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Culinary Electroshock Treatment

Culinary Electroshock Treatment
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  • Culinary Electroshock Treatment

    Post #1 - July 14th, 2004, 12:15 am
    Post #1 - July 14th, 2004, 12:15 am Post #1 - July 14th, 2004, 12:15 am
    LTH,

    I have been in a posting slump, just have not had the urge to post, sure a response here and there, but not much new and, hopefully, interesting. It's not that I haven't been going out to dinner, in the past month or so I have been to such diverse places as Kevin's Hamburger Heaven, Trio, Jack's on Touhy, Avec, El Barco, Cafe Hoang, Tank Noodle, Chiu Quon bakery, Harmony Cafe, Jury's, La Condesa, Edgebrook Diner, Blackbird, Miami Flavors, Spoon Thai, Merlo, Nuevo Leon, The Bagel, Wholly Frijoles, 'Little' Three Happiness and Olive Garden, to name a few.

    Wait, back-up a second, did G Wiv say F'n Olive Garden?

    Yep, Olive Garden, I went there for lunch. Why in the name of Calvin Trillin would I go to Olive Garden? I felt I needed a shock, culinary electroshock treatment if you will, to snap me out of my funk. C2 finds her muse in beets, me, Olive Garden.

    The saying goes, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything, so I won't comment on my Olive Garden lunch. Though I do a have question, at what point should Italian sausage be renamed meat with soy filler and mild spice? If the percentage is 50% or above Olive Garden needs to rename Sausage and Peppers Rustica to Cooked-to-Death pasta with acidic tomato sauce, mishandled peppers and casing stuffed with pork flavored soy product filler and spice evocative of Italian sausage.

    What did I hope to accomplish, simply to reinforce the fact that there are more of them than us. What I mean, though I have a feeling I don't have to explain, is we, the food obsessed, are in the minority, like 8-gillion to one minority.

    It's not, as some have said, the search for new places, different foods, cutting edge Moto like culinary science experiment or ant eggs, it's simply the fact that I don't care to ever, never, eat dried out burgers adorned with individually wrapped cheese product, pork products doused in liq*id smo*ke laden sauce and called BBQ or gravy boosted with kitchen bouquet.

    I want the edge, to hedge my bet if you will, and LTHForum, and like minded discussion boards, give me the edge I'm looking for. Not that I haven't been this way for the last 30-years, but as has been said, I found my people.

    I've found my muse, I feel refreshed, as if I just came in from a swim in the ocean or, more likely, drank 2-oz of good tequila.

    Thanks Olive Garden.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
  • Post #2 - July 14th, 2004, 1:34 am
    Post #2 - July 14th, 2004, 1:34 am Post #2 - July 14th, 2004, 1:34 am
    GWiv,

    Reminds me of something Peter D once said about "recalibrating the palate
  • Post #3 - July 14th, 2004, 8:39 am
    Post #3 - July 14th, 2004, 8:39 am Post #3 - July 14th, 2004, 8:39 am
    I don't generally bash chains. However, Olive Garden is one place where I have never had a decent meal.

    I am not generally sensitive to acids. I use vinegar and tomato sauces frequently. However, the soups and the salad dressings are so acidic that I do not enjoy them at all.
  • Post #4 - July 14th, 2004, 8:45 am
    Post #4 - July 14th, 2004, 8:45 am Post #4 - July 14th, 2004, 8:45 am
    Admirable confession, Senor Wiv. I had a not dissimilar experience on my Traverse City trip; I reported mostly on the things that were good, and in the areas where restaurateurs there feel competition, such as whitefish or pie, the food was often very good. But many other things were very mediocre-- as I said, I never had a good burger, nor did I see a French fry (I didn't inhale, well, only a couple stolen from a child's plate) that was any better than you could make yourself with a package of frozen from Jewel. And forget any form of ethnic other than pizza. When I got back to the city, and walked past a Thai restaurant to smell the old familiar flavors, I was reminded not only why I live here but of the excellence that cutthroat competition in a city of thousands of restaurants promotes.
  • Post #5 - July 14th, 2004, 8:52 am
    Post #5 - July 14th, 2004, 8:52 am Post #5 - July 14th, 2004, 8:52 am
    I am not generally sensitive to acids. I use vinegar and tomato sauces frequently. However, the soups and the salad dressings are so acidic that I do not enjoy them at all.


