Day Thirty-Seven: Mandy

Comments

Demeanor -- Basil-like: strong, sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Okay, so, about that. My dad hates this restaurant. Absolutely hates it. And he won't tell any of us why. So I've only been here once before."
Mildly threatening tip for my 'really bad' selfies -- "Try to stop breathing when you're taking them"
Snapshot --

((reading her star sign's features off her phone)) "Aquariuses are cheerful. They like to have fun."

I interrupt. "I hate to have fun."

"Well, you're not an Aquarius."

She's got me there.

--

Mandy is an artist who works in the mediums of metal sculpture and photography. She taught me a lot about both of these things, including some genuinely helpful advice to really get the most out of my burgeoning pasta photography business. Granted, I only have one customer, and they haven't paid me or acknowledged my existence yet, but since I've taken over 300 different photos for them by now I think I'm due for one heck of a paycheck!!

Thanks much to Mandy for that and coming all the way from Los Angeles to dine with me!

12 more dates to go.

BONUS: Waiter Spotlight --

Our waiter brings me yet another refill of my soda (diabetes ain't easy).

"Here you are, sir. Diet Coke."

He places it on the table, and before I can say anything, he bursts out, "Just kidding!! It's Coke Zero."

I congratulate him on this classic bit of misdirection, the ol' aspartame-switcheroo.

Today's pasta was
White Balance

White Balance

White Balance
Gluten Free Rotini drenched in Chicken Pomodoro, lovingly topped with Meatballs
Comments

Apparently an important trick when you work exclusively in the medium of yellow-lit yellow pasta is the art of the White Balance. It turns sickly looking photos that appear to have been taken through a dirty microwave's plastic door window into works of art like what you see before you. The more you know!

Pictured here is White Balance, though personally I don't even see color (this is why my photographs are so bad, and racially sensitive).

Day Thirty-Six: Andie

Comments

Demeanor -- Cilantro-like: warm, nutty
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Honestly? I don't understand all the shit Olive Garden gets. Nobody says it's real Italian, so why do people complain about that?"
Most recent proposition received on OkCupid -- An offer for $200 to receive a massage, which she assumed was "probably to test whether or not my skin was soft enough to make a suit out of"
Snapshot --

During the dinner, Andie mentions something clever, but also pretty rude about my previous dates. I ask if she can rephrase it in a more palatable, blog-friendly way.

"No. I can't be funny without being mean."

--

Andie, a grant writer who works five minutes away from Olive Garden (talk about a dream job!!), and I have a lot in common. We both love pasta, are snarky, and have issues with emotional intimacy that we gloss over with sarcasm. Like Freda from yesterday, she said some pretty hurtful things about Coke Zero, though this time I won't make the mistake of offering these opinions legitimacy by reposting them here.

13 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Shuffle Play

Shuffle Play

Shuffle Play
Chicken Fritta blended with Pesto Alfredo, ensconced by a bundle of Mezzaluna Ravioli
Comments

What happens when you pick three pasta ingredients totally at random that have no flavor profile compatibility at all?

Day Thirty-Five: Freda

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Demeanor -- Salsiccia-secca-like: fresh, dry
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "If...if I was picking a restaurant for a first date, it would not make the short list."
Chooses to advertise herself on online dating sites with the phrase -- "Not horrible-looking or fat"
Snapshot --

Freda: Coke Zero, huh? I've never had it.
Vino: Oh? You should try some!
Freda: Okay. *takes a drink*
Vino: Well?!
Freda: That's vile. I can't believe you drink that.
Vino: ...I feel like we're getting off on the wrong foot.

--

My last date of week five was Freda, a confident woman working as an administrator. She is not a fan of the Olive Garden, and was not shy about telling me so.

Part of the reason for her OG aversion is that Freda is very into healthy eating - apparently, she doesn't even allow sugar or flour into her house because she doesn't like the idea of anything "white and refined". That said, she seemed to tolerate me well enough.

14 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
A Gaze Into The Abyss

A Gaze Into The Abyss

A Gaze Into The Abyss
Asiago Garlic Alfredo refreshingly adorned with Chicken Meatballs, gently settled on a handful of Rigatoni
Comments

This photo is of the dish as it was served to me, with the meatball cracked open like a terrified and terrifying eyeball. Why Olive Garden felt it necessary to give me this personal glimpse into the depths of their meat products escapes me, but I like to think there's a reason behind everything they do.

