Cooking The Books – Emmie Dark

Chef with cookbookIt’s not often I get a Billy Joel earworm but this week I have Harlequin SuperRomance and Destiny Romance author Emmie Dark to thank for putting me in a New York State of Mind. When she told me she was headed to the Big Apple, I asked her to be our correspondent. I begged her to do some very New York eating at a typical NY deli. I wanted brisket, pastrami and pickles. As you will see, she’s lukewarm about the pickles but I can’t think of Crossing Delancey without looking at pickles as a fabulous way to a woman’s heart. Welcome Emmie!!


Adventure at Artie’sEmmie Dark

by Emmie Dark

Louise sent me off to New York with a pretty specific mission for this blog post: I was to find and document a meal at a traditional New York deli. Never one to turn down an adventure, I agreed and, last week, set off to fulfil my commitment.

My first task was to chose where to go! I did a quick Google search on “Best New York delis” and luckily the number one on the list just happened to be in the same neighbourhood as some other places I wanted to visit. So it was off to “Artie’s”.

Arties NYC

Artie’s is on the Upper West Side and I caught the subway to get there. I felt like quite the local, because I’d used the subway a few times in previous days, so I actually knew where I was going and which train to catch. I was even confident enough to pop earphones on for a bit of subway soundtrack.

(As an aside, don’t you love it when your “random” music selection throws up the perfect song for the occasion? I got two Aussie songs that felt particularly right for my subway trip: City Calm Down’s “Pleasure and Consequence” made me feel like I was in an indie film (“lone but scrappy gal takes on big city and wins!”) and Hilltop Hoods’ “Nosebleed Section” had me right at home with a little hip hop amongst my homies.)

The inside of Artie’s with its red Laminex tables delivers the true diner/deli experience. Inside Arties NYC

And I loved a couple of the signs around the place – particularly the one advertising their catering service: “My son’s becoming a doctor party! Deli platter with Artie’s famous pastrami, corned beef, fresh turkey breast & corned beef!”

Because I was looking for breakfast, I steered away from the sandwiches. But I knew Louise expected a traditional deli meal, so I chose a pastrami omelette. All meals are served with pickles and coleslaw, which are brought to your table as soon as you order.Arties NYC - Condiments

Pickles? I don’t mind them, but these were especially vinegary and sharp. Not for me. And the coleslaw was very creamy and pretty tasteless to be honest. So also not for me. So far, strike one for Artie’s.

There were various sides you could order with your breakfast. I went for potato pancakes, not entirely sure what to expect, but I did think they would be something between a traditional pancake and a hashbrown. No. They’re more like potato croquettes and they’re served with apple sauce and sour cream. I didn’t love them, but I didn’t hate them either. Arties NYC - Breakfast

As for the omelette? Seriously, this was one of the most unusual breakfast foods I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t, as I’m used to, a folded-over melding of eggs and extras (pastrami in this case). Instead, it was more like a crepe – a very fine layer of egg folded over and over, with chunks of pastrami between the layers.  Someone told me this is an Italian way of making omelettes, but I’ve never seen it before.

(I’m not sure if you really wanted to see a close-up of my half-eaten breakfast, but this was the only real way to show you the layer thing I’m talking about.) Arties NYC - eaten breakfast

Despite the unusual construction, the omelette was quite delicious and the pastrami chunks were satisfyingly salty.

I also managed to get a cup of herbal tea – although judging from the somewhat crumpled tea bag, I got the feeling it might have been dug up out of a jar put to the back of their darkest, dimmest cabinet with a label that said something like, “Fancy schmancy tea for uppity people who think they’re too good for our coffee” or something similar.

Unfortunately I was full and didn’t have time to fit in dessert. But I really wanted to try another New York staple, the black-and-white cookie. Luckily I got to have one a week later…

The Ritz - tea

…during afternoon tea at The Plaza. Yes, just a little different from Artie’s! But that’s another story…

Emmie’s latest SuperRomance release “Just For Today…” came out in June and is available now in North America, Australia and New Zealand or online. []

You can find Emmie on the web:






Cooking The Books – Valerie Parv

Chef with cookbookToday I’m thrilled to welcome romance writing royalty to Cooking The Books. Valerie Parv is a much loved author and I have to tell you, I spent quite a few years desperately trying to become one of her famous minions. She’s a generous teacher and mentor, an engaging speaker but first and foremost she’s a fabulous writer.

Welcome, Valerie!

Valerie PARV 2012 head shot

“When I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness
and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”

~ M.F.K. Fisher, from The Art of Eating

When Julia Child praises your book, you know you’re on to something, and Ms Child had only good things to say about M K Fisher’s approach to food, shown in the above quote. I think Mary Frances Fisher is right about the relationship between food and love, possibly hitting on the reason why so many romance novels have a focus on some aspect of eating.

