November 20, 2009

Of Good Friends, Humble Pie…and The Olive Garden??

Let’s get something straight.

Where I grew up, there was one single defining standard of fine cuisine and gourmet fare. It was the kind of place that you would get in the car and drive two and a half hours for…because let’s be honest, there wasn’t one any closer than that. The kind of place reserved only for the most special of milestone occasions, like prom dress shopping or state basketball tournaments when your team made the cut.

I was 17 years old before I ever even set foot in an Olive Garden. Dressing for the occasion, I wore my best sweater-over-blue-jean-shirt combo and packed my brown Aigner hand-me-down purse with Dr. Pepper lip smacker and wintergreen gum. In the restaurant, I couldn’t stop staring at all the faux stone wall treatment and the super-sized bottles of merlot on the shelves. It was the very epitome of all things classy. And then when we sat down….napkins! Not paper ones mind you, but real honest to goodness fabric ones. Made from cotton and everything! And trust me if I thought I was in heaven then, just you wait until they brought out the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for dessert. Amen!!

So how is it that yesterday, as the words “Olive Garden” rolled out of my mouth and hung there in a giant speech bubble right in front of me, I had to fight the urge to clap my hands over my mouth and melt, puddle style, into the tan leather seats of the Mini? We had just wrapped up a shoot with the oh- so worldly and sophisticated Miss d.d Nickel and were looking for a place to grab a late lunch/early dinner (linner, if you will) when the question came up: Hey, where could we go for some really good Italian? And right then before I could do anything, I had said it and there it was. Olive Garden. The ole OG. My head was still spinning from my own home grown-ness and my face was turning the brightest shade of raspberry cheesecake red, when DD simply said: “Sure….I love that place.”

Sure…I love that place.

And just like that, it was ok for me to be me again. Homegrown and all. Because deep down part of me still considers the Olive Garden to be the highest form of fine cuisine. :) d.d. you could’ve laughed at me, could’ve made me feel small. But you didn’t. So thank you for sharing my love for the simple things like white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and for not serving me up a big ole slice of humble pie!

And speaking of being totally and completely humbled, let me also just say thank you to you…to all of you… who shared your lives and amazing stories with us in our “What are you thankful for” contest. We were completely and utterly blown away by everything you said, and we are so lucky to have friends like you. Good friends. Smart friends. Friends who know what counts and tell it like it is.

There was absolutely no way we were ever going to be able to pick our favorite, so we enlisted the help of one of our best friends, Miss Shyla-la-la (who we are especially thankful will be coming down to spend Thanksgiving with us next week!!), to choose her favorite. After much deliberation and thought, this is what she had to say:

“I read through them all and they all really put a lot of time and effort into it, but it was this short simple one that stood out. Everyone who contributed gave it their all and I am positive it made many people sit down and count (or simply remember) their blessings… but I felt this one encapsulated it all. :)”

From KRISTINE: I am thankful for the little moments in life that we often miss – but namely for the times when I don’t miss them.

So Kristine, you are the lucky winner of either your Thanksgiving Turkey or a Restoration Hardsware gift card. Shoot us an email at and let us know your pick!!

And speaking of feasts, just go ahead and feast your eyes on this little sneaky peek of what’s to come!

  1. Shy

    OMG. I just read my explanation. I can’t type and apparently I love the word "all" ? ;)

  2. Rick O

    @Shy Guess you said it "ALL" :") Mary you’ve got me thinking bout some breadsticks and lots o’ marinara right now YUM!

  3. Marissa Rodriguez

    I love Olive Garden! I’m so excited to see more pics! This is suuuuuch a teaser! GAH!

  4. MM

    @Shy: LOL! I didn’t even notice that until you said anything!

  5. Michelle Sidles

    This post brings back so many memories of youth!! hahahaa!!! OG = TOTALLY classy!! ;)

  6. Karyn Kelbaugh

    Oh the memories. Homecoming dinners, prom dinners, valentine’s day. the place to go was always OG.

  7. Jennelle

    Mary! I totally relate to the OG story. When I went there for dinner after my prom I thought I was hot sh*t! I love the food, even today, though.

  8. Maalaea w/ i and m photo

    Thank you for the blog love! I love your blog layout, it’s great!

  9. Susanne

    Absolutely gorgeous!!

