Thank you so much for having me! Queenie Takes Manhattan is my favorite food blog, bar none--and not just because Ms. Queenie herself has helped me develop and test the recipes I put in my contemporary romances, the latest of which is Too Hot to Touch.
Below is a scene from the book (not one of the dirty scenes, sorry!) in which the heroine, Jules, executive chef of Lunden's Tavern comes to the end of a busy Friday dinner service. She's been distracted all night by the recent return of the prodigal son, Max Lunden, who also happens to be her first crush, from when they were kids.
But they're all grown up now, about to enter the biggest culinary competition in the nation - if Jules can keep her cool and manage to work with Max...
Seasoning the roasted sprouts with salt and pepper, Jules savored the nutty, rich scent rising from the pan as they warmed through. While they got hot, she checked her vinaigrette—a little low—and swiftly added a generous glug of balsamic vinegar and a steady stream of olive oil, whisking like crazy.I hope you enjoyed the excerpt! And if you want to find out what happens next, I'll be giving away a signed copy of Too Hot to Touch to one randomly chosen commenter...and the book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select indie bookstores.
A sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs from her stash of bowls at the corner of her station, and her stock of vinaigrette was replenished.Scraping the sprouts and crispy pancetta into a bowl, Jules drizzled them with the vinaigrette and shook the bowl to make them jump. Since she’d done new vinaigrette for this order, she grabbed a clean tasting spoon and popped one of the sprouts into her mouth.
The sharp sweetness of the balsamic vinegar burst across her tongue, and as she crunched into the sprout, she took a second to marvel at the way the little vegetable retained its deep caramel flavor and pleasingly burnt edges. A warm sauce would’ve turned them into the limp, soggy sprouts of her youth, uninspired and unappetizing. This bright vinaigrette elevated them to another level.
A quick dash of salt, a few more turns of the pepper grinder, and the sprouts were done.
“Sprouts up,” she called, shoving the bowl onto the rack, where Emilio, one of the runners, was waiting to carry it up to the front of the kitchen.
Jules spun around and checked her rib-eye again, the noise of the kitchen a soothing background music to her thoughts.
The kitchen was a living, breathing organism during the rush of dinner service, especially when it was busy like this. Every chef, runner, and dishwasher was a major, life-sustaining organ, all working together to power the beast through the frenetic couple of hours between 7:30 and 9:30, when everyone in Manhattan seemed to get hungry for steak at exactly the same time.
Jules barely noticed the sweat sticking her shirt to her back and stinging the shallow knife scrape on her knuckles. She was only peripherally aware of Nina bringing tickets up to the pass and handing them to Gus, who called out the orders in the sharp, no-nonsense bark he’d perfected long before Jules ever thought of becoming a chef. She danced with Winslow and Beck as they maneuvered their way around the narrow, heated confines of the kitchen, and she only surfaced long enough to slap Danny a high five when Gus called out, “Last ticket cleared! Danny, they want two crème brûlées, and we’re done.”The fog of war was slow to clear from Jules's head; she missed it the instant it was gone.
Jules found a lot of comfort in the buzz of adrenaline and strain of muscles it took to get through dinner service. Once it was over, all that was left was her life—and she’d rather think about meat temperatures and oil to vinegar ratios any day of the week...