Blog Tour: Stranger Than Fiction?

Today, I have the great privilege of visiting Romance Novel Giveaways. They asked for a little peek behind the scenes and I knew exactly what to talk about…

When creating a character, you never expect for the movie Stranger Than Fiction to happen to you and your protagonist to walk right into your life and offer you a delicious sandwich. (What? You’ve never seen Stranger than Fiction? Go fix that. I’ll wait here.)

But, it happened to me not too long after I started putting words on paper for what is now Chef’s Table. I had Patrick down. His physicality. His background. His personality. His accent. His swagger. He was as real to me as any character is after about 10K words can be.

I went to lunch with a friend to “that new deli in town,” completely unaware of the purveyor and what delights awaited me there. I heard him first. “Whadaya want on that? Deli mustard? Honey mustard, mayo, gourmaise, horseradish?” His words flew, his accent thick, his smile bright, and his food—unmatched, especially in the area I live where going to BW3 is a fancy night out.

We each got a free cannoli that day, because everyone gets a free cannoli on their first visit. And he knows if it’s your first visit. He remembers everyone. I’ve talked about Richie a little before, but he deserves more than one post.

Richie is not Patrick. And Patrick is not Richie. But that day, and numerous days since, I am taken with how they feed into each other. How my imagination spins and Richie, by virtue of being himself, walks right in and makes it come alive. Richie’s Italian; Patrick’s Irish. Richie is a happy newlywed to a beautiful lady he met in town who matches his vibrancy and takes him to task at every opportunity; Patrick is gay. Richie’s slight where Patrick is more bulked up. Richie is a bit more brash than I’d expect Patrick to be, but if you ever rearrange the tables at Patrick’s restaurant, I can imagine you’d be met with a loud, “Hey, hey, HEY!” a smile and a quiet, direct request to kindly put his furniture back where you found it–just like you would at Richie’s.

sfogliatelleAnd the best part of it all, after eating there regularly, I got the courage to ask Richie for some help with my book. To spend “an hour at most, I promise,” interviewing him for some finer details of who he was, how he ended up in my little town after being the pastry chef at Marriott Marquis Times Square, and to get any anecdotes he might have to help bring the book to life. We spent three hours together that afternoon and another couple of hours for a subsequent interview when I needed a little more fact checking. I also get free dessert. The best cakes, cookies and brownies you’ll find anywhere. Also, his cannoli is better than any Italian bakery I’ve tried. As is his sfogliatelle.

Every time I walk into his deli, he asks about the progress of the book. He celebrates the victories along the way and wants links to everything he can get his hands on to see it all happen. Next to my family, he’s my number one fan and the guy hasn’t read a word I’ve written yet.

Every writer admits that people they know inspire characters, but when it goes the other way, when your character comes to life right in front of you, well it’s inspiring indeed.

Now that you’re all itching for your own personal Richie, head on over to Romance Novel Giveaways to enter, not a Richie, but a $25 gift certificate and a chance to win a copy Chef’s Table.

Book Tour: Another Recipe and Some Inspiration

Today, I am honored to visit Prism Book Alliance where they also asked for a recipe. I also listed some of the books that inspired Chef’s Table in numerous ways. What are some of your favorite foodie books?

The recipe I shared, a favorite of mine, isn’t really even a recipe. It comes from a rant by Michael Ruhlman, a wonderful author on all things food and good eating, that not only made me laugh, but also sealed my opinion that we are being taught (thank you, Food Network) that America is too stupid to cook. I believe some of it is laziness as well, but that’s probably better saved for another time.

Everything is prepared for us. Rotisserie chickens sit under warmers at the grocery. For heaven’s sake, you can now get sauce packets for your crock pot. Dump in the meat, open a bag of sauce, turn on the heat and go. Letting the “grocery work for you” has become, “go pick up a bag of dinner.”

Cooking isn’t that difficult. Sometimes it’s time consuming, but it’s time consuming in that a good roast, a good stew will sit on heat for hours, so you can go do other things. Prep your ingredients and let heat and magic and science do the rest.

To prove how easy it is to roast a chicken, Ruhlman wrote this list of directions. I’m sure it won’t take much effort to figure out my favorite line. You can read his entire post here.