    Then I guess you're not going to go for that new, all-you-can-eat soup, salad and breadsticks special they're advertising at 5 bucks, huh jlawrence?

    I think one of the most telling things about Olive Garden was their "discovery" of wine a few years back. What an obvious way to increase the bottom line with no effort whatsoever to improve the food. They maybe quadrupled the wine list, and in every commercial they always had a laughing Italian-American family (I mean actor family), each with a glass of vino, toasting in jaunty "ethnic" fashion their overjoyed paterfamilias (who apparently has gone so senile that he's been fooled into thinking he's at his childhood dinner table being served by his Grandma rather than seated in a chain restaurant being ignored by Chad, his server). That was one marketing effort so brazenly cheap and cynical that the first time I saw it, I almost barfed up an Italian Garden meal I'd eaten five years earlier.

    (By the way, what wine would you pair with 50% soy sausage?)
  • Post #6 - July 14th, 2004, 8:55 am
    Post #6 - July 14th, 2004, 8:55 am Post #6 - July 14th, 2004, 8:55 am
    G Wiv wrote:Though I do a have question, at what point should Italian sausage be renamed meat with soy filler and mild spice?

    In January 2000 the Order Sons of Italy charged HBO with defamation against Italian-Americans (http://www.osia.org/public/newsroom/pr01_07_00.asp). An Op-Ed piece in the NY Times suggested the group was accusing the wrong organizaiton of defaming Italian-Americans: they should go after The Olive Garden. OG's advertisements depicting dysfunctional Italian-American families combined with testimonials about bringing relatives from Italy to eat at The Olive Garden give a much worse image to Italian-Americans than HBO ever could. And a lot more Americans are exposed to The Olive Garden than watch The Sopranos.
  • Post #7 - July 14th, 2004, 9:09 am
    Post #7 - July 14th, 2004, 9:09 am Post #7 - July 14th, 2004, 9:09 am
    HI Gary,

    Restaurants, by necessity, need to cater to what 80% of the clientelle want when they walk in the door. We are so fringe-element in our expectations, we are a barely detectable presence in the remaining 20%.

    It is our uniqueness and big-time curiosity, which allows us to get more out of the (ethnic) dining experience than many others. We are earnestly interested in what they offer, we ask intelligent questions, we allow the cooks to boast and shine in their craft. If we were shallow and gave the impression their opinion was well-intentioned provincial, well, our experience would be considerably dimmed. Instead, we love to learn what they have to offer.

    My muse in beets? Honey, that only scratches the surface.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #8 - July 14th, 2004, 10:54 am
    Post #8 - July 14th, 2004, 10:54 am Post #8 - July 14th, 2004, 10:54 am
    I think one of the most telling things about Olive Garden was their "discovery" of wine a few years back. What an obvious way to increase the bottom line with no effort whatsoever to improve the food.

    I had lunch at an Olive Garden in Rockford recently for all the reasons we ever eat in a place like Olive Garden. I was in Rockford. I was visiting an old friend. It was convenient to her job. It was quiet enough for conversation. It was where she wanted to go. We were fine with the soup and salad and breadsticks. But the waiter kept asking us if we wanted wine, bringing a bottle to the table and offering to pour. We said no at the first offer but he kept coming back. On about the third trip he whispered apologetically that he knew we didn't want wine but his manager was watching and the rule was that they had to offer it at least three times.
    Which reminds me that my mother was for a while, god help us, a secret tester for Red Lobster. She really earned her $35, starting, of course, with the fact that she had to eat at Red Lobster. The questionaire was at least eight pages long and the rule was that she couldn't bring it into the restaurant so it required pretty obsessive review before hand and quick recording afterwards. Nowhere in the eight pages did it ask a single question about the quality of the food. It was all about cleanliness of the bathrooms, the warmth of the hostess' greeting, and, in excruciating detail, about whether, and by whom, with what detail, and how early the various "specials" (drinks, appetizers, desserts, etc) were touted to us.
  • Post #9 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am
    Post #9 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am Post #9 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am
    HI,

    To keep the Moms happy, I will occasionally accompany them to dinner at Olive Garden. Lately, it is the all-you-can-eat soup and salad, dressing on the side please. I'm there for their company rather than my personal satisfaction.

