This is a great summer read and one that I breezed through with a cocktail in hand on my patio in just a few days.
Off the Menu is the story of Alana Ostermann and her … well, her life. Her life with her dog, her demanding boss, and her best friends. As the assistant to a dashing and incredibly successful chef and food channel star, Patrick Conlon, Alana Ostermann’s life consists of long hours, a demanding but loyal boss, and the opportunity to follow her first love and work in the food world, rubbing elbows with famous chefs and resting recipes. But between training her boss’ sous chefs, writing out cards on his behalf, and cleaning up his messes, Alanna doesn’t have a lot of time for herself, or her quest for love.
While looking through online profiles one night, Alana unexpectedly stumbles upon R.J., a dashing and successful gentleman who seems to good to be true. He loves food and wine as much as she does, and her beloved dog Dumpling quickly warms up to him. And just as her love life is blossoming, she receives an exciting professional opportunity that would take her away from the frenetic excitement of her job with Patrick, but feed a professional desire she never realized she wanted so badly. But while their relationship blossoms, her priorities shift, and with her boss vying for her attention Alana must make a decision about how to bring everything she loves to the table.
I got completely wrapped up in Alana’s world and the decisions she’s faced with, wondering what’s going to happen next. This is a book that I want to go back through at some point and look at how Stacey wrote it – what was it about this book that captivated me and made me want to read? There’s definitely something here–characters who intrigue, discussions about food that made me want to go cook, and best of all, recipes so I can! The only disappointment I found was that the one recipe i wanted, Alana’s birthday cake, isn’t in the book! Boo! (I can admit it though, that just served as a challenge to come up with the cake on my own.)
This book definitely makes me want to look up some of Stacey’s other books!
Ballis is the Chicago-based author of six novels, including The Spinster Sisters and Good Enough to Eat, and a contributing author to two non-fiction anthologies; Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys and Everything I Learned About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume. She is a consultant and freelance writer, with a penchant for creating amazing dinner parties and meals. For more information, check out her website at www.staceyballis.com, and follow her on Twitter @staceyballis.