Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: Olive Garden

No, not my review of The Olive Garden but one by someone who is not frightened by the thought of eating at one of these heat and serve food factories. Let me know if you were able to watch more than a minute of this.
By the way, what the heck is an "olive garden" anyway? I thought olives were grown in orchards not gardens. Perhaps the scientists who developed this synthetic Italian dining concept, based the name on the tomato sauce plants they genetically engineered to produce canned olives.

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Old Mill Hill said...

On a trip to Tuscany in 2007, we searched all over to find the fabled "test kitchen" of Olive Garden in the hopes of securing a seating at the chef's table.

Alas, we had to make do with meals from non-chain restaurants serving locally sourced food prepared to order.

Ed Manahawkin NJ said...

The time and emphasis devoted to portion size is interesting. Wish I didn't see what was inside that box. The "bread" was kind of appetizing, though. ;)

Jeff said...

Lasagna with a side of spaghetti.

Tags said...

She got off on the right foot calling it "rattyoli."

Natalie Sztern said...

First I want to be clear that thankfully Montreal is not known for any 'fast food restaurants' save McDonalds,(I think it is still around) but trust me the language police are still working on getting them to change the entire concept to fit in with Lafleur's...(hot dogs and the best fries this side of Ontario)

I will always maintain my stance that while a lot of us certainly would not venture to consider the Olive Garden fine dining; it serves as a destination for many Americans as their 'night out' to eat either as a couple or with the entire family. It is unbecoming to be so snobbish; even The Donald cops to enjoying a Big Mac!

Seriously tho; many an unemployed would relish a dinner at the Olive Garden as a 'treat'...I just don't get the snobbery; obviously quality and quantity go hand in hand in these establishments...but so what if it gives kids a night out where their parents don't have to max out the credit card and still pay the mortgage at the end of the month...

Too many celebrity chefs out there

Bob del Grosso said...

It's not snobbery. The food is terrible, that's all there is to it.

Lou said...

Snobbery? I think not. A lot of bad food for a relatively small amount of money is a false bargain.

Tyrone B, said...

""...obviously quality and quantity go hand in hand in these establishments...but so what if it gives kids a night out where their parents don't have to max out the credit card and still pay the mortgage at the end of the month...""

WHAT KIND OF SENSE DID THAT MAKE? She said in the video the portions got smaller and the price got larger and everyone agrees the food sucks...for those prices I ate cheaper at the La Cucina Nazionale in Rome Italy! For that matter the homeless would eat better 'walking pizza' purchased by weight and still be able to afford a half bottle of wine on the streets of Italy!

(hows that for snobbery? LOL)

The Bad Yogi said...

OK, go check out Ruhlman's take on Cheesecake Factory.

Natalie, I think you're right on. It is snobbery, pure and simple. Goes right along with, "I shop every day for my food, bake all my bread, can and preserve my own everything. Why can't THEY do the same?"

Bob del Grosso said...

Snobbery? Ridiculous. If I'm on the road and I'm hungry and I have to choose between eating at Outback and Olive Garden, I'll go to Outback every time because I believe the food at Outback is better than the food at Olive Garden. So I'm a snob for choosing Outback or bloody Subway or holding out until I find a pizzeria for that matter? One does not have to be a snob to dismiss something as lousy.

Tags said...

Snobbery and elitism are churned out by the elite snobs who run the corporate behemoths that sell cheap garbage presented as healthy, hearty fare. They then place these epithets between the buying public and those who would warn them.

No one is to blame, however. It's the system that propagates itself and won't be stopped until we take matters into our own hands, putting our monies where our mouths are.

ffjennie said...

I do put my money where my mouth is. I eat at two family owned Italian places - Petrillo's and Maggio's. Haven't eaten at the Olive Garden in years.

The prices have gone up at Petrillo's but that's the economy these days. The portion sizes have remained the same. The prices went up because they kept to their usual ingredients.

They do everything from scratch and you can definitely taste the difference.

The Bad Yogi said...