    Once we had an aggressive waitress who seemed agenda driven at an Olive Garden. She came with the wine, which we immediately declined. She then inquired what else we want to drink. The Moms ordered their standard ice tea. I ordered "Lake Michigan on Ice," my favorite way to get local tap water over bottled water. "No you don't!" the waitress sharply stated. "Oh, yes I do!" "It's bad for you. All those chemicals! It is not fit for human consumption!" "Lake Michigan on Ice or we leave!" It was the last time we saw our waitress. Another waiter took our order. A third waiter serviced the table. Clearly there was skuttlebutt going on in the back-house about our table. Eventually the manager found his way to our table. From his body language, women are sensitive to this, it was clear he was coming to deal with a problem customer. He clearly had to reconsider his posture when he found 3 women chatting amicably amongst themselves; who were surprised to have his attention.

    To this day, I still wonder how that waitress characterized us.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #10 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am
    Post #10 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am Post #10 - July 14th, 2004, 11:09 am
    Back in the "old" days when I was auditing, I was always being dragged to the Olive Garden. I worked with one team who did the "soup, salad, and breadstick" routine EVERYDAY. After doing that on back-to-back days, I stopped at the grocery the day before and bought lunch.

    I am not hard to please or one to make a fuss. I just plain do NOT like either of the two soups or the salad dressing due to the acidic taste. I do like the minestrone at other places though.

    In 1986-87, I did the secret shopper deal for Old Country Buffet. I didn't mind the ten page form that I had to fill out although it was a real bitch to remember the names of all the employees that I ran into. What I did object to were the 40 minute follow-up calls to a report that took me two hours to complete. Free food ... not.
  • Post #11 - July 14th, 2004, 12:47 pm
    Post #11 - July 14th, 2004, 12:47 pm Post #11 - July 14th, 2004, 12:47 pm
    OLIVE GARDEN:
    When You're Here, You Feel Like You're Facing Imminent Death:
    Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup --and plate-- from me...


    *****

    Perhaps I shouldn't chime in here since I have never eaten in an Olive Garden, but I can't restrain myself. And before I start frothing at the mouth, let me say that I understand and appreciate GWiv's reason to visit OG; I also applaud his willingness to make such a sacrifice for the sake of others.

    *****

    Unlike some, I share no 'populist' streak that inclines me to feel anything but contempt for large corporate chains. They are bad for everyone, including ultimately the short-sighted owners, officers and investors who gain financial profit from them, for they are bad for society as a whole. Bad for labour. Bad for independent farmers. Bad for the health of consumers. Bad for culture. Bad in almost all conceivable ways.

    *****

    As an Italian, I find Olive Garden and the stereotyped Italianoids of the advertisements offensive. The only good that can be said of those ads is that they at least don't sink to the level of invoking images of mobsters, which is without doubt the most outrageously prejudicial stereotype encountered in mainstream culture that any ethnic group in these United States must suffer with virtually no recourse.

    Surely, one day, when Olive Garden's profits sag for two consecutive quarters, rest assured, they will resort to the mafia-tactic in their ads... just a matter of time...

    *****

    One wonders whether the people who write those ads have sarcastic smirks on their mugs when they come up with lines such as "When you're here, you're family" for a business that is the antithesis of all things related to the notion of family.

    *****

    Who is that doddering old woman, allegedly a Tuscan chef, who appears on their ads announcing a contest... winners of the contest get to go to Tuscany (must be the name of a town somewhere in Middle America)... there you get to learn how to prepare the classic dishes that Olive Garden serves up... paste with white goo, paste with red goo... or is that rag-goo?...

    *****

    And what in God's name is "chicken scampi"? ... a lost amphibious link between birds and crustaceans? flying shrimp? corporate nonsense?

    *****

    That such horrible institutions not only exist but thrive and spread like cultural and culinary cancers is not surprising: In matters aesthetic, most people are barbarians... But that doesn't mean they don't deserve better than to be treated as dupes by these anti-capitalist, monopolistic robber-barons, who subvert democracy with their bribes...

    *****

    Gary: Thank you for revving my motor. I have a hockey game tonight and I was in far too good a mood. Mention of Olive Garden has relit the fire under me, given me the edge to be ready to play with the proper 'Christian' spirit: I shall give more than I receive.

    I feel better now... but with an edge...

