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Jenise

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Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:41 pm

Last Tuesday. Bellingham, Washington. Olive Garden.

And yet there was a line waiting to get in. I really and truly don't get it.
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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Mike Bowlin

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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Mike Bowlin » Sun Feb 17, 2013 3:56 pm

The draw at Olive Garden is not the fake italian food ! It is the bottomless bowls of their brand of italian cooking. If given a choice I always pass
on the garden. The other reason is the place is kid-friendly or large family friendly.
I went to the Skillet this morning when they opened and still waited in line. Only 32 seats in the entire place. I had the enjoyment of watching the
single cook take care of all those seats serving piping hot, full plate, comfort breakfast food. It was a pleasure just to see that everyone had a good meal served hot and fast. The menu is interesting with many full skillet type breakfast items, hash, sausage, biscuits w/gravy, mex skillet, pancakes et al.
For a breakfast place for locals it is perfect. Nothing fancy just hot food and good coffee. No Blackberrys, cell phones or Ipads in sight. :D :D
Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Worst eggplant Parmesan EVER

by Karen/NoCA » Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:03 pm

Our Olive Garden is the same way Jenise...all the time, people waiting to get in. I do not frequent the place but my husband has a friend who is very elderly and loves to go there. The staff treats you like a friend. This old guy gets one meatball and lots of marinara. Gene orders the family style salad and they split it. When he is really feeling good, he gets TWO meatballs, and the staff always asks, "one or two, today?"

Frankly, I believe this is a "I don't cook much at home" crowd. And here it is also big with the tourists. Prices are reasonable, you get in and out fast, if need be. It is great for families. People love their cheese biscuits, their salad is always fresh and very cold. They are always willing to please. You get a belly full and go on your way. I used to go there with co-workers and the food was not bad......certainly not excellent, but OK. I think that is what most folks want, some cannot tell the difference. Now the foodies, that is a different story! Actually, the only thing I ever ordered there was their soup and the salad. Always good.
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:28 pm

Mike Bowlin wrote:The draw at Olive Garden is not the fake italian food ! It is the bottomless bowls of their brand of italian cooking. If given a choice I always pass
on the garden. The other reason is the place is kid-friendly or large family friendly.
I went to the Skillet this morning when they opened and still waited in line. Only 32 seats in the entire place. I had the enjoyment of watching the
single cook take care of all those seats serving piping hot, full plate, comfort breakfast food. It was a pleasure just to see that everyone had a good meal served hot and fast. The menu is interesting with many full skillet type breakfast items, hash, sausage, biscuits w/gravy, mex skillet, pancakes et al.
For a breakfast place for locals it is perfect. Nothing fancy just hot food and good coffee. No Blackberrys, cell phones or Ipads in sight. :D :D


Mike, glad you liked it, glad I remembered it! We've been meaning to go back, and in fact have tried but we seem to hit it on their days off. And we definitely have wanted to go for breakfast. Not surprised at the line--he's been slammed like that since the day he opened about six months or so ago. As I told you, it's greasy spoon but in the best possible way. The single cook you noted is also the owner. His name is something strange, like Kirby but without the 'i'.
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: Worst eggplant Parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:41 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Our Olive Garden is the same way Jenise...all the time, people waiting to get in.


It wasn't my choice, you know that I'd never go there voluntarily. This was with a bunch of older ladies, most widowed or no longer cooking much at home. The eggplant was awful--the slices so thin they were all breading and fried flavor, no actual eggplant noticeable. And the salad? Not fresh. Crisp, yes, because they were so cold, but the ingredients had been cut up days before, and most likely in a place far far away. The dressing is bottled, and tastes it. I ate it because it's better than not eating salad, but it was not a good salad.

The last time we went was on something of a dare from someone here on WLDG who likes their food, especially when he's on the road for business. Since my damnation was all based on Olive Garden food elsewhere, I agreed to give the local one a try. When we were seated, I mentioned to the waitress that my mission was to be proved wrong about Olive Garden, and she promised she would ensure we had the best possible experience. Bob ordered a shrimp pasta, I ordered one of the specials, something formed like a tortellini or ravioli, I don't remember now, with short ribs. My dish was surprisingly good. Bob's pasta, however, a simple spaghetti type strand, was ridiculously overcooked. The waitress defended herself by showing us the receipt on which she had written AL DENTE in huge letters, but the kitchen just ignored it. So we shared my beef dish while waiting for the shrimp dish to get remade, and then we shared that. And even made to order, it wasn't al dente, let alone almost tasteless in and of itself after the big beefy dish. By way of apology they offered a free dessert, and when we declined because we don't eat desserts, that was that. No comp for the bad food or the elongated evening, just "come back again and I'm sure it will be better". No thanks. I'll probably end up there again with my 'granny group', as I call these dear ladies, but there's no chance in hell I'd ever choose it.
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: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Mike Bowlin » Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:42 pm