The World’s Most Difficult Roasted Chicken Recipe

Turn your oven on high (450 if you have ventilation, 425 if not).  Coat a 3- or 4-pound chicken with coarse kosher salt so that you have an appealing crust of salt (a tablespoon or so).  Put the chicken in a pan, stick a lemon or some onion or any fruit or vegetable you have on hand into the cavity.  Put the chicken in the oven.  Go away for an hour.  Watch some TV, play with the kids, read, have a cocktail, have sex.  When an hour has passed, take the chicken out of the oven and put it on the stove top or on a trivet for 15 more minutes.  Finito.

Which leads me to the rest of this post—food writers. Chef’s, experts, home cooks who are amazing with word play. They all factored in, in some way, to the making of Chef’s Table. These are a few of my top recommendations:

Michael Ruhlman—He has a plethora of books out there, but my top recommendations are:

Ratio
The Making of a Chef
Ruhlman’s Twenty

Anthony Bourdain—The food lover’s rock star. Some hate him, some love him. He teaches history of food, respects all cultures he visits and helps me to do the same. The things I’ve learned from him over the years are littered throughout Chef’s Table. My top picks for him are:

Kitchen Confidential
Medium Raw
Les Halles Cookbook

See the rest of my recommendations at Prism Book Alliance where you can enter to win a $25 gift certificate.

 

 

Book Tour: How Could I Choose?

While contemplating some themes to discuss for my book tour, I asked a friend and early reader some of his thoughts–what he might ask me if we could sit down for a drink after he read my book. His first question was a killer, so today’s visit to Wickedly Wanton answers that question.

If you like food, and prefer it to be good food, there are cities all over our nation, all over our world that will cater to you. But, I think most would argue that, New York City is probably one of the best for those who love food.

You can grab a dirty water dog from a vendor in midtown. With a few extra turns, or a little help from your Yelp app, you can find that great bagel joint back on 35th and have the great pleasure of snarfing it down while watching trucks unload their wares in all of the fabric houses in the Garment District. You can upgrade to a deli or a diner and even, if you have completely lost your mind, eat at a franchise like The Olive Garden or TGIF’s—although if you do that, please don’t tell me about it. You can get a bowl of noodles here and then a great spread of dim sum there. You can dress up and dine like the wealthy do, or stop into a random place in Hell’s Kitchen after walking around the city all day and get treated like you are dressed up and eating with the wealthy.

If you can’t find something to eat and to love to eat in New York City, you’re probably just not hungry.

So, it was easy to set this story in New York. To set up two different kinds of cooks with very similar backgrounds. To show two different kinds of restaurants that really share very similar values. Good ingredients, good basic foundational cooking and a heaping load of heart.

But, if I was walking through the city—location not a concern—my friend wanted to know whose restaurant would I chose to patronize?

johnnys Patrick’s diner, Johnny’s, is a friendly place. Loud at busy times, with a nice mumbling buzz of activity at less busy times. Other than desserts, the menu is static. And even with desserts, Patrick has his constants. While you might get a homemade dressing on the salad, ‘health food’ is not on the menu. Your meal is served with plenty of fat, plenty of sass, thanks to his wait staff, and plenty of rib-sticking goodness. It’s good for a sandwich on the run, or a hearty stew or meatloaf when you want to settle in. But, even the sandwiches are so good, you tend to settle in anyway. Slow down. Nurse a cup of coffee over Patrick’s newest twist on pumpkin sweetness for the fall season.

il boschettoEvan’s restaurant, Il Boschetto, is also a friendly place, but not so friendly you’re likely to see the man behind the food, however. Or the woman. Or any of the cooking staff. But it’s still friendly. Your servers take care of your every need before you know you need it. They know when to give you privacy and when to sweep in and refill your wine. And the food, like Johnny’s, is also stick-to-your-ribs hearty. Stuff your Italian grandmother would have made if you indeed had an Italian grandmother. It’s made with the freshest of ingredients by chefs trained in the culinary arts and seasoned on the lines all over the city. Your sauces will be rich and layered, the meats will be off-the-bone tender, the pasta will be cooked to lip-smacking perfection and the sides will be good enough you’d consider making them meals themselves. It’s a full experience of food and atmosphere.

