?

Art Brut

Art Brut
Five Cheese Marinara set upon a ball the size of a chihuahua's head of Cavatappi, bursting with Italian Sausage
Comments

Also called "outsider art", Art Brut is created by those not typically considered artists, such as the mentally ill. These artists create works with unusual materials, limited skill, and incomplete control of their faculties. That said, never has a work of Art Brut been discovered that nears the bizarre incomprehensibility of this dish.

Pictured here is Art Brut, which an adult human being with a three-digit IQ prepared, assembled, and served to me, apparently with no qualms whatsoever.

Day [9]

Comments

Lunch was Splash Damage.

Dinner was composed of three plates of pasta:

Noscope
Rocket Jump
Bunny Hop

A special thanks to my dining companion, who was noted to be affecting a limp, perhaps to escape suspicion of the hardboiled detective hired by the manager to discover who had stolen the Olive Garden's famed jewels!

Splash Damage

Splash Damage
Penne excellently smothered in Five Cheese Marinara, adorned with Italian Sausage
Comments

So named for its tendency to stain one's clothing with the splashing of five cheese marinara, this dish is not to be trifled with, and can really ruin your day if you get stuck with it in tight corners.

Pictured here is Splash Damage, and doesn't it just seem to be unfun to eat?

Noscope

Noscope
Shrimp Fritta placed upon a bottomless bowl of Whole Wheat Linguine, impressively covered in Roasted Mushroom Alfredo
Comments

The unique thing about this particular combination of ingredients is that, unlike most other Olive Garden entrees, your breath will actually be fresher than it was before you ate it! Thus, you will not need any post-dinner mouthwash; hence the name.

Pictured here is Noscope - pure breath-freshening skill.

Rocket Jump

Rocket Jump
Penne replete with Chicken Fritta, accentuated with a generous portion of Spicy Three Meat Sauce
Comments

There is so much food packed into this tiny bowl that the ingredients seem to be "jumping" out of it! Even in this still photograph, you can feel a sense of urgency, of movement, as the chicken frita leave behind a trail of spicy three meat sauce, or as the servers refer to it, "rocket fuel".

Pictured here is Rocket Jump, and don't let anyone tell you that this is not the way the Olive Garden intended you to eat.

Bunny Hop

Bunny Hop
Penne kissed with Marinara, crossbred with Italian Sausage
Comments

Named for the way that this dish would like to immediately hop out of your stomach, much like a bunny, because of how gross Italian Sauage is.

Pictured here is Bunny Hop - when will the madness end?!

Day 8

Comments

The sun rose, as it is wont to do, on another perfect week for pasta. I breathed in deeply, and took in the fresh air of my studio apartment. The smell of curry from my indeterminately ethnic neighbors was strong, as it always is, and whetted the blade of my appetite. Soon, I would feast...but first must come work.

I endure my day job with a sense of grim determination. It's just something to fill time between visits to the Olive Garden. But sometimes I wonder how the employees of the Olive Garden feel about their jobs. It seems unlikely that every morning trip there is as euphoric and magical an experience as my twice-daily treks are. But how can one drive to the Olive Garden without a feeling of giddy anticipation welling up within them? Maybe I'll find out as the challenge draws onward, but, for now, every morning is a new day for gorging.

Lunch was Penne Arcade.

Dinner was comprised of three plates of pasta:

Fed-uccine
Cava-Topping
Penne Loafer

Hey, man. Some days you just want to talk about pasta without a bunch of metaphors or whatever.

A special thanks to my dining companions, the Garcia family!

Penne Arcade

Penne Arcade
Penne accentuated with a generous portion of Shrimp Fritta, drenched in Alfredo
Comments

This is probably the only time I've had the lunch to-go portion actually look tasty after 20 minutes bathing in its own steam in the cracked pleather passenger seat of my 1993 Chevy Lumina. I always feel really bad when an OG dish looks bad because of my irresponsibility, but I try to realistically portray the dish as an average customer would receive it, not just the glossy, flat photographs of menus and magazines.

Pictured here is Penne Arcade, looking as good as it tastes!

Fed-uccine

Fed-uccine
Chicken Fritta pleasantly drizzled with Meat Sauce, merged with Fettuccine
Comments

Fettuccine is not a pasta well-suited to tomato based sauces. They slide right off of the flat surface, leaving you with little more than a moist, bland noodle with a vaguely tomato-like aftertaste. Perhaps an ingenious pasta patron could invent some sort of fettuccine texturing device to allow the noodle to more effectively trap sauce, but until society is ready for this sort of change (personally, I doubt we ever will be) you would be well advised to choose a different combination.

Pictured here is Fed-uccine, the world's most frictionless pasta!

Cava-Topping

Cava-Topping
Shrimp Fritta merged with Spicy Three Meat Sauce, garishly tossed on a deep dish of Cavatappi
Comments

As a "Premium Sauce", Spicy Three Meat is definitely lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. What, precisely, is the customer paying the extra dollar for? In Roasted Mushroom sauce, the answer is explicit. It's right in the title. You pay a dollar for roasted mushrooms. Why, however, is the spicy three meat sauce premium? Is it the spice? The extra single meat when compared with the free meat sauce (itself being comprised of two meats)? The pricing structure of the sauces is baffling. Marinara is free. Add two meats to it make Meat Sauce, also free. Add one more meat - whoa! Hold on there, sparky! That'll be one dollar for your bacchanalia of unadulterated protein!

Pictured here is Cava-Topping, and despite my whining, it's worth every cent.

Penne Loafer

Penne Loafer
Italian Sausage accompanied by Penne, showered in Roasted Mushroom Alfredo
Comments

I struggle on a deep and personal level with Italian Sausage. It is literally impossible to photograph attractively. It looks absolutely bizarre on a plate of pasta. I have no idea what Olive Garden was thinking when they made this fatty, sodium-engorged phallus a standard topping. Why isn't it sliced up? Why isn't it ground up? Why isn't it incorporated into the food somehow? Why, oh, god, WHY is it just plopped on top of every meal I order it with like a disgusting joke?!

Pictured here is Penne Loafer, and I felt myself get genuinely mad when I saw they had put two on top of it.

Day 7

Comments

Today's dinner marked the end of my first of seven weeks of eating nothing but Olive Garden's food, and I couldn't be happier with my life as it stands in this very moment. Life seems full of color, the future seems full of possibility, and I seem full of pasta. I admit that when I started the journey, I had my misgivings. To paraphrase the Bible: man shall not live by breadsticks alone. Yet here I stand, a testament to the raw power and conviction of a man with a dream.

Lunch was "Hall & Oates".

Dinner was comprised of three plates of pasta:

"Simon & Garfunkel"
"David & Goliath"
"Spaghetti & An Entire Sausage"

In conclusion, I'm still hungry. Bring on Week Two.

A special thanks to my dining companion, Nick!

PS: Today I received an email from one Michael T, a bartender at an Olive Garden somewhere in America. He informed me that I technically am not limited to merely 180 permutations of pasta, sauce, and toppings, but can double up, substitute, mix and match, and otherwise make the servers' lives even more hellish with monstrosities such as "Spicy 3 Meat+5 Cheese Marinara with Sauasage and Meatball over Penne".

I'm not going to be doing this for several reasons, but it was very interesting to hear! Thanks for your feedback, Michael, and thanks to everyone else who has written in to, or about, the blog! :)

Pasta Combination Selector