Jenise wrote:
Mike Bowlin wrote:The draw at Olive Garden is not the fake italian food ! It is the bottomless bowls of their brand of italian cooking. If given a choice I always pass
on the garden. The other reason is the place is kid-friendly or large family friendly.
I went to the Skillet this morning when they opened and still waited in line. Only 32 seats in the entire place. I had the enjoyment of watching the
single cook take care of all those seats serving piping hot, full plate, comfort breakfast food. It was a pleasure just to see that everyone had a good meal served hot and fast. The menu is interesting with many full skillet type breakfast items, hash, sausage, biscuits w/gravy, mex skillet, pancakes et al.
For a breakfast place for locals it is perfect. Nothing fancy just hot food and good coffee. No Blackberrys, cell phones or Ipads in sight. :D :D


Mike, glad you liked it, glad I remembered it! We've been meaning to go back, and in fact have tried but we seem to hit it on their days off. And we definitely have wanted to go for breakfast. Not surprised at the line--he's been slammed like that since the day he opened about six months or so ago. As I told you, it's greasy spoon but in the best possible way. The single cook you noted is also the owner. His name is something strange, like Kirby but without the 'i'.

Closed mondays but open Sunday at 0800. One day we should hook up there for breakfast. I took half my food home. I like to find these small interesting finds that are not close to cookie cutter, chain restaurants. The Sisters in Bham is similiar in that their food is unique and based on what they can find at the co-op and their mood. Fun place.
Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Fred Sipe » Sun Feb 17, 2013 4:46 pm

I must admit I used to love the Olive Garden for lunch. There and back in an hour.

Always the same. Zuppo Tuscana, salad & breadsticks, glass of wine.

Never gave it a thought as a destination for dinner though.

Still make a copycat recipe of the soup at home.
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Sun Feb 17, 2013 6:38 pm

Mike Bowlin wrote:
Jenise wrote:
Mike Bowlin wrote:The draw at Olive Garden is not the fake italian food ! It is the bottomless bowls of their brand of italian cooking. If given a choice I always pass
on the garden. The other reason is the place is kid-friendly or large family friendly.
I went to the Skillet this morning when they opened and still waited in line. Only 32 seats in the entire place. I had the enjoyment of watching the
single cook take care of all those seats serving piping hot, full plate, comfort breakfast food. It was a pleasure just to see that everyone had a good meal served hot and fast. The menu is interesting with many full skillet type breakfast items, hash, sausage, biscuits w/gravy, mex skillet, pancakes et al.
For a breakfast place for locals it is perfect. Nothing fancy just hot food and good coffee. No Blackberrys, cell phones or Ipads in sight. :D :D


Mike, glad you liked it, glad I remembered it! We've been meaning to go back, and in fact have tried but we seem to hit it on their days off. And we definitely have wanted to go for breakfast. Not surprised at the line--he's been slammed like that since the day he opened about six months or so ago. As I told you, it's greasy spoon but in the best possible way. The single cook you noted is also the owner. His name is something strange, like Kirby but without the 'i'.

Closed mondays but open Sunday at 0800. One day we should hook up there for breakfast. I took half my food home. I like to find these small interesting finds that are not close to cookie cutter, chain restaurants. The Sisters in Bham is similiar in that their food is unique and based on what they can find at the co-op and their mood. Fun place.


Would love to hook up with you sometime. In fact, now that you've resurfaced I have definite plans to invite you over if nothing else, but we're going through kitty cat hell right now (Tammy Faye started chemo yesterday) and trying to fit in a trip that we may have to cancel and I have no idea where I'll be when. Have you discovered the State St Deli yet?
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: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Carl Eppig » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:51 pm

Jenise, if you really love eggplant parm you need to go to an old Italian American town like Utica, NY, There they have at least three restaurants that strive to outdo each, and probably as many as six!
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:57 pm

I travel for work, often to the small cities and backwater towns where big corporations move their IT staff. Places like Olive Garden are dinners of last resort.
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:26 pm

Carl Eppig wrote:Jenise, if you really love eggplant parm you need to go to an old Italian American town like Utica, NY, There they have at least three restaurants that strive to outdo each, and probably as many as six!


Love those kinds of places! It was just such a place that served me the first eggplant parm I ever had when I was about 19. Eggplant had never shown up at home--so this was new and I was totally in love with it. Didn't expect Olive Garden to even come close, but I did order it thinking it was relatively hard to screw up. Boy, was I wrong.
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: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Mike Bowlin » Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:45 am

Would love to hook up with you sometime. In fact, now that you've resurfaced I have definite plans to invite you over if nothing else, but we're going through kitty cat hell right now (Tammy Faye started chemo yesterday) and trying to fit in a trip that we may have to cancel and I have no idea where I'll be when. Have you discovered the State St Deli yet?

