I got to see all of their ingredients of course, and even though I could replicate the ingredients at home (and you can even buy their dressing there!), it just wasn't the same.
You see, the beauty of an Olive Garden salad is not the lettuce or tomatoes or the dressing (although those are great!). It's the plate. They serve their salad on chilled plates. It makes the lettuce crisp and keeps it cold while you eat it. There is not much worse than wilted, soggy lettuce from a hot plate!
The chilled plate is not their only secret- it's also the timing. It is common to serve the salad before a meal at a restaurant, but we don't do this at home! I think that we don't stop to enjoy the taste of a salad when we serve it at the same time as the rest of the food. It just becomes something to fill up on instead of savor. The complexity of the entree detracts from the taste of the salad.
I put this to the test at home. Usually I serve salad along side of the entree. Which means it gets to be warm pretty fast. I rinsed some plates and put them into the freezer when I started cooking and then served the salad separately from the entree. It was so much better than usual!
If you are looking for an easy (and frugal!) way to liven up your everyday salad (besides eating at the Olive Garden! :) take a few extra minutes to try chilling your plate and eating the salad before the entree. It makes it so much better!
Check out Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips!