Please give a warm welcome to women's fiction author, Kate Austin, who also write erotica under the name of Josee Renard!
When I go out to eat or have people over for dinner (both of which I do often), there’s that one perfect moment when I step into a room and see the lovely contrast of shape and material, the light glittering on glass and silver and china, the flowers adding a pop of color.
That moment, that first glimpse, makes me feel as if I’m in the theater and the curtain is rising. It’s all about anticipation and appreciation.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re having a picnic in your back yard, a formal dinner in your dining room or a buffet laid out on your kitchen counter, that first impression is crucial.
And for me?
Although I love food, if that first visual impression doesn’t blow me away, no matter how good the food, I’ll still go back to a restaurant that takes care of the eyes as well as the belly.
Dinner at my house goes through a whole bunch of phases, partly because I love the lead up to it, and partly because it’s a lot of work. It’s work of love, but it’s definitely work.
• I begin with my guests--because not everyone is going to want to eat lamb or hot chilli or chilled soup. I want to make sure they’ll enjoy what I serve so the menu comes after the guest list is complete. Although I admit that I have occasionally wanted to try a particular menu and asked guests who I knew would appreciate those foods.
• Once I’ve figured out the guest list, I come up with a menu. I try not to make it too complicated, or involving too much last minute fussing, because I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen. The more I can do ahead of time, the happier I am.
• Then it’s the wine. That’s important to me and I will almost always pick both red and white, even if the meal calls for red (or white), as some people won’t drink one or the other. I choose wines I’ve had before and if I’m considering something I haven’t tasted, I’ll test a bottle before I settle on it.
Once I’ve figured out these things, I move on to the most entertaining part of my preparation. Ambience.
I begin with two things: setting (linens, glasses, plates, candles) and flowers. There are a lot of factors that play into these decisions. How many guests? What shape is the table? What am I serving? What color and texture is the food? Is it a special occasion? Do I need plates and bowls?
White china is a necessity in my house so I don’t have to worry about what color the food is, because white goes with everything (ever notice that almost every restaurant uses white china? There’s a reason for that). I have several shapes and sizes of wine glasses and plenty of well-polished cutlery, all of which I’ve added to over the years. Different tablecloths, napkins, placemats, to either complement or subtract color. I use vases that don’t interfere with the lines of sight; there’s nothing worth than craning your head around flowers to see someone across the table.
I usually buy flowers (sometimes small flowering plants work—African violets, kalanchoe, miniature roses, even bromeliads or indoor cactus) the day of dinner, though I always have an idea of what I want beforehand. I often browse my neighborhood flower shops so I usually have good idea about what’s available.
And then I set the stage…
That’s almost exactly what I’ve done in creating Inferno, the restaurant that anchors all three novellas in this series. I’ve set the stage for the perfect restaurant, the one I’d go to every night, the one where I’d celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, where I’d know everyone and they’d know me.
Because restaurants are tiny microcosms of the world, both good and bad, it’s a great location to set a romance. It’s intense. It’s fast-paced. It’s all about solving problems and full of people under a whole lot of pressure. Put a couple of restaurant people together and it’s not just sparks that fly. That’s why each of the three Inferno novellas center around a couple, both of whom are involved in some way with Inferno.
And starting up a new restaurant adds even more fuel to an already fiery lifestyle. It’s a little like being in a high stakes poker game. That’s true of writing a novel, as well.
But good restaurants and good stories are a reflection of all that is best in us.
And so I hope you enjoy the passion and joy of Inferno and of the people who work there.