In my novels, the hero never asks the heroine what’s for dinner. Instead, he arrives with a picnic basket of wonderful goodies and carries her off to a romantic setting. Or hires a restaurant exclusively for the two of them.

In my Harlequin Superromance, With a Little Help, the heroine is a master chef and the hero is a doctor with no time for cooking. I loved researching the recipes, especially when she caters for his milestone birthday. The book isn’t about the food but it resonates with the passion growing between them.

Birthright-coverMy latest book, Birthright, is a romantic suspense with a generous helping of what Erica Hayes calls aliens and evil astronauts. When I was asked to contribute to this blog, I didn’t think Birthright had much to do with food, but it turns out to play a surprising role.

The heroine, ex-police officer and now deputy governor, Shana Akers, is a feminist who cooks to relieve stress. When we first see her cross swords with sexy-as-sin genius, Adam Desai,  she offers him coffee and home-made friands, despite it being 3am.

In another scene when Adam reluctantly starts to trust the aliens, Elaine and Garrett, he takes them to a secret restaurant, the gesture a symbol of the change taking place between them. Here’s part of the scene:

“We’re unlikely to have an audience here,” Garrett said as they were admitted in response to Adam’s knock. Inside, he found only four tables, all presently unoccupied, spaced well apart in the cool, shadowy room. There were no menus. Adam was obviously well known to the owner, who greeted him with a hug and Gallic kiss on both cheeks, then bustled away to a kitchen visible through a doorway at the back. Adam ushered them to seats at a set table. A wine carafe and four glasses sat in the middle, and he poured them each a glass then raised his in salute. “To a lucky escape this morning.”

Garrett lifted his glass and Elaine did the same. “To luck.”

The wine was mellow and delicious. The food when it arrived was even better. A whole tropical fish in fragrant herbed butter was the centerpiece, surrounded by dishes of local vegetables and fresh baguettes. The owner left them to serve themselves, and the thick walls of the cottage absorbed their conversation.

“Forgive me for saying so, but this is quite a turnaround from wanting to have us thrown off the base this morning,” Elaine said, helping herself to a portion of fish.

Adam did the same before breaking off a chunk of bread and spreading it with butter. “I feel responsible for almost getting you killed.”

Garrett passed him the vegetables. “You seem sure you were the target.”

“Three times in three days increases the odds, wouldn’t you say?”

Garrett gestured to the food in front of them. “You were too concerned about being overheard for this lunch to be merely a peace offering.”

Though this restaurant is on my island kingdom of Carramer where Birthright is set, I’ve eaten at its twin in Plymouth, UK. The food was English rather than French, but the place was also tiny with no signage or menu. See, even going out to dinner, a writer is researching 🙂

Lack of food also makes a point about the struggle my characters face. Here’s a sample:

“We forgot one thing,” Elaine said when it seemed Adam had forgotten her existence altogether.

He gave her a distracted look. “The RCS and OMS propulsion systems monitors? I’m getting to them.”

“I have no idea what they are. I was referring to food.”

“Oh, that. Rosie said there’s something in the blue bag she left.”

Stepping carefully over the tangle of cables and stripped wires, Elaine located the bag and delved in. “More wraps and soft drinks loaded with chemical coloring,” she groaned. “Don’t you people eat real food?”

With his legs protruding from beneath a console, he said, “Sometimes we forget to eat at all.” He walked himself out from under and groaned as he uncoiled to a standing position. “I’ll be lucky if I can move tomorrow, far less orchestrate a shuttle launch single-handedly.”

So whether the food is gourmet or pot luck, I’m also writing about “love and the hunger for it”, and best of all, the satisfaction of it.

Thanks, Valerie, for being my guest today. Valerie’s details are below along with the Amazon link to her book.

On Twitter @valerieparv

Blogging at

Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. So it’s no wonder she’s taking romance to the stars and beyond In Birthright, her most ambitious novel yet. She loves connecting with readers via her website, blog, @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook.

About Birthright
Former police officer turned deputy governor, Shana Akers, is used to handling high-stakes situations. But after learning that a space shuttle mission about to be launched from her island home may have a shocking secret agenda, she must turn for answers to the man who has challenged her mind and emotions for years.

Scientific genius and space center director, Adam Desai, is a truly self-made man. Found adrift at sea as a baby, he knows nothing about his origins until two VIPs attending the launch force him to confront the truth about his past, changing everything Adam has ever believed about himself.

Faced with a danger that threatens the entire world, can Adam and Shana find the strength to trust not only each other, but the mysterious VIPs whose unusual abilities defy logical thinking? Especially when it becomes clear that they’ll need all of their combined resources to reclaim humanity’s BIRTHRIGHT.

Published by Corvallis Press USA 2012.

Birthright a near-future romantic suspense available now on Amazon Reviewed: