Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Off The Menu

Author: Stacey Ballis
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade

As the executive culinary assistant to celebrity Chicago chef Patrick Conlon, Alana Ostermann works behind the scenes—and that’s just the way she likes it. But with developing recipes for Patrick’s cookbooks, training his sous chefs, picking out the perfect birthday gifts for his ex-mother-in-law, and dealing with the fallout from his romantic escapades, she barely has a personal life, much less time to spend with her combo platter of a mutt, Dumpling.

Then a fluke online connection brings her RJ, a transplant from Tennessee, who adds some Southern spice to her life. Suddenly Alana’s priorities shift, and Patrick—and Dumpling—find themselves facing a rival for her time and affection. With RJ in the mix, and some serious decisions to make about her personal and professional future, Alana must discover the perfect balance of work and play, money and meaning, to bring it all to the table—one delicious dish at a time…

I have always been drawn to books about food! I just love to read them and this one was a prime example of why they prove to be some of my favorites. The first thing that I was drawn to on the cover was, of course, the dog and the cupcakes/muffins; I really don’t know which they are? I was thinking to myself how is a dog going to play into this story? I found that the answer was: in the cutest way ever!!! Being a girl, I couldn’t help but love the polka dotted oven mitt and I knew that our main character was going to be vivacious and full of style! I immediately read the back cover and learned that our little cuddly mutt on the front cover is named “Dumpling,” how charming!

The word for this book is definitely “intimate”. The characters and the settings were so easily relatable and the main character, Alana, was the best of all. She had such a charming disposition and was such an easy going person; I feel like she and I are really good friends. Her life is so organized and even though it got to be a little chaotic at times she was more than capable of keeping her ducks in a row. She had a wonderful career and a huge, loving family; what more could she need? Oh, and not to mention a sweet little dog named Dumpling who completely adored her. But she was missing her Prince!

Alana really had a passion for cooking and she really was devoted to her career. She had high demands and expectations for herself and others around her. Alana had really made a name for herself within the food industry and she was glad to be able to finally take the time to pride herself in that. The way that she talked about food and the dishes she was preparing was quite magical. You know when you can just tell that someone loves what they do? That was Alana! And a huge credit to Stacey’s writing; it is quite brilliant. I was so enticed by every dish that was prepared and when Thanksgiving dinner was prepared and served I am sure that my saliva almost reached the pages of the book.

Alana is very family oriented and she after being about half way through the book I felt like I was a part of it. She had a wonderful relationship with her parents and her siblings and her nieces and nephews admired her to no end. I wanted Alana so badly to be able to fall in love and finishing the puzzle of her life. She wanted it so bad for herself as well and was trying so hard to be patient with life and not to rush anything with any particular man. It is characters like Alana that I begin rooting for. She had her life together and was happy in herself, but like every woman still longed for the company of a soul mate. And who can blame her? Such a loveable character, Stacey!

When RJ came along I was immediately ecstatic for Alana. This sounds like we are best friends! I just loved her story and her character all around. She had fallen in love and it was clear from the pages before she even knew that she was. I won’t spoil the details of their relationship for you. It takes its ups and downs, but then again what relationship doesn’t? Once anyone starts to fall in love it seems that their life begins to twist and twirl like a rampant rollercoaster flying out of control. Alana makes some tough decisions but only comes out to be a stronger person because of it! I was overly pleased with this book. It was such a quiet and quaint read for a hot summer day!

***Thank you to the publishers at Berkley Trade for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***


  1. I love food oriented books too! This sounds like a really great story. If I had to offer a guess, I'd say that those are muffins on the cover just because cupcakes are (usually) more uniform/smooth and those look a bit swirled.

  2. Thanks Chelsey! So glad you liked it...