But, so is Johnny’s.

Which makes that choice difficult. But, I believe if I had to choose, if I had to pick one meal, I’d hop on the Q and head to Johnny’s in a heartbeat. I don’t need a server refilling my wine or reading off the prix fixe menu when I know I just want the tuna melt on wheat. At Johnny’s I’d be having a meal with friends. And that always makes everything taste better.

Now, if Patrick is manning the grill to boot? Well, someone better be making me airline reservations.

Head on over to Wickedly Wanton for a chance or two to win a $25 gift certificate and see what else she has to say about Chef’s Table.

Book Tour: Irish Soda Bread

Before I get to the tour visit today at LibriAmoriMiei, let me assure you this is not and will not be a recipe site. But, they asked for one for my visit and I couldn’t think of a better offering than a good Irish Soda Bread recipe–it’s almost a co-star in Chef’s Table.

Soda bread is an Irish staple. You can find it at any meal, afternoon tea and of course, alongside any respectable serving of oysters. If you serve it with butter—and really why make it if you don’t—treat yourself to some Irish butter. It’s cultured, unlike American varieties making it richer and creamier and fuller in flavor. Kerrygold makes a fantastic Irish butter and you can find it, as well as their delicious cheeses, in most major grocery stores. (Dubliner cheese? I would sit and eat it with a knife in a white-walled cement room and be happy it’s that good. “One more chunk. Just… maybe two more chunks.”)

You can also add currants or raisins, but I’m quite fond of it plain. This is a combination of recipes from Simply Recipes and a delightful cookbook that fed much of Patrick’s dishes in Chef’s Table, Real Irish Food by David Bowers.

Makes 1 medium loaf, 6-8 servings.

Or two servings. Gluttony is favorably looked upon when it comes to soda bread and butter

  • 3 cups coarse, stoneground whole wheat (coarse ground is specifically is hard to find—but I used Arrowhead Mills stoneground whole wheat flour, found in the “health food” section of my grocery, and it worked beautifully)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, soda and salt. Mix in enough buttermilk to make a stiff dough, kneading as little as possible to combine.

Turn into a slightly-greased cast iron skillet (my preferred method) or onto a floured rimless baking sheet. The bread will flatten a little on the baking sheet. Shape into a round, and cut a large cross onto the top—to let the fairies out. Or, you know, to let the bread bake evenly depending on whether you are more into the science or the magic.

It’s always for the magic.

Bake for 35-45 minutes (cast iron might take a little longer), or until a long skewer poked into the center comes out clean. If the top starts to get too dark, tent with foil.

If using cast iron, make sure to use pot holders to remove it from the oven. Let rest in pan for 10 minutes and then turn onto a rack to cool. When it’s properly done, the bottom should sound hollow when lightly tapped.

Can be eaten warm. In fact, it’s best fresh from the oven.

It’s that easy. And that delicious. And perfect for the cold winter evenings ahead of us.

After you bake yourself a batch, hop on over to LibriAmoriMiei and check out her lovely 5-star review. Then enter the giveaway for a free $25 gift card… and don’t forget to let me know how well your bread turned out.

 

 

Book Tour: Let’s Talk About That Cover

Today, I get the honor of visiting Books on Silver Wings where they asked me to talk a little bit about my book cover and how it is an integral part of the completed package.

Chef's Table CoverI work in circulation at a county library and I see and handle hundreds of books every day. It is fascinating to me to note which books cause me to slow down and take a second look. The ones that make me want to read the synopsis, and even to consider putting on hold for future reading. What is it that draws me to this book to begin with?

And I’d have to say, outside of author, it’s always the cover. With a quick glance while I’m scanning, I can often determine category, genre, mood and even age of the last printing. Lately, I seem to be drawn to a more minimalist type of book cover. Typeset only, fewer details and colors in the images you do see, etc.

Catch me quick and hold me there.

So, when it was time to come up with a cover for Chef’s Table, while my input was only a small fraction of the process, I was happy to suggest a minimalist approach with the image we’d already been sent of a chef with another man’s sneaky hand reaching around to divest him of his whites.

