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Video: 85-year-old’s Olive Garden critique goes viral

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    >> a restaurant review by a north dakota newspaper columnist has become the latest internet sensation because the target of the 85-year-old's critique was not a posh five-star eatery but her own town's new olive garden . kevin tibbles is in grand forks where he sat down with a woman behind the article. hey, kevin . good morning.

    >> reporter: hey, ann. when the olive garden restaurant opened in grand forks , local food critic marilyn haggerty said it was a big deal . she's been a mild-mannered reporter at the grand forks herald for more than three decades. at 85 years of age, she still writes five columns a week. it's her latest, a restaurant review called the eatbeat that's got the blogosphere boiling over.

    >> i never thought anything like this would happen.

    >> reporter: she had the audacity to opine on the new ott eatery in town -- the olive garden . the place is impressive, she wrote. it's fashioned in tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. of the food she added the chicken alfredo was warm and comforting on a cold day . and instead of the raspberry lemonade suggested by the waitress, i drank water. some on the internet questioned her taste.

    >> north dakota where olive garden is king, snapped one. fark.com headlined old broad goes viral adding the city is on the culinary map with its unique brand of tuscan refinery. maryland newspapers had more than 3,000 hits and foodies are leaping to her defense including culinary bad boy anthony bourdain who tweeted watching marilyn hagerty triumph over the snarkologists. myself included.

    >> reporter: may i interest you in a bread stick ?

    >> indeed.

    >> reporter: we decided to break bread sticks to discuss her notoriety. first her reaction to hearing eatbeat had gone viral.

    >> i didn't know what a that meant. then the phone calls started, but i had to go to bridge club at 1:00.

    >>> can't miss that.

    >> no.

    >> reporter: she has no time for the bloggers of the world.

    >> sounds like dirty words . we all have different ideas of what we want to do with our time. i would rather play bridge or watch a basketball game than do that.

    >> reporter: blogging.

    >> yeah, blogging.

    >> reporter: marilyn can dish it right back. from one reporter to another she demonstrated her technique of surreptitiously taking notes while dining and sometimes, shock, horror, she sneaks out with a menu.

    >> you do what you need to do.

    >> reporter: thanks to marilyn , i have had the chicken alfredo and now we know why they call it grand forks . take that, you nasty bloggers. by the way, marilyn hagerty is winging her way to new york today. she'll file her column from some of the finest eateries in the big apple . back to you.

    >> terrific. our arm as are open to welcome her. that was cute, kevin . thank you

By
TODAY contributor
updated 3/13/2012 10:35:50 AM ET 2012-03-13T14:35:50

After more than 30 years as a food critic, all it took was one review of the local Olive Garden to turn Marilyn Hagerty into an online celebrity.

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An earnest assessment of the new chain restaurant in town by the 85-year-old reviewer at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald is the latest viral sensation. But Hagerty fails to see what all the fuss is about.

A 30-year veteran at The Grand Forks Herald, Hagerty reviewed the new local eatery March 7 in her regular Eatbeat column. Calling it “impressive,’’ she described the Olive Garden’s “Tuscan farmhouse style’’ and ordered the chicken alfredo.

Victory over snark
Her column sent food snobs into a frenzy. It has received nearly 700,000 pageviews after making  its way around the Internet, generating headlines like Fark.com’s “Old Broad Goes Viral.’’

It also generated support against the backlash. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain tweeted to his nearly 800,000 followers: “Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included).’’

Hagerty had no idea at first that her review had gone viral. “I didn’t really know what that meant,’’ she told NBC’s Kevin Tibbles as the two dined at the now-famous Grand Forks Olive Garden. “Then the phone calls started. But I had to go to bridge club at 1 o’clock.’’

Back off my breadsticks! In defense of Olive Garden (and Marilyn Hagerty)

During their meal, Hagerty showed Tibbles her surreptitious style of taking notes while dining and indicated that she occasionally swipes a menu while doing a review.

“You do what you have to do,’’ she said.

In addition to the interview with Tibbles on Tuesday, “Marilyn Mania” also included a short segment Monday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.’’ Hagerty was interviewed from her home by actress Jane Lynch, filling in for the vacationing Morgan.

“It wasn’t much fun,’’ Hagerty told The Grand Forks Herald about the interview with Lynch. “I felt really good about the other (NBC) interview.’’

As for bloggers having a field day with her review, it barely merited a shrug from Hagerty.

Video: 85-year-old’s Olive Garden critique goes viral (on this page)

“Sounds like dirty words,’’ she said about blogging. “Sounds like you’re talking bad. We all have different ideas of what we want to do with our time, don’t we? I’d rather be playing bridge or watching a basketball game than doing that.’’

Hagerty, who still writes five columns per week, was flown by the Grand Forks Herald to New York City on Tuesday to review a pair of five-star restaurants and, of course, the Olive Garden in Times Square. She is scheduled to have lunch with CNN’s Anderson Cooper at the Olive Garden and will be a guest on his show later in the week. The Herald also has fielded requests from several late-night talk shows to have Hagerty as a guest.

“I feel like I’ve been out for a long night of drinking and don’t remember what happened,’’ she told The Grand Forks Herald about the whirlwind since her column went viral.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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