Pictured here is A Gaze Into The Abyss - make sure it doesn't gaze back into you!

Weekend Trip - Phoenix, Arizona

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Phoenix was the second of my three weekend trips (see San Francisco's trip here). The city is what I expected based off the jokes of hack comedians of the nineties - it's full of old people and oppressively hot, even in the middle of November. After biking to the Olive Garden I was covered in enough sweat that I was actually grateful that my first date had bailed on me.

I stayed with a lovely woman named Dorena from AirBnB. Here's a picture of her rabbit!

While hanging around between dates at a gas station, I was grifted out of $10 by a local con artist who claimed he needed the money for a tow truck fee. My big city sensibilities did not detect anything at all fishy about this until he took my money and placed it into a wallet that, I kid you not, was *overflowing* with cash. Then he asked me to give him $10 more, which I politely declined.

One last thing I noted was the lack of crosswalks and the resulting extreme frequency of jaywalking by the city's numerous homeless people. I tried to think of some kind of joke for this (something about how a Phoenix is a bird, and a Jay is a bird...phoenixwalking? idk) but it ended up being too complicated to be funny. If you come up with one, feel free to email me - vino at allofgarden.com . Put BIRDJOKE in the subject line so I don't get it mixed up with all my fan mail and positive feedback, which are all immediately deleted without being read.

Day Thirty-Four: Courtney

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Demeanor -- Capicola-like: simultaneously spicy and sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Honestly, I love it. This is delicious."
Color of hair, as described by her -- "Deep, plum purple"
Snapshot --

((on her plan to use her student loans for the down payment on a condo)) "Well...you've got to have goals. And I already have a car."

--

In one of the more bizarre setups for a date I've had (and bear in mind - all of these dates are at Olive Garden, for a blog, so there's a certain baseline of bizarreness), Courtney was offered to me, almost as a sacrifice, by her sister, who I met through Tinder. Why Courtney's sister decided to throw the poor woman to the wolves of Olive Garden is beyond me, but I hope that Courtney did not share her leftovers with her.

In any event, Courtney is a quick-witted student who has gone through several majors and may indeed go through several more before finding that special one that makes you want to settle down and actually graduate. I expect she'll go on to great things!

15 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Firebird

Firebird

Firebird
Chicken Fritta accentuated with a generous portion of Chicken Pomodoro, hidden in a cave, boy! A cave of Tri Colored Vegetable Penne
Comments

A Phoenician delicacy, the chefs prepare this dish by squeezing the juice of a habanero over the chicken fritta to give its name a stinging ring of truth. Also, they don't actually do that, and I made this whole thing up.

Pictured here is Firebird - I'm a fraud, I'm sorry.

Day Thirty-Three: Dagny

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Demeanor -- Pâté-like: Mincing, smooth
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "This is my first time here. But I have high hopes." (She ended up liking it!)
Level of influence Ayn Rand has on her life -- Does not extend beyond her name
Snapshot --

((upon seeing a man play Beatmania)) "Ooh. A typing game!"

--

Dagny (pronounced like you'd initially think, but might be afraid to say out loud because you think 'that has to be wrong') is an English as a Second Language teacher in Japan, who I was fortunate enough to catch in the middle of one of her rare trips to the States. Erudite and sarcastic, but not in a tiring way, Dagny was a fine dining companion.

Tragedy struck, however, when we hit up the arcade next door to the Olive Garden. The claw machine that used to contain the giant cat pillow of my dreams had its prizes replaced with some other, inferior, non-giant-cat-pillow toy. My dreams of being a giant cat pillow owner will never be realized. I had to cut the date short - one day I might be okay, but not today.

16 more dates to go.

Today's pastas were
Colonel Bernie
Trump Card

Colonel Bernie

Colonel Bernie
Shrimp Fritta lovingly accentuated with a generous portion of Asiago Garlic Alfredo, dropped on a mound of Mezzaluna Ravioli
Comments

What's the matter, Bernie? Chicken?

Pictured here is Colonel Bernie - #FeelTheSodium!

Trump Card

Trump Card
Mezzaluna Ravioli tastefully saturated in Pesto Alfredo, studded with Shrimp Fritta
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Disturbingly rich, tasteless, and slimy, this pasta is not worthy of the attention it gets. Yet it always seems to come out on top!

Pictured here is Trump Card - it beats China all the time. All the time.

Pasta Combination Selector