The trick was getting it to read as light-hearted, which the story is, without looking cartoonish and comical, which it is not, and our art director took that task very seriously. I asked her about how she approaches each cover with so many different themes and styles between stories and she said she does tend to compare each new title to previous ones they’ve done, asking “What does this story bring to the table that others haven’t yet?” In other words, she wants to set each book apart before the reader even opens up the first page.Back-Cover-blog

For Chef’s Table, she called on an illustrator that she knew could not only execute the effect she was going for, but also remain faithful to the whimsical nature of the idea. They used a conventional “cut paper” technique where each simple shape of the image is a different kind of paper, only they achieved the effect digitally. The chef’s jacket is finished with a crisp linen texture. Our cook on the back has a knit textured t-shirt and a woven texture for his apron. Skin is flecked as if pored, and to finish, shadows set off each layer to give the full dimensional effect.

I love my Evan and Patrick in this quirky minimalist fashion. I love the comedy of Evan snatching the cherry from Patrick’s cheesecake on the back, and Patrick’s sneaky hand creeping in to unbutton Evan’s jacket. It’s fun, it’s a little sexy, and it pops with color.

Exactly what I hope the book will do as well.

For more on our artistic director, visit BuckeyeGrrl Designs. To see more work from our illustrator, visit Abby Hellstrom. Her site is still a bit under construction, but there is plenty to see.

For the change at a $25 gift certificate, please visit Books on Silver Wings and enter the giveaway!

Book Tour: Last Meal

Today, I am honored to visit The Reading Addict and talk about the concept of “last meal.”

picjumbo.com_foodiesfeed.com_hamburgerIn Chef’s Table, after our heroes have enjoyed the throes of good love making and a huge, fatty, made-with-love breakfast, they begin to talk about something chefs all over the globe talk about late into the night after long shifts, when the booze is flowing and conversation is loose.

It’s the last meal of your life. Whether on death row, or the world is ending today, or somehow you know, for reasons unfathomable, that the meal before you will be your last. Ever. No more food. No more living. You’re done.

What would you want to eat? Where would you want to eat it? Who would prepare it? Who would you eat it with? But always, always, what—what would that meal be?

And as I wrote that scene and debated the answers for my characters, I had to contemplate it for myself as well. How could I not?

What I learned for me anyway, is that it’s not as easy of a question to answer as I would have expected. Food and I, we have a strange relationship anyway. Good food and I have even a more warped journey. I’m Type II diabetic and have had to ease up on the carbs. That means pasta (oh god, my longing for pasta is almost painful), fruit, bread, and of course… dessert. I mean, aren’t those the main four food groups?

So, my first thought was to imagine diving into a vat of carboliciousness and call it a day. The Day. But the more I contemplated, and as much as I love pasta, there’s not a pasta dish that would be The One for me. I guess I’ve learned to be satisfied without it. Go figure.

What I keep going back to is a roast beast of some kind. A roasted bird even. Something long cooked and crisped on the outside, its fat melting away into the meat so that the meat in turn melts in my mouth. With that, it’s time to carb it up. And in that sense, I guess I projected a bit of myself into Evan’s answer. Really, what’s better than a perfect whip of rosemary mashed potatoes? Fresh rosemary, garlic, warmed cream and butter. If this is it, let us not be shy with the butter. Or the gravy. Pan juices shall never be put to waste.

Oddly enough, a vegetable would be nice here too. And I can hear my mother laughing that I’d actually include a veg in my final meal, but the crunch of a nicely roasted and seasoned vegetable makes that forkful pretty damned special.

To top it all off? Chocolate. Dark. Rich. Creamy. Decadent. Think the chocolate torte Evan served Patrick at chef’s table at Il Boschetto. (Or remember it as you read that scene.)

Who would fix this meal for me? Well, if I couldn’t do it myself—because I know how I like it—I’d want Evan and Patrick, of course. It would be a meal for just my husband and I and we’d eat it in our brownstone in The Village—which doesn’t exist, but you know, rumor has it Evan and Patrick aren’t real either.

What would you want as your last meal? I’d love to hear your answers!

And when you’re done, hop on over to The Reading Addict to enter the giveaway for a $25 gift card.

