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Hoke

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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Hoke » Wed Dec 06, 2006 2:07 pm

Jenise wrote:And if Olive Garden is raising the bar....even by a millimeter...for wine appreciation in this country, then I'm all for it.

No argument. But isn't it fair to think that Sam's great experience has far more to do with met a particularly competent employee than it does OG's corporate policy toward selling more wine? I would assume so, by the same token that I don't presume my one poor experience proves that OG is committed to serving burned food.


Oh, sure, Jenise, I agree.

The manager that Sam encountered is a standout--and would be in any organization. But make no mistake that in part the actions of that guy were "vetted" (generally supported by) the corporate organization as good policy.

It is important that OG made a serious committment, within the scope of their context, their price points and their culture, to create a more wine-friendly internal environment. When a company, especially a bottom-line oriented company, which a mega-chain HAS to be, devotes time, money, and infrastructure to promoting employee wine focus, it means one thing: that company is recognizing that their is increased revenue available in appealling to the wine-drinking population, and they are willing to stake their profit on by establishing that identity as part of their marketing focus.

That is a pretty significant change from the past in this country. And it appears to be working (for OG anyway). It's not a novel concept for us here to think of having wine with a meal---but it is for average America, I can assure you. We live in a country where approx. 11% of the people drink about 90% of the wine, remember. (Thanks for doing more than your fair share, by the way, Jenise. :) )

Many people...many people on this particular site....bemoan the fact that we don't have a "wine culture" blahblahblah. Yet OG makes a significant step in helping to inculcate/build a wine-culture in this country (to be specific, wine as a part of a good meal) at the populist level....and they largely get sneered at by the very people that are always saying they want America to have a wine culture!

Again, I don't dine at OG. Don't like the food, and am less than whelmed by the wine, obviously. But I can still applaud what they are trying to do.
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Sam Platt

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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Sam Platt » Wed Dec 06, 2006 11:56 pm

The way I see it Olive Garden fills a niche. It's not fine dining and it's not billed as such. We do go there on occasion and the food is always quite serviceable for the price. They seem to be paying much more attention to wines lately. The OG servers now bring out a bottle of something when they greet you, and they invite you to take a taste. They also always suggest a wine to go with your dish. Now, the wines aren't 90 pointers, and most of the servers can't field even a rudimentary question about the wine, but they are up there swinginging the bat. I applaud them for their effort and I did appreciate the apparently sincere interest in the corked wine on my last visit. I wish them well and hope they are able win some coverts to our side, even if they do start them out with white zinfandel.
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Bob Ross

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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Bob Ross » Thu Dec 07, 2006 12:07 am

There is a corporate commitment to wine appreciation at Olive Garden. Take a look at their website devoted to wine here.

A couple of extracts:

Wine brings out the flavor in food and enhances the dining experience. Olive Garden offers a wide variety of wines that will complement your meal.

Curious about a wine? We're happy to pour you a sample of our wines, right at your table, so you can try the wine before you order. It’s our pleasure to make sure you’re absolutely delighted with your wine choice at Olive Garden.


***

Helpful Advice

• Get a good recommendation: Find wine recommendations that pair perfectly with every dish on our menu by accessing our Food & Wine Pairing tool.

• Find the right words: Browse our list of wine terms that describe the flavors and characteristics of wines. These terms can help you better describe the flavors and aromas that you’re looking for in a wine.

• Ask for a sample: Sample wine tableside at your local Olive Garden. Our servers can recommend a wine that pairs well with your meal and offer you a sample before purchase.


***

Here are some of the most common wine-related terms:

Acidity
The presence of natural fruit acids that lend a tart, crisp taste to wine

Aroma
Smells in wine that originate from the grape

Balanced
All components of the wine are in harmony

Barrel Fermented
White wine that is fermented in an oak barrel instead of a stainless steel tank

Body
The weight and tactile impression of the wine on the palate that ranges from light to heavy/full

Bouquet
Smells from winemaking, aging and bottle age

Clean
Wine without disagreeable aromas or tastes

Closed
Wine that needs to open up; aging and/or decanting can help

Cooked
Wine that has been exposed to excessively high temperatures; spoiled

Corked
Wine that has been tainted with moldy smells or other obvious flaws from a bad cork
Elegance
A well balanced, full wine with pleasant, distinct character

Finish
The final impression of a wine on the palate; ranges from short to long

Flabby/Flat
Lacking in acidity, mouth-feel, structure and/or texture

Lean
Wine is thin and tastes more acidic than fruity

Legs
Teardrop impressions of alcohol weightiness that are visible on the inside edges of a wine glass

