Lunch with Stefanie

Here it is. The Bistro Maison restaurant in McMinnville,  possibly my favorite restaurant in Oregon, and maybe the whole world.

Here it is again. It’s in a wonderful old Victorian house, right next to a charming train station in the vibrant-but-funky historic downtown of McMinnville.

There’s a wonderful garden in the back, and during nice weather everyone eats outdoors, where the chef’s dog serves as maitre d’. McMinnville is in the heart of Oregon’s wine country, and much thought is given to the pairings of food and wine at the bistro.

I’ve been working with author Stefanie Sloane on her Young Corinthians series, and having way more fun than one should ever receive payment for. So we decided that while she was in Oregon visiting her in-laws for Christmas, we should get together. Of course, I recommended the Bistro. Bien sur! We even managed, independently, to coerce our respective dh’s into driving us, but NOT joining us for lunch, so we could get pleasantly schnockered, if we so chose. Well, we did. A little. Me, anyway. I am the world’s fastest, happiest drunk, but Stefanie’s Norwegian ancestry has given her a much harder head than I have.

Deborah, the chef’s wife, and our server, recommended an especially good California bubbly.

And even got a photo of us enjoying our first flute.

I don’t know if you can see the front of my sweatshirt, but it’s actually from the Bistro Maison, and I wear it every time I go there, which isn’t nearly often enough.

On my recommendation, we started with the soup; here it is:

 It was a creamy, divinely smooth winter squash, (which grows very well in the Willamette Valley) topped with a dollop of herby creme fraiche. Notice the genuine baguette on the plate.

Then we moved on to the entree.

I went for the salmon, as I always do, this time with French green lentils. Stef decided on the tartiflette, a pure comfort food combination of potato, onion, and bacon in a creamy sauce, kind of like gourmet scallopped potatoes, made virtuous with a fluffy salad of baby greens. And they don’t ask you want kind of dressing you want on your salad. They put on what they want you to have. And they’re always right. Toujours.

Dessert, mesdames? Mais oui! Deborah listed several possibilities, and mostly the word “chocolate” penetrated my calorie-clogged brain. But Stefanie had a better idea: let’s split a baked Alaska, which neither of us had ever had. The magic of baking an elegant meringue without melting the ice cream inside sounds irresistable. And it was.

Right here:

The final offering of the meal were the filberts, no doubt grown locally:

We weren’t even tempted. Not remotely. I had room to finish my cafe au lait, but that was it.

But, really, I think I enjoyed visiting with Stefanie even more than the food, which is really saying something. I am very much a hermit, and have met only a couple of the authors with whom I’ve worked. I communicate only by e-mail, as I truly dread phone conversations. Stefanie is as much an introvert as I am, and happy with just her dog for company. But we had SO MUCH to talk about, her work, my work, kids, pets, schools, backgrounds, hobbies, travel, plans, dreams. We covered it all, talking non-stop during our very leisurely lunch.

I brought Stefanie a couple batches of my buttermilk scones, she picked up the check, and we talked about doing this again, while exploring restaurants in Portland. I can’t wait. Stay tuned.

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Stefanie Sloane

I am totally pleased to announce that Stefanie Sloane has asked me to work with her. Stefanie, who has a very interesting background as an early Amazon employee, won the Romance Bookseller of the Year Award in 1999, as presented by the New York chapter of the RWA. Now, she’s switched from selling other authors’ romances to writing them herself.

Stefanie has written a trilogy with the series title Regency Rogues. Scheduled publication dates are May, June, and July, 2011, which means Major Panic Time for us now. Right Now. Stefanie is delightful to work with–having someone in the same time zone  is an added bonus–and I love the wonderful vintage Regency flavor of her books. (She used the word “epergne” correctly–haven’t run across that since the trad regencies of the 80s. )

Stefanie has already provided me with what might be my favorite testimonial: “Your brain is an impressive thing.”

And as an added inducement, Stefanie has offered to buy me up to three drinks–one for each book–at next year’s RWA convention–she’ll be the one sporting a shiny new published author’s badge. How can I resist?