Exclusive Excerpt: RT Book Reviews

Sure, Thanksgiving’s over, and you’re probably still full. Or, if you’re like us, daydreaming of leftovers. Mmmm, turkey sandwiches. While we’re in this culinary state of mind, let us present to you: M/M, contemporary romance Chef’s Table by Lynn Charles. The men bond over food — and more. We love food, we love romance, so we were intrigued by this “delectable” tale. Want to check it out with us? Read on for an excerpt! It will help with your food coma. We swear.
– See more and an exclusive excerpt at RT Book Reviews

Book Tour: A Recipe for Love

For my first book release blog stop, I was asked to offer up a “recipe for love.” And I must admit, this one tripped me up. I went to google to see if I couldn’t jump start my brain with something clever or cheesy or, well, let’s use the kitchen puns to their full capacity here, appetizing.

What I found there put a whole new spin on cheesy, taking it straight to saccharine and cloying. As I contemplated the options, all I could hear were my characters offering their own ingredients for the recipe for love.

So, I did what any sane writer does. I asked them. I know you don’t know these characters yet, but hopefully, after reading the answers, you’ll be curious to meet them. They’re all pretty spectacular people in their own ways. Even the not-so-spectacular ones. I’m looking at you, Perci.

Here’s what they had to say to the question, “Give me one ingredient for the recipe for love.”

Ross, maître d:                       Cleavage. Love lasts for about an hour for me.

Natalie, head waitress:         Tenderness

Robin, sous chef:                    That little heart palpitation that stirs you every time they walk into the room

Jay, roundsman:                     ::lifts his hands up:: That move. “Yes, honey.” Punctuated with a kiss just in case.

Johnny, diner owner:             Knowing when to buy her flowers and when to just let her stew

DiSante, Il Boschetto owner: Enough money to send her off to Cabo every six months

Mimi, diner waitress:             Chemistry—like when Patrick makes marshmallows for Christmas. Sugar syrup and gelatin mixed together become this big white fluffy ooze of sugary goodness. That’s what it should be like when two people mix together.

Angel, diner waitress:            Letting her see that you’re not the big dumb brute you pretend to be

Perci, line cook:                      Maybe DiSante isn’t as creepy as I thought. I’ll take the money and go.

Rosey, dishwasher:                 You know what I’ve never had before but I have now? Laughter. That’s the best feeling in the world—laughing with someone.

Roger, porter:                          Ehh, I’m not so good at that love business. A little extra time maybe. Everyone’s always in such a damned hurry.

Patrick, head diner cook:       Passion. In all its forms.

Evan, executive chef:              There has to be a secret ingredient: that one thing between the two of you that drives each other mad—the good kind of mad—that will still every argument, that will soften every harsh word, that will reignite every dulled day. And no, you may not have ours.

I’m not sure how their love stew would taste, but it surely would be a fun ride. And really, that’s what love should be. A fun, joyous ride. A little sweet. A little acid. A lot of chemistry and patience to let it all marry together into one delicious dish.

To hear what Carly’s Book Reviews thinks of Chef’s Table, and to enter to win a $225 gift card, head on over to her blog and check in!

Chef’s Table Coming to a Blog Near You

VBT_ChefsTable_Banner

With my book’s release only days away, I will be going on a book tour: visiting blogs, answering questions and talking about some of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about for months. And the best part? None of us have to wear pants!

What’s in it for you? Besides getting to know a bit more about my book, every time you follow me on tour, you will get a chance to win gift cards from Interlude Press–for my book or something from our other amazing authors–or from Barnes and Noble.

Bookmark this link as I will be adding the direct link to the visit and giving you a quick preview of what to expect there.

December 1: Carly’s Book Reviews – 5 stars! And… a recipe for love
December 3: The Reading Addict – The Last Meal
December 4: Books on Silver Wings – Let’s talk about that cover
December 5: LibriAmoriMiei – 5 stars! And a recipe for Irish Soda Bread
December 8: Wickedly Wanton Tales – Which would I choose?
December 9: Prism Book Alliance – A sexy recipe and foodie books
December 10: Unabridged Andra’s – Guilty food pleasures
December 10: Jen’s Reading Obsession – lovely review!
December 11: Romance Novel Giveaways – Stranger Than Fiction? Meet a real life muse.
December 12: The Buttontapper – a Q&A about romance