• Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    Leyla Hur, as featured in Munaty Cooking

    "In Hong Kong, everything revolves around food, and it was not different in my family. In my family, each meal was truly an event and that is something I still hold close. Right after we finished one meal, Dad would discuss with us what we would have for our next meal..."

  • About Leyla

    About Leyla

    "Even from my earliest years, I liked to feed people and share my food with others. I have been privileged enough to grow up in Hong Kong, live in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, and now the United States; and I have travelled extensively throughout the world, sampling the delicacies of..."

  • Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    Asian Beef Lettuce Cups (with Vegetarian Alternative)

    "In Hong Kong, this is very famous and usually comes when you order Peking Duck. The restaurant will then make three dishes from the duck. You will usually get the skin (Peking Duck) which is served with..."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Olive Garden Round Table

I have long known that the best ingredient to any meal is that of happiness and love. Tonight my husband and I went out to Olive Garden with a group of very dear friends, who are truly family to us. While the chef may not know of the enjoyment we all had as we sat around the table, and he (or she) may not have placed into the dishes that special and most time honoured secret ingredient, but the dear men who served us seemed to share in the exuberance of working tonight. Dear AJ (from Guam) and Stu (who's sister lived in Hong Kong for 5 years) helped place a portion of that special ingredient in the delicious foods that consumed our palates, the real added ingredients filtered on to our plates in the energy of love that came from those of us seated around the table.

But all that mushy stuff aside, I want to give you the roundup of the amazing meal we enjoyed tonight. And while that special ingredient may had added a little something to our food, the food itself held its own to begin with.

One of the things I love about Olive Garden is their never ending salad bowls and, of course, their garlic bread sticks. These fresh-made sticks of yummy goodness are as addicting as peanuts, as my dear husband learned the hard way tonight. The only downside to this generosity is that one can easily fill themselves on bread sticks without realising it.

On tonight's menu, I ordered a starter of calamari which is served with a side of marinara sauce and a cream sauce. I am not quite partial to the creamy sauce as it tends to make the calamari too rich, but the marinara sauce is amazing. Dip the breadsticks into the marinara sauce and you've got an absolute winner.

Olive Garden's calamari is so incredibly tender with just enough crispy batter to give it an amazing taste without drowning it in dough. I have had calamari in many different places around the world, and to be honest, the ones at OG's are one of the best I have ever had.

I've been seeing this commercial for the past two weeks advertising Olive Garden's chicken scallopini and it has really been tickling my taste buds to try; so tonight I ordered this as my main course. Let me just say that if you have not tried this dish yet and have been wondering what to order on your next trip out to OG's, you simply must try their Limincello Chicken Scallopini. It comes with cheese stuffed tortellinis.

When they placed the uber hot plate of golden chicken and cheese tortellini with cream sauce topping in front of me, I thought that the heavens had opened and an angel had personally placed this dish in front of me. Eager to tuck in, I had to wait while our dear server AJ unloaded a half a block of Parmesan cheese over the pasta.

The first bite was delectable. It was a perfect marriage of chicken, cream sauce, cheese, with a slight undertone hint of lemon. I was in heaven. Noise around me disappeared as my very being became encompassed in the tastes that were literally exploding in my mouth. My taste buds literally felt like they were doing the "happy dance" and my body wanted to follow suit.

Our good friend, Chandria, works at OG and was working tonight, although we were not seated in her section. Instead we had two lovely young men take care of us, and they truly gave their all when it came down to waiting on us hand and foot. AJ is originally from Guam and is working his way back there to open up his own business, I truly wish him the best of luck and truly hopes that he will achieve his dreams. He referred to me as "the young lady" several times, and when a young man 10 years my junior calls me such, it truly does make my night. And what a chivalrous young man he was also. Definitely worth a trip to be served by AJ again.

Stu was our other server, and when learning that I was from Hong Kong, immediately came to reminisce his memories of trips over during the five-years his sister and brother-in-law lived there. He truly stepped up when, upon cries from all of us for more chocolate at the end of the meal, he came out with the entire bucket and ladled them on the table; what a man!

Olive Garden has long been a favourite of mine since my first visit in 2003 about a year after arriving in America. I have been to several different locations (we actually have one right around the corner from where we live), and tonight's experience was one of the best by far. Was it the exuberance of AJ and Stu, or the meal itself, the company, or that secret ingredient that seemed to filter in to every aspect of our visit tonight? I don't know. But what I do know is that after tonight, I have an even greater renewed love for OG.

The Olive Garden we visited is located at 1261 Southern Avenue Mesa, AZ 85202.


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