Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(14) by Susan Mallery
Cal knew that was true. Dani didn’t have a choice. She lived and breathed the business. Despite everything, she was a Buchanan down to her bones. With Gloria standing between her and success, her choices were to endure and hope to change her grandmother’s mind or walk away.
He wrapped his arm around her neck, pulled her close and kissed the top of her head.
“Life’s a bitch,” he muttered.
“Tell me about it.” She straightened and held out her beer. “Change of subject. To Walker. Stay safe and come home to us.”
They drank to their brother, currently serving a tour of duty with the marines in Afghanistan.
“At least we can all be together the next time he’s on leave,” she said.
Cal nodded. “We’ll plan something special.”
Dani wrinkled her nose. “Oh, please. Because you guys are so into social planning. I’ll be the one in charge of that and we all know it.”
Reid looked at him. “When did she get to be so bossy?”
“A few years ago.”
“I’m still bigger than you,” Reid told her.
Dani grinned. “Yeah, big guy, but you were raised to never hit a girl. Not even your sister. So there’s nothing you can do about it.”
CAL SAT in The Waterfront’s main dining room and waited. Right on time, the door to the kitchen swung open and Penny walked out. She wore checked pants, clogs and a three-quarter-sleeve white coat. A blue scarf held her braided hair off her face.
But instead of a tray carrying various dishes, she held only one plate.
He frowned at the fish and chips she put in front of him. “This isn’t the only item I questioned,” he said. “I want to taste the others, too.”
“Try this first,” she said, making no effort to conceal her certainty. “Taste it and weep. I’m going to step back a little so you’ll have room to come crawling to me.”
Yeah, right. She’d served fish and chips. How good could it be?
He was willing to admit she had the presentation nailed. The cream-colored oval plate contained three pieces of fish, waffle-cut fries and brightly colored coleslaw in a cabbage leaf.
“Got any malt vinegar?” he asked.
“Not a chance.”
“The diners may want it.”
“Not after they taste the fish. I’ll allow them to use it on the waffle fries, if they like.”
“How generous. Will you be posting a sign explaining that?”
She grinned. “I thought I’d just put it on the menu. You know, an asterisk by the menu item, then a little note at the bottom explaining the rules.”
Her confidence grated on him. He cut off a piece of the fish and tasted it.
Crunchy batter, but he’d expected that. Still, it was surprisingly crisp without being too hard. As he chewed, the flavors exploded on his tongue. The fish was nice and mild, yet fresh. There was also a hint of spice…No, wait. It was more sweet than spicy.
He took a second bite to try and figure out what she’d put into the batter. Something Thai? No, but chilies of some kind. And what was that tang?
He swore silently. This was better than good—it was addictive. He had to consciously hold back so he didn’t scarf down the entire plate of fish. Instead he deliberately turned to the fries.
The waffle cut made them look more elegant than other fries and he could see they’d been seasoned. He bit into one. Crispy on the outside, but soft and potato-y on the inside. And damn if the spices here didn’t add something extraordinary.
He moved on to the coleslaw and that blew him away. He should have known. Penny loved to experiment until she found exactly the right blend of seasonings. No doubt she’d been working on these recipes for months.
He looked at her. She stood just off to the side, her arms folded, her expression patient.
“You win,” he said with a sigh. “It’s great. I don’t know what you’re putting in the fish batter—”
“I’m not telling,” she said with a self-satisfied smile. “Chef’s secret.”
“Figures. Put this on the menu, along with everything else I questioned.”
Her smile turned smug. “I already did. Naomi called the order in to the printer this morning.”
“WILL SOMEONE GET the goddamn salmon off the back burner,” Burt growled, his low voice thick with fury.
“It’s not my salmon, you sonofabitch,” Juan told him, then plunged his knife into a leek and neatly sliced it in two.
Penny ignored the usual high level of profanity, the male posturing and the jostling as her new kitchen staff learned to work together. Over time they would perfect a delicate dance that provided meals at rapid speed, while maintaining taste and quality, but for the first few nights there would be plenty of mishaps.
Nothing huge, Penny thought, willing the fates to smile on her. A cocktail party for five hundred was just the warm-up. Tomorrow they would be serving dinner for real.
Edouard, her sous-chef, whipped up more sauce for the corn cakes. “The salmon is mine,” he said, not bothering to look up as he drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil. “You girls leave it alone.”
A restaurant kitchen was mostly a man’s world. Penny had learned to deal with it in culinary school. At first she’d been shocked by the insults, pet names that would make a hardened criminal blush and the need for even more creative swearing. In time she’d come to see it as little more than the specialized language of the kitchen. She didn’t usually participate, but if necessary, she could nail every one of her staff with enough profanity to shock them into silence. Still, she preferred to pick her battles.
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