1. Have you ever dreamed about owning a restaurant like Mira does in Aftertaste? What kind of restaurant would you want to own?
Yes, I used to think about it occasionally, but I decided to write about it instead. Whatever real desire I had was quashed by the research I did for Aftertaste. It is an incredibly demanding job to run a restaurant -- and very physical. You’ve got to be in great shape -- you are on your feet for hours, seven days a week. If I did have a restaurant, it would be a little cozy little neighborhood bistro-type place. I’d serve great breads and croissants, maybe a few breakfast soufflés and crepes, some great soups and a couple of interesting salads for lunch.
2. I've never been to Pittsburgh before. If and when I do make it there, what restaurants should I eat in?
Pittsburgh is a great food town, which is surprising to many people. (I guess we are a well-kept secret!) I’ve got lots of favorite restaurants. It’s tough to narrow them down to three, but here goes:
There is a terrific little Moroccan restaurant in the Mt. Lebanon suburb called Kous Kous Café. It’s tiny, maybe eight tables, but the food – French-inspired Moroccan -- is absolutely amazing. Lots of tagines, a terrific kefta (a Moroccan take on the hamburger) served with goat cheese and fig tfaya (caramelized onions and sweet roasted figs) served on house-made Moroccan wheat bread. There is a wonderful salad with grilled whole sardines and an inspired take on osso bucco with white wine and artichokes.
In the Point Breeze section of the city there is a little place called Point Brugge Café that serves Belgian cuisine. It is hands down my favorite place to eat mussels in the city and rivals many I’ve had abroad. They also have a knockout selection of Belgian beers. Their frites are great, too.
I also love Dish, a small restaurant in a row house on Sarah Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side. It’s Italian, with an emphasis on great seafood and antipasti. There’s squid and spinach antipasti that I love so much it makes a cameo appearance in Aftertaste. I order it every time I’m there. It also has a fun, casual vibe and a neat bar with a lovely selection of Italian wines by the glass.
3. What inspired you to write Aftertaste?
The idea for the story came to me several years ago when I was writing my doctoral dissertation. It was a heavy statistical analysis and I was totally consumed by it. I’d accepted an academic position that was dependent upon my finishing it, so I had a major, looming deadline. We had three young kids at home at the time and my husband, champ that he is, told me I could have the summer off from cooking -- he would handle feeding the family so I could finish. I was grouchy and miserable and not just because I was subsisting on a diet of take-out food and hamburger helper. I was missing the only creative outlet I had at the time -- cooking. Mira interrupted me one day and wouldn’t leave me alone, so I wrote the first chapter of her story. Then I stuck it in a drawer and it sat there for a couple of years while I was busy doing other things, but I never stopped thinking about her. Eventually, I picked it back up and Aftertaste is the result!
4. What would you want to eat as your last meal?
I’d start with mussels marinières with a warm, crusty fresh baguette for mopping up the sauce. A perfectly roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, a whole mound of sautéed broccoli rabe, an escarole salad with a mustardy vinaigrette and a nice minerally French chardonnay to go with it. Dessert would be cheese, (Midnight Moon, d’Affinois, French feta and a nice aged nutty cheddar), roasted nuts and honey, fresh figs, more bread, and since I don’t have to worry about a hangover, lots more wine.
5. What three books would you want to bring with you to a deserted island?
A Room With A View by E.M. Forester I’ve read this book so often I’ve lost count. It is an old friend. I love Italy, so the setting always works its magic on me, but even more than that, it’s the message of the story that I find so appealing. It’s about looking inward, how we each are responsible for our view of the world. Attitude is everything. It’s a romantic, visually evocative and touching story and would be a lovely book to keep me company.
Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett A big, sweeping saga that clocks in at nearly1000 pages. Art, architecture, compelling characters, intrigue and lots of action -- what more do you need?
The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher Sooner or later coconuts and mangos are going to get boring and I’ll have to become an armchair (or hammock, as the case may be) eater.
If you are a U.S. resident and want to win this awesome book, just comment below with either your favorite type of cuisine or what your favorite meal is. Don't forget to leave an email address that you check frequently!
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Giveaway ends October 6th at 11:59pm!