One can’t write novels involving an Italian restaurant without knowing a little about wines. But my knowledge was limited when it came to Italian varieties. For “Happy with the MIllionaire” , I undertook some internet research on wines from the Piedmont region of Italy and the wonderful barolo variety that is produced there. There was also work to do on the products from the Rutherglen wine region in northern Victoria. This was done in person! It was here that I learned about the tokay/topaque name change and I was able to incorporate that into the story. One of my favourites from this region is the malbec.
In “Loving the Celebrity Chef”, Vincent and Angelique make a day trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley Wine region about an hour and a half north of the city. It’s the first time they go off together and the first time they share a kiss.
They go to one of the winery restaurants for lunch and Vincent encounters his former TAFE teacher. For some reason, this scene didn’t make it into the finished book, so you can read the section here as an exclusive:
As they stood to leave the table, a plump woman wearing the signature black and white trousers of the chef came through the door from the kitchen. She carried a plate hooked against her body with her elbow and a black marker pen in her hand.
“Not so fast, Vinny, my boy! You need to sign this before you go. It’s for my gallery of plates signed by famous people who come here,” she said pointing up to a shelf a couple of hand-spans below the ceiling along the opposite wall.
“Hey Magda! I didn’t know you were working here.”
“Well, I am and you’ve just turned my wait staff and juniors into quivering masses of sexual excitement. It’s a wonder you even got a meal with all of those carryings on in the kitchen.” She fisted the hand with the pen on her hip and lifted one eyebrow at him.
Vincent laughed. It started as a chuckle and ended up as a full belly laugh.
“You never change, do you, you old witch? But I love you.” He leaned down and kissed her with a loud, mwah!
“Go on with you!” She flapped her hand to wave him back out of her space. “People will talk. What would my darling Rosie say?”
“Since you’ve been together thirty years or more, I don’t think it would bother her much.” Vincent chuckled again. “Where’s this gallery of plates? I want to see who my competition is.”
Magda looked nonplussed for a moment. “I’ve only been here a week. Give me a break! Sheesh! Everybody expects everything to be finished before it’s even started these days! You’re the first, Vinny, so make it good!” She thrust the pen and plate at him. The platter was white with the restaurant’s crest on one edge.
Vincent held the dish and narrowed his eyes at his former TAFE culinary teacher. “It’s my first too. I’ll have to think.”
He picked up the pen and scrawled across the face of the plate, “Best food ever!” and signed it, “Rosetti” with a V below his name that gave the appearance of a goatee.
“Yeah! That’ll do!” Magda beamed at him as he handed it back to her. “Now you’ll have to put it up there for me. Us vertically challenged older people don’t do heights too well.”
Vincent arranged the plate on the shelf as directed. Magda nodded her approval and bustled back the way she had come, calling over her shoulder and waving one arm in the air. “Come again, Vinny.”
Good food, good friends and romance –
life’s simple pleasures,
cost little but mean a lot.