It's snobbery not because you dislike the food, but because of how you are talking about the people who eat there. And boy, do you folks have some holier-than-thou going on.

Also, as someone who has worked in the food service industry on and off since 1975, I can tell you with absolute certainty that most of the mom-and-pop restaurants use exactly the same ingredients as the big chains, just picked up at the local supply house instead of being delivered by Sysco semi. SO when you come on about how one should eat at the local indie restaurant, becuase it's "better" you should maybe spend a few months doing dishes and prep, and find out where those "line caught" fish come from, along with the "organic, free-range" perdue chicken.

Not to say that there aren't better tasting options FOR ME than OG, but come on, for most of the people, they are TELLING you that they like the flavor. For you folks to say that they're wrong, is pure snobbery and arrogance.

Bob del Grosso said...

Okay Yogi, so, I'm a snob when I question another person's taste or judgement, but not when I make a negative opinion of the quality of the food produced by Olive Garden. If that's your position, I doubt the technicians who make the food sold at Olive Garden would agree with the latter part of that statement and would surely judge me to be just another effete foodie snob who bakes his own bread, has spent 30 years working in restaurants, scrubbed out grease traps and maggot riddled dumpsters, raised two kids who prefer chips ahoy to homemade cookies and is happy to be able to buy them for them.
To be frank, I think that you have absolutely no idea who I am and write as if I was some sort of hipster food slut from Brooklyn who likes to brag about how many days a week he shops in the f--king farmers market. But that's not who I am at all. I'm a chef who nowadays comes home every day stinking of blood and fat and who has spent his entire adult life promoting the craft of cooking. So, it's only normal for me to disrespect a restaurant empire that peddles food that arrives in the restaurant in number 10 cans and heat and serve bags.

Finally, I'm glad that you drop in every once in a while to lob bombs, it livens things up.

Bob del Grosso said...

One more thing Yogi. I'm not sure what your operative definition of "snobbery" is, but mine holds that it refers to a negative assessment of someone by someone who bases his opinion on nothing more than superficial appearances or some other superficial characteristic such as a name, address, religion, ethnicity and so on. I could be wrong, but I did not read anything like that in my post or any of the comments that appear to have raised your ire.

Tags said...

John Coltrane is a much better sax player than Kenny G.

Not only is this snobbery, it's true.

ffjennie said...

Yogi (Bad, I might add - your addition, not mine),

I'm a culinary school graduate who has worked in restaurants and still cooks for various public & private events as a sideline of work, before I got into firefighting/ems.

Both fields of work require the same thing: a thick skin. Life, in fact, requires a thick skin. Reading your comment elicits just one reaction from me: man-the-eff-up and let people have their own points of view and enjoy the fruits of their own talents and successes. This isn't about hurt feelings - this is about levels of skill. If you or someone else hasn't achieved that, don't candycoat it by trying to equalize everything and everybody.

The Bad Yogi said...

Actually, I do have quite a good idea who you are, Bob, it's why I bother to show up.

Snobbery is thinking and acting like your assessment of another is their defining characteristic. It doesn't matter if it is about money, food , dress. It's "I'm better than you because..." That's what I'm talking about. NOT whether restaurant A serves better Italian food than B, but whether people who frequent A are "characteristic" BECAUSE they frequent A. Or listen to Kenny G. I personally don't care for Coltrane. So? Is Tags a better person? Can you dance to Coltrane?

I don't question your ability to create great food. I would (and have) eaten what you cooked. I question your assessment of people who don't agree with you about what great food is FOR THEM. And I think that many if not most of the people who comment here haven't got the clue that one of your first-year students has about how food is really made.

And as far as #10 cans go, San Marzanos come in them too. As you damn well know. But if every restaurant that claims to serve them really did, Italy would be a wall-to-wall tomato crop. Not to mention that we couldn't afford to eat there most nights. People eat at chains, not because they don't know any better, but because they like it at the price charged. Want to show them something else, that you think is a better deal, or that you think they might like? Doesn't work if you're condescending. If you read the food press like I do, and the tech and finance press as well, you'll notice a distinct similarity: " we know what's good and right for you." That's snobbery, as far as I'm concerned. It has NOTHING to do with the food.