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #12 - July 14th, 2004, 12:58 pm
    Post #12 - July 14th, 2004, 12:58 pm Post #12 - July 14th, 2004, 12:58 pm
    Antonius,

    In sofar as your post concerns the proliferation of corporate/"chain" dining establishments, do yourself a favour and read Jeffrey Steingarten's latest column in this month's Vogue Magazine. It is a real eye-opener.

    Regards,
    Erik M.
  • Post #13 - July 14th, 2004, 1:58 pm
    Post #13 - July 14th, 2004, 1:58 pm Post #13 - July 14th, 2004, 1:58 pm
    I had to go to the Bolingbrook Olive Garden last week. (Girls' night out and someone else's turn to pick). I don't think "the picker" will ever eat here again after our experience. First, we were told as we approached the bar not to sit in front of the bottles. A hard command to follow because the bar is lined with bottles. The woman told us where to sit. The bar was totally empty, and out of 20+ chairs, there were only 3 that met her criteria. She said it is too hard to serve customers over all the bottles. No ""Hi, what can I get you." Things got worse at our table. A short-tempered woman who didn't enjoy her work brought us 1 menu for three of us. When it was time for salad, one friend wanted no dressing and I asked for no onions. She brought the salad with one small container of dressing. She held the large bowl in front of one friend and told her to pick the onions off because I didn't like them. I told her to please just set the bowl down and not to worry about the onions. My other friend had hoped her salad would be tossed with the dressing, but she was resigned to sharing with me. A manager started to walk toward our table. I asked my friends if they wanted me to share the truth about our experience or to be nice. Before we could answer ourselves, he bypassed our table all together and was never seen again. I could go on with the meal but suffice it to say the service was even worse than the food. After dinner, we headed back to the bar to finish our conversations without bothering our waitress or letting her bother us. As we walked in and told the host we were headed back to the bar, he asked "are you finished or almost finished?" Not sure what he meant, but we sat for one hour and not one person approached our table (we stayed clear of the bottles) to see if we needed anything. A couple staff members were standing at the bar talking for about 10 minutes. Finally, I got up and asked for a glass of water. I would have ordered something, but by this time I didn't want to give this place another cent. My girlfriends are great and we could have a good time anywhere, but this was pathetic.
  • Post #14 - July 14th, 2004, 2:28 pm
    Post #14 - July 14th, 2004, 2:28 pm Post #14 - July 14th, 2004, 2:28 pm
    Erik M. wrote:Antonius,

    In sofar as your post concerns the proliferation of corporate/"chain" dining establishments, do yourself a favour and read Jeffrey Steingarten's latest column in this month's Vogue Magazine. It is a real eye-opener.

    Regards,
    Erik M.


    Is the steingarten article available online anywhere?

    My wife's father had a plate of pasta dropped upside down on his head at an Olive Garden once. We haven't been back. This was several years ago.

    keep eating,
    J. Ro
  • Post #15 - July 14th, 2004, 3:00 pm
    Post #15 - July 14th, 2004, 3:00 pm Post #15 - July 14th, 2004, 3:00 pm
    J. Ro wrote:Is the steingarten article available online anywhere?

    My wife's father had a plate of pasta dropped upside down on his head at an Olive Garden once. We haven't been back. This was several years ago.

    keep eating,
    J. Ro


    I don't believe so. I tend to read his Vogue food column while at the newsstand, or while at one of the branches of the Chicago Public Library.

    Erik M.
  • Post #16 - July 14th, 2004, 5:16 pm
    Post #16 - July 14th, 2004, 5:16 pm Post #16 - July 14th, 2004, 5:16 pm
    Antonius wrote:[b]As an Italian, I find Olive Garden and the stereotyped Italianoids of the advertisements offensive. The only good that can be said of those ads is that they at least don't sink to the level of invoking images of mobsters,A


    Oh man, Antonious, I'm shaking with giggles. What a hilarious riff! Especially the "chicken scampi" speculation. And "italianoids" -- just great.

    Incidentally, my take on the "when you're here, you're family" tag is that it's an allusion to the mob, but maybe I'm oversensitive.

    Funny stuff (I also like the way you broke your comments into screen-friendly bits, kind of like Nietzsche's spontaneous squirts of philosophic insight/social commentary in Beyond Good and Evil)

    I'm loving it
  • Post #17 - July 15th, 2004, 2:36 pm
    Post #17 - July 15th, 2004, 2:36 pm Post #17 - July 15th, 2004, 2:36 pm
    I read the Steingarten article. (He's the main reason I buy Vogue.) I had a little trouble telling what he thought about some things. For instance, he went by a Bahama Breeze and I don't think he ate anything there, but he said, "I love this place!" His comments about the menu were not terribly derogatory, that I remember-- more or less, that is was kind of generic but with a few authentic touches like the Cuban sandwich. So, did he mean he actually liked the place?

