The Mouth That Soared

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted March 18, 2012 at 11:59pm

If Sen. Kent Conrad has his way, Grand Forks Herald restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty may continue to ride the wave of insta-celebrity generated by her effusive fascination with the Olive Garden — straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Much like many national media and a burgeoning group of chef-lebrities, the North Dakota Democrat has apparently fallen under the spell of the plain-spoken, 85-year-old dining scribe who placed the chain Italian eatery on a pedestal.

“It is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here,” Hagerty trumpeted in her March 7 “Eatbeat” column. Her police-blotter-style report of her lunch has since garnered more than 1 million page views and has earned the venerable hired mouth (she’s been paid to opine on food since 1976) quite the following.

Conrad took it upon himself to broker a lunch for her with first lady Michelle Obama. His staff declined to get into the specifics of the evidently fluid negotiations, stating that things were “still in the works.”

Hagerty and Obama could certainly compare notes about the Olive Garden; FLOTUS popped by one in Fort Worth, Texas, just last month to promote healthy eating options as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign.

Hagerty has been making the talk-show rounds for several days, a whirlwind tour that took her to New York City, where she took advantage of everything from the city’s dirty water dogs to the Shake Shack to a multicourse feast at Le Bernardin, where her reservation was secured by chef-turned-TV personality Anthony Bourdain and her meal was prepared by chef Eric Ripert.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to put the finishing touches on our treatise on T.G.I. Friday’s “Pick 2 for $10” deal.