Quite by surprise tonight we ended up at Olive Garden for dinner.
I can't even remember the last time I ate a meal there!
To further my surprise, they now offer a gluten free menu!
My selection tonight was a Penne Pasta with a yummy Marinara sauce ~ gluten-free, of course!
Of course, there's that endless salad which was quite tasty! I let everyone else at the table devour those yummy, fresh, garlic bread sticks!!!
The entrees arrive and my pasta looks awesome!
Too bad it didn't taste so awesome.
Over half the pasta was way overcooked and falling apart with my attempts to get it on my fork. Some of it was still very firm & chewy. A few pieces were a tolerable al-dente, but it was hard to pick them out. So I talked to our server about it. She admitted they were working with a new chef tonight. After a few minutes of discussion I agreed to have them try again.
Cooking gluten-free pastas takes a little more finesse than ordinary wheat pastas. My first 2 or 3 attempts were total losses. The disappointments had me believing I would be better off just accepting that pasta would no longer be any part of my diet. Then I discovered brown rice pasta! Now THAT was a bit easier to cook to perfection! At home, when I make pasta dishes, it is exclusively with brown rice pasta!
The second dish of penne with marinara comes and looks delicious! There's more sauce with this dish. The pasta looks a little better ~ what you see around the edges of sauce isn't mushy or shredded, seems firm. The first bite is good. Then I get more under the sauce and pick up a forkful of really mushy pasta. So disappointing! To give it a fair chance, I try a few more bites and I'm still getting more over cooked pasta than edible penne pasta. So I speak to the server again and explain it all again and this time opt out of any replacement attempt. It's clear that tonight's chef is having trouble getting it right.
By this point I've had 3 bowls of salad, so I decline any other substitutions as well. The server is kind and very apologetic. Soon the manager comes to the table and we talk several minutes. At one point I inquire of the source of their gluten free pasta and if he know if it was a blend of flours or just one such as brown rice pasta. He really didn't know. That's a shame, though probably more common than not these days. We have a number of family members in the food service business, including chefs & managers. My experience has always been that the manager KNOWS his menu inside out all the way back to the source/supplier and exactly what they supply. So seeing his lack in this area didn't help his case any. But I do think he learned a thing or two about gluten free cooking and he probably will be looking into seeing if they could consider switching to brown rice pasta. So all is not lost here.
In the end he refunded the cost of my meal AND (probably to assure my return another time) he also gave me an Olive Garden Gift Card for $20! I think I will give it enough time to allow them to either change product or improve their culinary skills in the gluten-free department. Not sure how long that might take: any suggestions?
Or maybe I'll just have the salmon with veggies next visit.
Meanwhile... my Rise'n'Shine streak continues...