    I ate at a Bahama Breeze recently and the food was not too bad. There was a spicy jerk shrimp dish and a seared ahi steak that was almost as raw as I like it-- which I normally can't get in restaurants that don't specialize in raw seafood. It was a decent piece of tuna, too. There were a couple of weird sauces on the plate, though. My main problem was one that I often have with chains-- the service was spotty. It was too friendly for me, but also there were too many people waiting on us and there was no timing at all. Entrees came together-- which I suppose is a start-- but they came about 5 minutes after the appetizer. We were not neglected, however, and there was no effort to push drinks or upsell us.
  • Post #18 - July 15th, 2004, 2:51 pm
    Post #18 - July 15th, 2004, 2:51 pm Post #18 - July 15th, 2004, 2:51 pm
    And what in God's name is "chicken scampi"? ... a lost amphibious link between birds and crustaceans? flying shrimp? corporate nonsense?


    Oh yeah, that's good.
    MAG
    www.monogrammeevents.com

    "I've never met a pork product I didn't like."
  • Post #19 - July 16th, 2004, 7:38 am
    Post #19 - July 16th, 2004, 7:38 am Post #19 - July 16th, 2004, 7:38 am
    MAG wrote:
    And what in God's name is "chicken scampi"? ... a lost amphibious link between birds and crustaceans? flying shrimp? corporate nonsense?


    Oh yeah, that's good.

    Melissa,

    Here's another for the file. :)

    My nephew, who is the chef at Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston, came up with an interesting, and delicious, dish a few years ago, Chicken Marsuvio, which I can't help but refer to as Marsupial. :lol:

    Marsuvio is a cross between Chicken Marsala and Vesuvio and works very well. Chef Paul also does Marsuvio with a chicken/scallop combo, another unlikely paring, though quite good.

    For those not familiar with Dave's, it's an Italian/American family and college student oriented restaurant in Evanston. Reasonable prices, good, and reasonable as well, wine list and very good pizza. I also enjoy the grilled lamb chops, marinated, then quickly grilled, salmon and, of course, the Marsupial.

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Dave's Italian Kitchen
    1635 Chicago Ave
    Evanston, IL 60201
    847-864-6000
    Last edited by G Wiv on July 16th, 2004, 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #20 - July 16th, 2004, 8:11 am
    Post #20 - July 16th, 2004, 8:11 am Post #20 - July 16th, 2004, 8:11 am
    Apropos of not much, when I was a toddler there was this stuff that came in a can called Beans & Ground Beef. But to me, it was and will always be Green Brown Beast, and that's still one of my standard answers when I'm standing in the kitchen, plainly preparing chicken, and one of the kids (or my wife) asks what's for dinner. (The others, of course, are "eyeball tacos" and "fried rat in spider sauce.")
  • Post #21 - July 16th, 2004, 9:45 am
    Post #21 - July 16th, 2004, 9:45 am Post #21 - July 16th, 2004, 9:45 am
    Hi -

    Gary please tell Chef Paul that we LOVE Dave's food! The new Bolognese sauce is quite tasty.

    We do takeout about once a week, and often bring friends there. I really appreciate that they are happy to substitute items without an upcharge (I regularly ask them to sub spinach instead of mozarella on the calzone). And he should put the "by request garlic sauteed spinach" on the menu ;)

    Suck-up-ing-Lee
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #22 - July 18th, 2004, 12:34 pm
    Post #22 - July 18th, 2004, 12:34 pm Post #22 - July 18th, 2004, 12:34 pm
    G Wiv wrote:For those not familiar with Dave's, it's an Italian/American family and college student oriented restaurant in Evanston.


    Dave's Italian is the real thing that so many of the Italianate chains try to emulate, with more or less success.

    I like Maggiano's pretty well. Buca di Beppo I can tolerate, if the group I'm with has sympathetic tastes. If forced to go to Olive Garden, the "soup, salad and breadstick" option is at least sustaining and edible. The new Romano's Macaroni Grill in Skokie is an attractive looking place that served me the worst Italian meal I've ever had in my life, including almost unchewable calamari and steak. It made me consider selling our stock in Brinker International.

