This fun book is best read along with a Cuban cookbook. As I was almost done, I told my husband it was making me hungry for a Cubano sandwich. He promptly volunteered to make one for me. So our Memorial Day meal was Cuban sandwiches, with chips and potato salad. Maybe not your typical Memorial Day celebration, but it was delicious!
Tony grew up in Little Havana in Miami, but it’s been several years since he’s been home. He’s a big time chef in New York City now, with a hit restaurant. Yes, he’s burnt out from the paperwork and business of running a restaurant, and he doesn’t get to cook like he used to, but that’s the price he’s willing to pay for the acclaim and success. When his sister calls and asks him to come home to help with the menu planning for his niece’s quinceanera (15th birthday celebration), he’s not sure he can leave the restaurant for that long. But he agrees. He could use the break and he hasn’t been home for too long.
Sara Kelly is Tony’s best friend’s younger sister and she has a restaurant in Miami. She had a crush on Tony when she was a teenager, but she’s over that now. Her restaurant specializes in upscale twists on comfort food and is crowded every night. Her niece is also turning 15, and Sara’s sister-in-law asks Sara to help plan the menu.
Tony visits Sara’s restaurant and is impressed with both the food, and his friend’s all-grown-up sister.
Everything would be headed to a happily-ever-after, except for a reporter. She’s assigned to write a story about the resurgence of quinceaneras among the Cuban population of Miami. When she hears that two acclaimed chefs are handling the two menus, she sees her angle. She deliberately baits Sara and Tony, putting them in competition with each other. She will only feature one chef in her article. Both of them need the exposure and publicity the article will garner. Tony wants to open a new restaurant in Miami, so he can return more often, maybe even move back, closer to family and Sara. Sara wants to open a second restaurant. She trains women who need job skills to work in her kitchen. With another restaurant, she can help more women and ease the crowding at the first restaurant.
Since this is a Hallmark Publishing book, of course, Tony and Sara are able to work out the competition and their relationship. This book was a bit of a departure for Hallmark, in that Cuban and Latin culture, language and food were all featured predominantly. It wasn’t just white people in a white town baking white cake (no offense to people who like white cake–I love it!) But it was refreshing to read about a different culture. And remind me how delicious picadillo and porchetta are. Not to mention that Cubano sandwich.
This was a fun book and I highly recommend it.
I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.