A few weeks ago, the kind people at Olive Garden sent me a $150 gift card so we could take friends and family to enjoy a nice meal out. Which was funny, because we had gotten two Olive Garden gift cards already for Christmas. Basically, we will be eating at Olive Garden for the remainder of 2012.
Not that I mind. I’m a big fan of Olive Garden!
In college, my BFF, Emily, and I used to eat their soup, salad, and breadsticks for lunch at least once a week. And Chris is a Fettuccine Alfredo junkie, and Olive Garden is his all-time favorite. Even Bean likes it. When we pulled into the parking lot for dinner one night, he looked at the sign and said, “We’re eating grapes for dinner?!?!”
The first night we tried to go to dinner, I’ll admit, it didn’t go well. We had a party of six, and we waited over an hour before we finally gave up and left. The wee ones in our group were gettin’ twitchy. We ended up going home and ordering pizza. Not to be deterred, we tried again a couple nights later with our friends, Sarah and Scott.
Sarah and I are old pros at Olive Garden. We used to go in college, too (apparently, I walked around looking for people to go to Olive Garden with me…). You can’t beat the AYCA soup, salad, and breadsticks deal!
Actually, they are getting ready to run another deal that might actually beat it. Starting January 23rd, for $12.95 you will be able to get soup or salad, one of five new entrees, and one of five Dolcini desserts. (Want to see all the delicious options available with Olive Garden’s 3 Course Italian Dinner? Visit olivegarden.com/specials)
In the past when Sarah and I have gone as poor college students, it was usually just the two of us and occasionally a random boy or two to accompany. But this time, it was kind of a different scene…
Isn’t it funny how that happens over time? It never ceases to amaze me. We started our meal with an appetizer of Bruschetta, one of my all-time favorite appetizers. And I love Olive Garden’s because they bring the tomatoes on the side and you build your own at the table, so it’s not all mushy. This is CRUCIAL to perfect bruschetta. Trust me. I have sampled thousands in my pursuit of perfection.
Bean and Gracie started with a sampler platter of blue Play-Doh. Although, both of them ate their weight in breadsticks, I must confess. Any time I’d stop feeding Gracie, she’d start flapping her arms in the general direction of the bread basket, knocking over anything between her and the bread. Clearly, she is of my loins (ew, I said loins!). (Speaking of loins, please ignore my man-like features in this picture. I didn’t want to be the weirdo with the camera at the restaurant, and so I insisted we use Chris’s camera phone, which now I regret, as I look like a man in every picture.)
After appetizers, we dug into our meals. As always, Olive Garden did not disappoint. Sarah had Ravioli with Portabella Mushrooms. I’m not a fan of mushrooms myself, but she said it was delicious.
Scott had the Tour of Italy. I swear, every time I go to Olive Garden with people, someone always orders this. It’s a crowd pleaser: a taste of this and a taste of that. For a taste of everything, it sure is a lot of food!
Chris had his favorite, Chicken Alfredo, because he’s like a fifth grader when we go out to eat and orders the same thing every time. (I love you, sweetie…)
And I had something I’d never tried before: Shrimp Caprese. It was diiiiiivinnnnnne. I love shrimp, and the sauce for this was perfect. It was light and delicious, but still hearty enough to sop up with (what else?) breadsticks. And – bonus! – it was awesome reheated the next day for lunch!
Even Bean Man had a delightfully Italian meal of mac ‘n cheese. Gracie, too. And they shared some grapes, which thrilled Bean because he had predicted that we would eat grapes at Olive Garden! But seriously, they have a great kids menu!
Dinner was a lot of fun. I think we were there for almost two hours. The kids had a great time, we had fantastic service from a lovely waitress who laughed at all my lame jokes, and the atmosphere was comfortable and homey. We even sat at a big round table, just like in my kitchen when I was growing up!
In fact, we had such a good time, we went crazy and ordered this amazing dessert! It was a trio of dessert “shots,” and let me tell you that the caramel chocolate cake/brownie/thingy was to DIE FOR! I drooled. Really. Sarah liked this amaretto tiramisu number that tasted like almond clouds. If I hadn’t been up to my eyeballs in caramel, I might have had more of that one. Chris, knowing better than to fight the womenfolk for dessert, stuck with the straight chocolate cake with this mousse on top that was thick and creamy and rich. Or, so I heard. Chris isn’t very good at sharing.
It had been a while since I’d been to an Olive Garden and I’m so glad that I was able to go back and remind myself how awesome it is to have a restaurant that can grow with you from your skinny salad-only days of college up through the years when you fill your dinner table with babies. It’s nice to know that some places stay the same. That’s comfort food to me.
Olive Garden and BlogHer are generously offering a $100 gift card to one lucky blog reader so that they, too, can experience a fun, comforting meal with friends and family. To enter to win, leave a comment below telling me who you would take with you to a big dinner out on the town and why.
Rules: No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods: a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 1/23/12 – 3/18/12.
Also, visit the Olive Garden page on BlogHer.com to check out the other blogger reviews and more chances to win!