Found the deli online. plan to visit week after Oscars, thanks.
Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:39 am

You'll like it. Christo, the young owner, and his wife have a great vision. They use the best quality ingredients, everything possible is house-made and they are planning to do some of their own charcuterie eventually. But for now it's the only place in Bham you can get Armandino Batali's salumi, for instance, though you have asource closer to you in Bow Edison. Christo's also big into wine, and has a good selection available by the bottle for a nominal corkage fee. He's a Rhone fan, so the wine's are kind of centered thus. Last time I was in there he had magnums of Vieux Donjon--now where else does that happen. I am unadventurous there because I can't get enough of the Reuben so I order it every time. Sometimes you might find Bham's most famous resident eating there, as I have: Ryan Stiles.

He does wine nights that I've never managed to be able to go to when they're on, but would like to. Maybe we'll meet up there.
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: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Mike Bowlin » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:23 pm

Jenise wrote:You'll like it. Christo, the young owner, and his wife have a great vision. They use the best quality ingredients, everything possible is house-made and they are planning to do some of their own charcuterie eventually. But for now it's the only place in Bham you can get Armandino Batali's salumi, for instance, though you have asource closer to you in Bow Edison. Christo's also big into wine, and has a good selection available by the bottle for a nominal corkage fee. He's a Rhone fan, so the wine's are kind of centered thus. Last time I was in there he had magnums of Vieux Donjon--now where else does that happen. I am unadventurous there because I can't get enough of the Reuben so I order it every time. Sometimes you might find Bham's most famous resident eating there, as I have: Ryan Stiles.

He does wine nights that I've never managed to be able to go to when they're on, but would like to. Maybe we'll meet up there.

Changed my mind. On my way now. Looks too interesting to wait.
Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Jenise » Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:37 pm

Bellingham seems to only do well at the moderate level, and even then we don't have all that many options. But State Street is definitely one of the best, and it's idiosyncratic to boot which apparently we both love.

About the only new place I have to share with you is Ciao Thyme, a local caterer who puts on periodic events (there's no regular schedule) and who has recently opened a cafe for lunch. It's on Unity Street, downtown. Owner/chef Mataio Gillis and his bubbly pixie of a wife and partner Jessica are resourceful and their restaurant is a completely unique locavore experience. The room is gorgeous, seating is community style, and as interesting as the food might be, the company of the other guests is often better. Wine pairings generally suck, to my tastes, since I don't think Mataio has a very refined palate or is good at matching (Terra Bianca Sauvignon Blanc? Ugh), but corkage works and you can pick up anything that interests you by the glass. We usually take our own. We've learned that corkage is a per-bottle deal regardless of size so we've been known to take magnums so we can share with those around us. Last time we took a Lapierre Morgon--it's not bad getting seated near us. It's not cheap, but it's more an evening of foodie entertainment than just a meal per se. And lunch is great.
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Mike Bowlin » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:02 pm

Jenise wrote:Bellingham seems to only do well at the moderate level, and even then we don't have all that many options. But State Street is definitely one of the best, and it's idiosyncratic to boot which apparently we both love.

It's not cheap, but it's more an evening of foodie entertainment than just a meal per se. And lunch is great.


Two areas of comment for you. a)Bham has some new interesting places that I only find by other folks letting this foodie know about it (i.e. Barleans and now Old World Deli) thank you !. b) foodie conversation over dinner/wine:A few years back (I'am fudging) we were in a foursome at a now de-funk Italian place in Anacortes. It was pretty good handmade food. We sat, drank, and chatted about food, recipes, future attempts, wine et al. About 3 hours into the evening a women from a neighboring table came over and said this one of the most interesting evenings she had ever had in a restaurant by listening to us foodies for hours chatting about our favorite topics. That pleased me ! Food, wine, travel, eclectic world music is fodder for a fun conversation anytime day or night.

P.S. old world deli - Tartufo cheese, guanciale, Batali signature, and some chowdah !! :D :D
Last edited by Mike Bowlin on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Thanks,
Mike
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Re: Worst eggplant parmesan EVER

by Carrie L. » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:13 pm

They opened one near our house in North Carolina and the minute they opened their doors for business the place was jammed every single night. We knew this because we'd pass it on our way to Bonefish or other semi-decent restaurants. (The area was NOT a food mecca to be sure.) Anyway, soon after we saw an Olive Garden commercial and everything LOOKED so good, we said, "What the heck, let's give it a try." Absolutely beyond horrible. Would never go back.

I know I have told this story on these boards already, but it's just too funny not to tell when we are talking about this subject....

I used to watch The Bachelor. When Andrew Firestone (winery guy) was the elibible bachelor, he was on a date with a "hair twirler" (girl with not much going on upstairs.) He asked her what her favorite restaurant was and she said "Olive Garden." He made a face, and she said in all seriousness, "What, you don't like Italian food?"
Hello. My name is Carrie, and I...I....still like oaked Chardonnay. (I feel so much better now.)

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