Malolactic
Conversion of hard, malic acid (green apple flavors) in wine to soft, lactic acid (rich, butter flavors)

Nose
The smell of a wine; aroma

Terroir
French word reflecting the expression of soil, topography and climate in a wine

Vintage
Year that grapes were harvested and fermented to make a wine


back to top


Here are some of the most common wine-related descriptions:

Astringent
Bitter; gives a drying sensation in the mouth

Buttery
Rich, creamy flavor associated with barrel fermentation

Character
Describes distinct attributes of a wine

Chewy
Wine that has a very deep, textured and mouth-filling sensation

Complex
Layered aromas, flavors and textures

Delicate
Light, soft and fresh wine

Dry
No sugar or sweetness remaining; a fruity wine can be dry

Earthy
Flavors and aromas of mushroom, soil and mineral

Firm
Texture and structure of a young, tannic red

Fleshy
A soft textured wine

Flinty
A mineral tone, aroma or flavor

Floral
Flower aromas such as rose petals, violets, gardenia or honeysuckle

Fruity
Obvious fruit aromas and flavors; not to be confused with sweet flavors such as berries, cherries and citrus

Full-Bodied
Rich, mouth filling, weighty-textured wine

Grassy
Aromas and flavors of fresh cut grass or fresh herbs

Green
Unripe, tart flavors
Hard
Texture and structure that hinders flavor

Herbaceous
Grassy, vegetable tones and aromas

Light-Bodied
A wine with delicate flavors, texture and aromas

Lively
Young, fruity and vivacious flavor

Medium-Bodied
A wine with solid, but not rich weight and texture

Oak
Aromas and flavors contributed during barrel fermentation and/or aging such as vanilla, caramel, chocolate, smoke, spice or toast

Off-Dry (Semi-dry)
Very low levels of residual sugar remaining in the wine

Rich
Weighty flavors and texture

Round
Smooth flavors and texture; well-balanced

Smoky/Toasty
Aromas of smoke and toast imparted by fired barrels

Sweet
Wines that have a higher concentration of sugar after fermentation

Tannin
A drying, astringent sensation on the palate that is generally associated with heavier red wines

Thin
Wine is unpleasantly watery and lacks flavor and texture

Vegetal
Herbal, weedy aromas and flavors

Velvety
Wine is unpleasantly watery and lacks flavor and texture


Nothing wrong with this folks. I think I'll stop by and give them a try -- wish more US restaurants at any level had this sort of commitment.

Regards, Bob
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Jenise

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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Jenise » Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:02 pm

Bob, all I see is that they've figured out that they can make wine a profit center. Which is all good for the reasons Hoke stated, but unless they have an equal "commitment" to making sure people have a good meal, I don't know that we should care. And unfortunately, the form letter and $5 coupon I received from the corporate office in response to my letter of complaint is probably a better barometer of the corporate commitment than Sam's good experience with an exceptional employee.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Bob Ross » Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:22 pm

Valid points, Jenise. But offering a taste of the wine before taking an order is a very nice feature. Anything that broadens exposure to wine is good in my judgment.

It's a chain I have never eaten at, but it seems very successful and popular.
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Jenise » Thu Dec 07, 2006 2:04 pm

Definitely successful and popular. It was my in-laws favorite restaurant. And I understand why: it's inexpensive, the rooms are bright and cheerful, and in particular their versions of Americanized Italian food make food ordering safe and undaunting for the type of person who pronounces Italian with an 'eye'. I doubt if they'd ever gone out for Italian food before, and compared to their other plain food favorites, like Luby's Cafeteria, it was fresh and exciting. A more ethnic Italian restaurant would have been intimidating, and they wouldn't have liked the food as well.

At gunpoint, I'd certainly opt for Olive Garden over Darden's other big success, the Red Lobster. :lol:
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Sam Platt » Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:03 pm

Jenise wrote:...their versions of Americanized Italian food make food ordering safe and undaunting for the type of person who pronounces Italian with an 'eye'


Wow Jenise! I've eaten at Italian restaurants throughout Italy and I still stop by Olive Garden. Again, it fills a niche. If I'm out running around and I have a choice between the generic Burger Barn, or the OG the choice is made. There does not seem to be any pretention on their part. They play to a mass audience and they are out to turn a profit. The OG will never be confused with Spiaggi (Chicago), nor is that their intent. As Hoke pointed out the factions that have formed here are somewhat surprising to me. God forbid if anyone one on this board admits to eating at Fazoli's!
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Hoke » Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:53 pm

Hoo-wee, girl! When you're dissin' Luby's, you're messin' with Texas! You got some brass. :)

Actually, I think your description of OG is right on. So is Sam's description.

