Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
It's getting hotter in the kitchen
Tilly Milek almost has it all. She's opened her own Chicago restaurant, the way she'd always dreamed, and it's this close to being a success. Even better, she's met Dan Meier—a gorgeous man who loves food as much as she does. He isn't put off by her demanding job, which only makes her want to spend more time with him.
But a scathing review by an anonymous local critic puts everything in jeopardy. Worse, her steamy new man turns out to be the one who wrote it! Tilly doesn't see how she can ever forgive Dan, but she can't stop thinking about him either. In print he's her enemy. In person? He's as tempting as a perfectly prepared meal…and Tilly's appetite just might get the best of her.
For the first time since her junior prom, Tilly Milek's main goal was not to be featured in Saveur. Her new goal: to hunt down the identity of CarpeChicago's The Eater and shake him until he told her why in the name of Mary the Blessed Virgin he had written that review.Her day had started out innocuously enough. She had gotten to Babka at nine, spent an hour and a half doing the restaurant's bookkeeping and answering emails, planning today's menu, creating prep lists for AM Carlos and confirming several reservations. All the reservations through OpenTable had real phone numbers. Not a single person had entered 312-123-4567. Guaranteed to be a good day.
Until all the staff had sat down for the family meal, without their hostess, Tilly would have placed serious money on tonight being a big night at Babka.
Clearly, she hadn't said enough rosaries in her lifetime because God was laughing at her.
"We don't have the whole day to waste waiting for Karen. We're going to get started." Tilly looked around at the staff eating their dinner. "Now, about the menu tonight…"
"Our first review!" Karen, hyperactive as usual, slammed through the silver swinging doors between the kitchen and the dining room, holding her iPad in front of her as an offering to the kitchen gods. "It's The Eater, on CarpeChicago." She was loud enough they could probably hear her at the bookstore next door. "It's a great place for it, right? I mean, that blog is one of the most widely read in the city and their opinions on everything from food to music are trusted by anyone who can use a mouse. That's what you want, right?"
Right now what she wanted was for Karen to arrive to work on time, Tilly thought, as her hostess skidded to a halt beside the table. Karen should have been at Babka about a half an hour ago finishing up the last of the reservations instead of Candace having to call with confirmations.
"The review seems a little early," Tilly commented.
As far as her records indicated, no one who'd eaten at Babka more than once had ordered enough for a review or taken photos, so she hadn't expected a review out of the Sun-Times or Tribune for at least another month. CarpeChicago might be a blog, but their restaurant reviewer adhered as strictly to professional standards as any newspaper, whether writing about the experimental and constantly-topping-restaurant-lists Alinea or a new hole-in-the-wall noodle shop in Chinatown. The Eater's honesty and willingness to eat anything was what made his reviews so popular. That, and the constant guessing game about who he was. Tilly wasn't even sure The Eater was a man. If her records on their customers were right, The Eater might be a group writing together. Those who knew weren't telling. He (they?) were the best kept secret in Chicago.
Whoever it was, Babka needed a good review.
"Karen, you're late."
"I know, I know. But you'll forgive me because I come bearing such wonderful gifts. We should open a bottle of champagne. Candace—" Karen motioned to the bartender, a short, attractive African-American woman "—get some glasses and we'll pop a bottle."
Tilly put her arm on Candace's shoulders to stall her. "We'll hold off on the champagne. It's four-thirty in the afternoon. Bubbly can wait until later, when we know what he said. I'd hate to waste a bottle of the best on a crummy review."
"Omigod! I didn't even read it. It popped up on my RSS feed while I was on the bus and I ran here from the bus stop as fast as I could." Karen panted as if to emphasize her mad dash. "How could the review be bad? I mean, look around. No restaurant in Chicago is better."