"Oh, that sounds *good*!" encouraged our waitress as I dictated the ingredients for my next masterpiece.
"Yes, I know. I shall call it 'Red Sky At Night', as a subtle reference to the old mariner's turn of phrase," I thought, but did not say.
Pictured here is Red Sky At Night, and I think you will agree that it would delight any sailor.
"Ah, you have the Pasta Pass. It is a very good deal," the manager informs me. "You are very lucky." He is not smiling.
I return his blank expression with a nod and a beatific grin as I lick clean my third bowl of pasta.
Lunch was "My First Dinner For Two".
Only two days of the Never Ending Pasta Bowl have elapsed, and it seems that I've already made a name for myself. I expect to see much more of the manager - lord knows he'll see more of me.
A special thanks to my dining companion, Alycia!
If you are a certain type of gentleman, this dish will immediately transport you back to the age of three weeks after your eighteenth birthday, with a dinner date scheduled for that very night. You're too young to understand how to cook, but too old to not be expected to. You want to project an air of sophistication and worldliness, but you also only want to spend $3 on the ingredients, because that's all the tip money you got on the shitty morning shift at Applebee's.
Pictured here is My First Dinner For Two - angelhair, a can of store-brand knockoff Ragu, and two giant meat-flavored lumps. No side dish is provided, and, thankfully, none is asked for.
Many Pizza Huts feature a buffet, and that buffet typically contains some kind of noodle dish, which usually is not more complicated than poorly-cooked noodles and a vaguely "spiced" red sauce. While there are literally hundreds of Olive Garden dishes that could accurately be described thus, this particular combo seems unabashed in its 90's-style pizza buffet taste and presentation.
Pictured here is Pizza Hut Special - not pictured is a 7 year old child smearing it all over his "MOMMY SAYS I'M THE BOSS!" bib.
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.