Wine Surprises at Olive Garden and The Capital Grille

When I tell people that I enjoy taking my mom to Olive Garden for dinner, there are plenty of raised eyebrows. I can hear the unspoken thoughts: “Really? She’s a food writer and she goes to Olive Garden?”

You betcha. The primary reason is that my mother enjoys it, but I am a big fan of the salad (which has been duplicated by some top area restaurants!) and the wine list. That’s right, one of my all-time, favorite, reasonably priced wines is available at Olive Garden, at least the one I frequent: Columbia Crest’s Horse Heaven Hills merlot.

Frankly, I was always surprised to find this wine there. It’s a good, medium-bodied, slightly spicy accompaniment to almost every dish at the restaurant.

I found the reason in a recent “Wine Spectator” story: Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, has a hard-working national wine director, Brian Phillips. He oversees the wine selections there and at a few other Darden chains you may have heard of: Seasons 52, Yard House and The Capital Grille. No wonder Seasons 52 and Capital Grille have garnered dozens of Wine Spectator restaurant awards for their wine selections.

Phillips is a hard-working guy, according to this account, where he was interviewed 22 times before noon in New York one day. He was talking about The Capital Grille’s Generous Pour event, which lasts until Sept. 2. This is a deal for wine lovers.

For $28 per person with dinner, you can taste up to seven wines from Dan Duckhorn. That includes Duckhorn, Goldeneye, Decoy, Migration, Canvasback and Paraduxx brands. Those who know these labels know these will add another depth to dinner. And seven wines for that price is a steal. More about the special here.

But don’t forget to try some of Olive Garden’s wines, too. Because sometimes you find good wines in unexpected places.

Parched Pig hosts unique dinner

Chefs Becca Traverse and Sarah Sipe

When you see Chef Becca Traverse, pastry chef at The Parched Pig, and Chef Sarah Sipe, pastry chef at The Regional Kitchen, pairing together for dinner on Aug. 9, well, you figure that’s a lot of sugar.

But these two are going beyond the bakery mixing bowl to serve lucky Parched Pig diners a dinner that includes sweet corn panna cotta with roasted corn salad, and mushroom and onion tart with crispy ham and mixed greens, plus more. And then there are the desserts!

The dinner starts at 6 p.m., is $65 per person (excluding tax/gratuity) and there are no reservations—it’s first come, first served.

The Parched Pig, 4580 Donald Ross Road, Suite 100, Palm Beach Gardens; 561/360-3063; theparchedpig.com/

Lost Weekend turns 1, throws a party

The play party place and pool hall, Lost Weekend, is turning 1, which means a big party on Aug. 9, at 526 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Starting at 4 p.m., the doors will open for pool, arcade games, skee-ball, foosball and jukebox noise. Then at 8 p.m., a full open bar starts and runs until 10 p.m., and live music from Spider Cherry, shirt and hat giveaways will be part of the fun.


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