Learned thing #1: More people eat dinner at Olive Garden at 4:30pm on Sunday afternoons than you would imagine.
My roommate Who Eats Mozzarella Sticks for Dinner (RWEMSD) and I have been planning an outing to Olive Garden for weeks to celebrate the end of LOST and to reminisce on a time in our lives when the only restaurant choices available to us in our suburban hell hometowns were places like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and Chili’s. We planned the whole evening: dinner 4:30-6:30pm, LOST recap show 7-9pm, LOST season finale 9-11:30pm.
As we walked up to the South Bay Shopping Center Olive Garden, melodious Kenny G. version of My Heart Will Go On wafting through the air, RWEMSD commented on how many cars were in the parking lot. “Oh, they’re probably at Target next door,” I said. “Look at all those kids running around in the grass out front,” he said. “Better than running around our table whilst we try to enjoy dinner,” I said.
RWEMSD pulls open the fake stone door, I get my first whiff of unlimited salad and bread sticks and make my way to the hostess stand, “two for an early bird dinner!” “Thirty minutes,” the hostess says. RWEMSD: “huh?” “It’s a thirty minute wait, unless you want to sit in the bar.”
SIDEBAR: People who eat dinner before 7pm freak me out. What time did you eat lunch? Won’t you be hungry again before bed? Do you eat early dinners because you go to bed at 8pm? Going to bed at 8pm is frightening. Eating dinner before 7pm reminds of a time in my life when weekly meals with Grandma and Grandpa were at Furr’s Cafeteria. Furr’s might be called Furr’s Family Dining now. If you don’t know what Furr’s Cafeteria is, click here. Basically, you get a tray and walk down a school cafeteria-esque line picking out tiny bowls of cauliflower puree and Jell-O.
Anyway, as you can imagine, the decision to eat dinner at 4:30pm on Sunday was a made only out of a necessity to be home in time for 4 1/2 hours of LOST. The fact that the punk hostess was telling us that we had to wait 30 minutes to eat dinner at 4:30pm was appalling. I was 3 seconds away from marching out in a huff and walking next door to Applebee’s when the punk hostess says, “or you can sit in the bar.” Oh, can we? Thank you, punk hostess, for pausing just long enough for me to hate you.
So, we sat at the bar. Everything was just above par and totally what we wanted. Salad. Bread sticks. Eggplant parmesan. Yum.
Learned thing #2: Vegan baking is basically a science experiment.
In the spirit of our office Cake-Tatorship, I made a poppy seed bundt cake with blueberry glaze this weekend. The recipe called for buttermilk, which confounded me at first because 1) I wasn’t quite sure what makes buttermilk buttermilk and 2) I’ve never seen vegan buttermilk at the store.
First, I did what any 21st century woman would do: I Google’d it. Buttermilk is basically cultured, or curdled milk with acid, typically lactic acid. Second, I Google’d “vegan buttermilk” and discovered that adding 1 tbsp of vinegar to 1 cup of soy milk will create the necessary conditions for delicious, cultured, vegan “buttermilk.” It was amazing. It was science.
Here’s the original recipe from Joy the Baker. I substituted 1/2 cup of vegan yogurt for every egg and vegan “buttermilk” made from vinegar and soy milk. For the glaze, I had to add almost 1/2 cup more powdered sugar to get the desired texture.