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.
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?!
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:
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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! :)
Just as Daryl Hall's rich tenor is perfectly accompanied by John Oates' smooth backing vocals on a solid foundation of rock-soul grooves, this dish is tightly balanced between two stars, either of whom would be a laughingstock if they ever did attempt to Go Solo. And with Chicken Fritta topping only an additional $3.49, you don't have to be a Rich Girl to appreciate this one!
Pictured here is Hall & Oates, Making My Dreams Come True.
The replacement of spaghetti with angelhair makes Simon & Garfunkel appear to be a lighter, folksier Hall & Oates - to the untrained eye. But much like their eponymous artists, careful study of Simon & Garfunkel will reveal a certain density and complexity unmatched by Hall & Oates. While both are enjoyable in their own way, this dish rewards the observant consumer with a richness that simply can't be found elsewhere.
Pictured here is Simon & Garfunkel. Slow down - you eat too fast!
Whereas our previous two dishes today are defined by an equal balance between two forces, David & Goliath, as you may have guessed, is a story of an underdog's triumph despite an insurmountable foe. The subtle taste of roasted mushroom should really be no match for the almost grotesque sphere of meat mercilessly crushing the penne below it. Yet somehow, delicacy conquers brutality, beauty conquers vulgarity, and love, as always, conquers all.
Pictured here is David & Goliath. Look at the size of that meatball - you could easily sling a giant to death with it!