First what you’re thinking is, “That looks amazing. I must have it!”
While watching television in you almost certainly noticed while waiting for your show to come back on, a commercial on TV for Fazoli’s new “spicy” menu items and you were immediately struck with a yearning, a craving, an almost physical need for what must almost certainly be a cajun pasta explosion of flavor and goodness. You felt, as you saw the screen dance with spicy chicken alfredo, spicy sausage and spaghetti, and an interpretation of cajun lasagna, an urge to lean forward as your salivary glands anticipated the culinary greatness that must be yours.
Oh yes. At some meal in the future, you would lobby hard for Fazoli’s to be a choice. You would wheedle, cajole, call in favors, and promise others, all for the tantalizing splendor that would be a cajun inspired spicy Italian carbohydrate laden feast for the senses. You would be mistaken. Completely, utterly, mistaken.
The kind of wrong that, were word to get out, would destroy your reputation as a genius and erudite thinker. It isn’t at all what you’re imagining. Let me explain.
Close your eyes. Picture the standard sampler platter in front of you. You got it? Black shiny foam plate with dividers? Three portions of pasta on it in crudely dolloped out spoon fulls? Now, hold that image in your mind as I reach across the table and shake about half a teaspoon of Louisiana hot sauce, perhaps Tabasco even, on each separate selection. While you watch with your mind’s eye I reach over with my fork and stir it, ever so slightly around so the sauce isn’t visible, but isn’t really evenly distributed either. Now I return my hands to my side of your imaginary table and take a sip of my Diet Doctor Pepper and watch as you reach forward with a black plastic fork, trembling with anticipation to taste it. Then, as the first bite hits your tongue your realize your mistake. The subtle flavors of oregano, tomato, and basil of the red sauce are gone, burned off by the overly pepper-sauced conglomeration that now adorns your spaghetti. You dump your fork off onto the plate and remember the chicken alfredo and know that this, this will be a dish fit for a king. This is the kind of food bard’s used to sing about in long houses to their viking lords!
Then you put a small bite in your mouth and the traditional taste of garlic and three cheeses melted into a cream sauce has been replaced with the pepper infused vinegar flavor and aroma of the red bottle. The chicken grants no surcease from the burning in your mouth as it too is infused with this heinous distillation of dragon’s farts and heartburn. This isn’t just hot or spicy. It’s cheaply done hot and spicy. It’s the standard sauces adulterated with a knock-off hot sauce. No thought was put into measuring amounts or complementary flavors. It’s overwhelmingly tasting of a vinegar based hot sauce, and that’s all you taste through the whole meal. The three dishes are all the same dish, a noodle, a sauce that tastes only of too much hot sauce, and little else.
I like hot stuff. I love cajun cooking. I think spices are multi-layered affairs that dazzle the tongue, tease the nose, and dance their way down the diner’s throat to explode in a warm feeling of satisfaction and happiness in the eater’s stomach. This blasphemy of a meal does none of that. It rapes your tongue, claws it’s way down your throat after sodomizing your nose using a saguaro cactus strap-on, and when it gets to your stomach it turns on all the acid taps to bathe in the hydrochloric juices as your stomach wall dissolves under the assault. There’s no hint of flavor or subtlety. It’s a culinary assault and it should end soon, very soon, before you are tricked into trying it. You won’t like it. In fact, it’ll ruin perfectly mediocre Fazoli’s food and turn it into something that tastes like it spilled out of an over-charged car battery.
So, save yourself. The next time you see the commercial and are tempted, French kiss a 9V battery instead.