    Brinker seems to do a decent job with the concepts it bought from Lettuce Entertain You (Maggiano's, Corner Bakery and Big Bowl) -- which was what inspired us to buy stock in the first place. Chili's is OK for a fern bar. But the Romano's and On the Border are pretty dreadful. I haven't tried a Rockfish.

    G Wiv wrote:What did I hope to accomplish, simply to reinforce the fact that there are more of them than us. What I mean, though I have a feeling I don't have to explain, is we, the food obsessed, are in the minority, like 8-gillion to one minority.


    It's easy, for those of us to live in Chicago to disdain chains -- we have so many more options. If you live somewhere like Bloomington, Ill., though, chains pretty much make up the bulk of your choices. You eat there or you eat at home.

    Those of us who, for one reason or another, find we must eat in what -- borrowing a term from another hobby -- I will call "mundane" restaurants, do well to develop protective habits towards ordering. When dining somewhere dubious, look not for the unusual, the challenging, the intriguing, but for the safe and hard to screw up. Sausage and Peppers Rustica was a very daring choice.

    Years ago, when my husband began a job in which he traveled a large percentage of the time, an old hand advised him that the New York strip steak was the "traveler's friend." Almost any place can cook an edible one.
  • Post #23 - July 18th, 2004, 1:37 pm
    Post #23 - July 18th, 2004, 1:37 pm Post #23 - July 18th, 2004, 1:37 pm
    Well, although I defended Macaroni Grill (not surprised they would botch something that requires more skill and experience to not screw up, like calamari, though), I will agree that Brinker's record is none too great and that On The Border is extraordinarily lousy "Mexican" food. I ate there once with some friends because there was no other apparent choice at 8:45 pm on Christmas Eve and almost immediately wished I had remembered that there's always Denny's. Hell, I'd have eaten the Nacho Cheez-N-Chili Pancakes at Denny's over that kkkkrepppp.

    To return to Olive Garden, I remember reading something where Red Lobster saw their big marketing problems as being 1) fish cost too much-- a $12.95 entree had a cost to them that actually represented a good chunk of that $12.95-- and 2) the people who came to eat fish were, for whatever reason, cheapskates when it came to making liquor sales, Red Lobster's proportion of liquor sales to food was practically an industry low. They decided to go into Italian food because a $12.95 plate of pasta could be made for a fraction of what wholesale fish cost and because the concept lent itself to pushing cheap wine effectively. Needless to say, as Marie Dressler said to Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight, "goodness had nothing to do with it."
  • Post #24 - July 19th, 2004, 1:05 pm
    Post #24 - July 19th, 2004, 1:05 pm Post #24 - July 19th, 2004, 1:05 pm
    Benvenuti al Ristorante "Il Trogolo"

    Let us not think for a moment that the fact that the only dining options in a place such as Bloomington, IL* -- or any other Middle American sort of a place -- are for the most part only nasty chain restaurants is coincidental. The chains and the broader American public have grown up together and feed off of one another. On the one hand, we start with a country, vast swathes of which have given up any tradition of local cuisine they once enjoyed and now have an essentially child-like approach to food: sweet, salty, more cheese, more meat, and then put some cheese on top of that. Then, on the other hand, we have had over the past four or five decades the rise of the chains, who shrewdly cultivate and exploit this (lack of) culinary tradition and taste, reinforce it, and package their tarted-up offerings in ways that trick the poor sods into thinking they're eating something other than the sweet and/or salty, cheesy glop and goo that the corporate salesmen have presented them under various guises (all the while catering in studied-marketing fashion to the lowest common denominator and, in so doing, destroying to as great a degree as possible all vestiges of the local, the authentic and the good).

    And all this corporate largesse (en Anglais: large-ass) generates enormous profit for some, profit based crucially on unfair competitive practices, skimping in various ways on labour and, most importantly, the savings accrued through the use of third or fourth rate ingredients.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #25 - July 19th, 2004, 1:42 pm
    Post #25 - July 19th, 2004, 1:42 pm Post #25 - July 19th, 2004, 1:42 pm
    You touch on one of my other betes noir about chain food-- all the sugar!

    I think McDonald's started this-- I finally understood McDonald's overwhelming appeal to the kiddies when someone pointed out to me how sweet everything is. The ketchup is sweeter, mustard and pickles are milder, fries are sprayed with sugar water to caramelize to that lovely brown. Even compared to salty Wendy's, say, it's notably sweeter, nothing to offend a 5-year-old palate. It really is burger candy.

    The same thing is at work at more upscale chains like Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Chang's or whoever. They dump a lot of sugar in their dishes. Not that Thai or Chinese restaurants don't too, but sometimes the chains take all the other flavors out-- I once had a "Thai coconut shrimp" dish at Big Bowl that was completely devoid of any fish sauce or garlic flavor or anything else that might scare the horses; with only lime and coconut, it tasted like a shrimp colada or shrimp Pez more than anything resembling Thai food. Literally too sweet to stomach.

    Of course, they didn't invent the idea of loading dishes up with sugar-- most Italian-American spaghetti sauces are way too sweet, go try Calo's authentically 50s Ital-Am for instance-- but they're sure making it their own. As much as anything, for me eating ethnic food is an attempt to avoid this candification of everything I eat.
  • Post #26 - July 19th, 2004, 5:14 pm
    Post #26 - July 19th, 2004, 5:14 pm Post #26 - July 19th, 2004, 5:14 pm
    (he said sarcastically), what about the O.G. in Tuscanny that they talk about all the time. Doesn't that make a diference?

    My wife loves the salad - we go there occaisionally. We eat salad, she has soup. It's forgettable. It's certainlly not as good as Tuscanny (more sarcasm).
  • Post #27 - July 19th, 2004, 10:58 pm
    Post #27 - July 19th, 2004, 10:58 pm Post #27 - July 19th, 2004, 10:58 pm
    Antonius wrote: The chains and the broader American public have grown up together and feed off of one another. On the one hand, we start with a country, vast swathes of which have given up any tradition of local cuisine they once enjoyed


    Idealistic, I am sure, but the world I grew up in - a midwestern suburban world with brief ventures into the country - generally offered food in coffee shops, chop suey joints, steakhouses, italian restaurants, or those crazy, upscale, Continental places, that rarely made it to the level of a Maggiano's. Sure, there were always places with decent food, but not much around here, and mostly in the big cities.

    I find I can eat a decent meal in Maggiano's. I suspect it is possible to eat okay at Buca di Beppo, though my one meal did not exactly prove that. The only thing I can eat at Olive Garden is soup and salad - everyting else I ever tried was lousy, and I am glad to say I have not been in 10 years. Macaroni Grill is more expensive and much worse than Olive Garden and I will avoid that place.

    But in some ways these places do represent a positive step from the food that used to be the norm in a lot of midwestern locales, in my experience anyway. Perhaps we can view Olive Garden as a gateway drug which often leads to "using" real Italian food? This is my hope.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #28 - July 20th, 2004, 9:07 am
    Post #28 - July 20th, 2004, 9:07 am Post #28 - July 20th, 2004, 9:07 am
    Needless to say, as Marie Dressler said to Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight, "goodness had nothing to do with it."

    Sorry, that's a Mae West quote. The Dinner at Eight scene goes something like this. Harlow: "I was reading a book the other day (double-take Dressler) about people being replaced by robots." Dressler: "That's something you'll never have to worry about, my dear." That's not exact, but I think it's close.
  • Post #29 - July 20th, 2004, 10:09 am
    Post #29 - July 20th, 2004, 10:09 am Post #29 - July 20th, 2004, 10:09 am
    Damn, outsmarted myself again. I initially typed Mae West, then said to myself, "That's who everyone THINKS said it, but it was actually..."

    Oh well. Judy, judy, judy.
  • Post #30 - July 20th, 2004, 4:26 pm
    Post #30 - July 20th, 2004, 4:26 pm Post #30 - July 20th, 2004, 4:26 pm
    Concerning the genuinely depraved Olive Garden, there are some interesting points made in the following site:

    Behind the Green Door

    One third of the Italian restaurants in this country are, it has been claimed, Olive Gardens. How many independent places -- good, bad or somewhere in between -- have gone under because of business lost to the chain? For whom is this development good beyond the Darden Corporation's masters?

    That's surely enough from me on that...

    Ciao,

    Antonius

    * This post has been reduced greatly in volume by the author.
    Last edited by Antonius on July 20th, 2004, 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.

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