Glad you enjoy my presence. I like to say I make everyone happy: some when I come and some when I go.

Tags said...

A snob is a person who believes their ideas are superior to others. Using words like "holier than thou" and "condescending" reveals snobbery just as surely as any others, with an added twist of assuming that the object of these epithets is actually feeling superior, let alone projecting it.
Again, the big food companies lob "snob" at those who are slowly and patiently trying to give people an alternative to the vast ocean of mediocrity out there.

Lou said...

As a word snob, I thought I'd chime in with the actual Webster's definition of "snob":
British : cobbler
: one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those regarded as social superiors
a : one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior

b : one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste

I think 3b is what we're talking about here, but I don't buy it. First, in years of reading this blog, I've never known Bob to be offensive (unless the truth offends you).

Second, it would be hard to argue that Bob is not superior to most in his knowledge about food. Whenever I've contacted him with a food or cooking question, he has been patient and helpful, and never condescending.

Finally, I'm baffled that anyone who knows Italian food (I grew up with the home-cooked variety) could argue that the Olive Garden serves good food. The fact that it's popular doesn't make it good. If it did, you could argue that Pizza Hut makes good pizza.

The Bad Yogi said...

Fist, I'm the Bad Yogi to disinguish myself from the Good Yogi. Family joke, ha ha.

Look, it's not the stuff, it's how you treat and talk about the people who do something different that defines snobbery. It's not about Pizza hut (which I despise) or Olive GArden (or Buca di Beppo, or any of the other maxi chains) but how we speak about those who choose differently. Not whether OG serves a "real" Caesar salad, but whether those who eat there and enjoy it are pitiful creatures.
Especially since, as far as the ingredients go, most restaurants use similar products. I'm assuming all of us have read Pollan, and watched the movies, and know where our food comes from.
Most people "out there" have not. And the way to help them see what we've seen is, to my mind, impeded by the attitude I'm talking about.

BTW, I have nothing against excellence, in food service or anything else. I strive for it myself. But talking here and watching the conventions and meeting the authors who simply can't figure out why Rachael Ray is 10x more popular than Thomas Keller, and ascribe it to pedestrian tastes, not acessability, makes me a little nutty. If all of us understood that the reason people make the choices they make is not for the reason WE would make those choices, we could communicate far better our positions about food.
But no-one wants to be talked down to. "What's an olive garden, anyway?" A place to grow olives, like 1/2 the backyards in tuscany. Is grove a better word? Sure, I think so. I wouldn't choose "orchard", but I don't think Bob is less worthy because he chose it. But I think ragging on people because they chose it is, at least, unproductive.

Bob del Grosso said...

I'm not sure I understand why Yogi thinks I'm a snob, however I can understand why he thinks I was condescending to the person in the video. I suppose it is silly to critcize someone for the food choices they make even when you think the food is garbage.

cook eat FRET said...

lasagna with spaghetti on the side... i had to stop there.

where do you find this stuff?

Josh said...

I'm afraid this imbroglio boils down (word play, ha ha) an argument about relativism and universalism.

Consider the well known examples of slavery, genital mutilation, etc. There are people who will excuse such behaviors when they fit "local culture."

Of course, I think most would say that these things are bads...and that they are bad universally. And then we make the normative judgement that the "local culture" is wrong and would benefit from change.

Of course, you can always debate what constitutes bads and goods (hence a few thousand years of Western liberal philosophy).

But I think the argument against olive garden from a food perspective (taste, health, environmental impact, etc) is pretty air tight. I'm quite willing to say it is universally bad and that those who frequent it are either abused (economically forced to eat there) or ignorant (of good food...hence this blog).

Bob del Grosso said...

Josh, I think I owe you a beer.

Josh said...

I will take you up on it if I'm ever in your neck of the woods. DC beers, of course, on me if you ever come down here to lobby some anti OG cause.