The nature of a chain restaurant, and especially one as large and widespread as OG, is to appeal to as broad a spectrum of people as possible. That means, in essence, 'rounding off' those annoying ethnic corners that don't conform to the narrow generalized taste preferences that the mass of people have.

The Isle of Capri makes for a pretty picture, and it sure sounds appealling, and Naples is picturesque and romantic, sure....but plop down a real Campanian meal...say, for instance a pizza loaded up with anchovies and black olives....and you'd have those blancmange midwesterners with their kids in tow edging for the door. Or serve an honest to god al'Arabbiata that can flame your face off, and you'd have Grandma sending that plate right back.

Same thing happens with Thai cooking. One of the best quotes I ever heard about Thai restaurants was from a guy at National Restaurant Review magazine, who said, "Thai didn't become popular in America until they changed it from tasting like real Thai food." It was too hot, too spicy, and had too many 'ucky' ingredients in it to appeal to a broad audience. So they had to tone it down.

To keep all this in perspective, I've worked with OG and Red Lobster in the past. Red Lobster did some pretty interesting trials to see what would work and what wouldn't. For instance, you'd think that adding more Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings and maybe even Gewurztraminers would make the wine list more harmonious with the seafood menu at RL?

You'd be wrong. RL tried that. They also tried Viognier. Customers wanted, and continued buying, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. And White Zinfandel, of course. They didn't know Viognier, they didn't feel comfortable saying it, and it didn't taste like Chardonnay. So the wine languished until it was replaced.

What OG customers want is exactly what Jenise and Sam described (albeit from different directions): safe, predictable, familiar, and essentially bland foods that are described as being more, but aren't. Same with the wines. OG is daring----for OG customers. If they tried to be any more daring (and they have, in limited trials), they would lose their customers. Simple as that.

The OG is not a Jenise joint. Because a lot of people simply don't want to try new things, or to pay much attention to what they are eating or drinking. They are willing to settle for the idea, not the reality. Reasonably close is good enough for them.

(But shouldn't those people be catered too?)
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Jenise » Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:23 pm

Sam, I didn't say that's the ONLY person Olive Garden appeals to, but you said it yourself in a different way: mass audience. I agreed that what they do is successful but it's not for me. I've eaten there and had one grossly incompetent meal and another that was just okay (overcooked pasta). Both were in Texas, and neither experience made me want to go back. I'm not being snobby about it (I can wax poetic over Jack in the Box tacos), it's just that overcooked food doesn't make me happy. I'm not wrong to have a problem with that, and others aren't wrong to not have a problem with it. It's just the way things are.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Rahsaan » Thu Dec 07, 2006 4:43 pm

Randy R wrote:Jenise, one of the problems with living in Paris is there's no good place to take people who "don't like foreign food". Now if we had an OG, that'd fill the bill. What am I saying, the Bistro Romain is almost a perfect clone for the OG.


By foreign you mean non-American?

But what's so exotic about basic French food? Plain meat and potatoes should appeal to even the least adventurous of palates? Or do they get thrown off by the "real" non-dayglo mustard as when my cousin would come visit in France..
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Lou Kessler » Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:36 pm

Sam Platt wrote:
Jenise wrote:...their versions of Americanized Italian food make food ordering safe and undaunting for the type of person who pronounces Italian with an 'eye'


Wow Jenise! I've eaten at Italian restaurants throughout Italy and I still stop by Olive Garden. Again, it fills a niche. If I'm out running around and I have a choice between the generic Burger Barn, or the OG the choice is made. There does not seem to be any pretention on their part. They play to a mass audience and they are out to turn a profit. The OG will never be confused with Spiaggi (Chicago), nor is that their intent. As Hoke pointed out the factions that have formed here are somewhat surprising to me. God forbid if anyone one on this board admits to eating at Fazoli's!


I would rather go home and open a can of Campbells soup than eat the food at The Olive Garden.-- KFC, Wendys, our local pizza joint edible, Olive Garden food is disgusting IMHO.
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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Rahsaan » Thu Dec 07, 2006 10:47 pm

Lou Kessler wrote:I would rather go home and open a can of Campbells soup...


I'm just surprised you actually have Campbells soup in the house.
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: Kudos to "Olive Garden"

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:47 am

Lou`s been at the food bank again!!!! Afterthought, am a big supporter of our foodie so not making fun of this terrific institution.
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