  10. anda

    now THIS is stunning!! gorgeous colors, too. i love your blog!!

  11. steve depino

    "Dr. Pepper lip smacker and wintergreen gum" love it :)

  12. Jasmine*

    You, me, and a little OG…that’s where it’s at!! Seriously, the first time I ate there, I dressed in my Sunday clothes and marveled at the fine dining. Whenever life is a little down, a garlic breadstick could CHANGE MY LIFE!! ;) xoxo

  13. ddnickel

    :):) So…firstly (if that’s a word:)…good food is really about great company….esp. with other comfort food, country music loving, southern’ish creative folks like myself!!! And PS….I ate my leftovers for breakfast…no oatmeal w/ cranberries for me…pasta w/ gorgonzola sauce!

  14. gladys jem

    Good Evening. This is the Olive Garden Stonestown, How may I provide you with excellent service? For almost 3 years I served unlimited soup, salad, breadsticks, and every fall I served never ending pasta bowls. I will never forget that part of my life well because, I am a real OG ;) LOVE this post! Love that sneek peek!

  15. Denise Saucedo

    I love this post!!! Makes me wanna grab onto the past and snuggle it tight. Everyone has gotta love them some Olive. Lambrusco for me please. You guys are fab!! Absolutely LOVE your images.

  16. Alexandra

    :) I think I’ve been to the Olive Garden once and I liked it haha :) .. I love the winning thankful post – she deserved it! And that photo is stunning! Wow

  17. Tasha Prescott

    Hi, I loved this post! Noticed you swung by my little home on the web, and so I was happy to see it’s another photographer! Awesome writer as well… (I loved Olive Garden, unlimited salad and breadsticks) lol perfect for the vegetarian.

  18. Christine Pobke

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! And STUNNING image – perfect colouring and composition! :) And of course, lovely post. :) Makes me miss America – I miss the Olive Garden! :)

  19. Jessica

    UM HELLO! I love your work and am so excited I found your site! I am adding this to my reader ASAP :) LOVE your style, processing especially and your POV :)

  20. MM

    @Jessica: ooooh thank you!! we can’t wait to have you around!!

  21. Stacey

    OMG! I love the Olive Garden… Grew up going there for special occasions!

  22. Renee Marina

    Wow, your blog is awesome and your pics are so beautifully captured. Nice job! Btw, it’s a shame I’ve never been to OG, seeing that I live on the other side of the world. Sounds so yummy though. Also, thanks for dropping by my website =)

  23. cassandra m

    SHY’s comment made me laugh so hard over the word "all". too funny. Great post. Great contest and a great way to make us all be a little more THANKFUL. (ps Shy I like the word "great" today…ha.ha.) Have a BLESSED day everyone!

  24. Lukas VanDyke

    It’s funny I was just having a conversation with my wife the other day about how Olive Garden was in her roots back in the deep south. Lol. One little perspective and so many people can identify. =)

  25. Patti Mustain

    How sweet of you to find my blog and leave me a comment! I had to link over to yours and when I did I found such "oh, so beautiful" photography! And, this blog post just needed a quick little comment about "Olive Garden" and it being a place where precious memories have been made in my life as well…
    Lord Bless you!

  26. Treva Tribit

    Well, I’m glad I’m not the only photographer whose "home grown" roots are showing…the other day I almost suggested to clients we were meeting for lunch, sushi, even though it triggers my squeamish shudder reflex, just to be cool. But then I threw caution to the wind and suggested La Madeleine instead (yeah, I know its pretend French), and they were like "love that place!" Whew! :) Love your blog, wish we could have connected when we were up in New Jersey a few months back, but you guys are welcome to ride the rides all day in Ocean City with us, on the house, next time! :)

  27. Vanessa

    Your Olive Garden story made me laugh so hard. I was at a gourmet Italian restaurant with my parents last week. My dad was eating mascarpone fetuccini with truffle and shallots. He takes one bite and exclaims (really loudly, because he’s hard of hearing,) "Man, this isn’t nearly as good as the Olive Garden." And there we all sat, red faced and ashamed at a luxury resort, with the finest of foods in front of us.

    Then, the wonderful man at the next table, impeccably dressed, and who seemed very proper, leaned over to my dad and said "I agree!!!" The whole restaurant started laughing, and all of a sudden we each found ourselves back at a place where the Olive Garden was the height of fine dining.

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