A Quest for the Best Burger in L.A.

Foodie Kidlit Friday iconWhen you write books about a made-up restaurant critic, sometimes you get the urge to channel her and do a bit of critiquing yourself. Which is why my husband Andy and I decided to fly to L.A. over Martin Luther King weekend and eat as many different hamburgers as we could. 🙂

This whole crazy idea came about last year, when I tagged along with Andy on a work trip to L.A. I put out a call online for restaurant recommendations, and ended up with a lot more recs for burger places than I would have expected. There wasn’t enough time to hit them on that first trip, but Andy and I vowed to come back and eat at as many as we could in an effort to find L.A.’s best burger. Our friends Katie and Jason, who live in L.A., immediately agreed to join us, and a quest was planned!

Your judges:

Andy & Tara

Andy (financial professional) & Tara (children’s author)

 Jason & Katie

Jason (TV writer) & Katie (environmental communications expert)

In three days, we managed to hit nine places, running the gamut from humble fast food shack to high-end French bistro. I know that this doesn’t even begin to be comprehensive (I’m already compiling a list for next time!), but it made for a decent sampling.

So without further ado, here’s where we went and what we ate!

Stop #1: Hole in the Wall, Santa Monica
Burger base price: $8.95

Hole in the Wall is a cute little fast-casual place with a decent-sized outdoor patio.
Hole in the Wall

(And a mission statement!)
Hole in the Wall interior
You order using a handy checklist. Andy and I kept things pretty basic, though we did go for the pretzel bun and the cranberry mayo, which sounded like the most fun of the spread choices provided. Katie and Jason got cheese on their burger, and tried the mustard pickle relish.

Hole in the Wall menuThe burger:
Hole in the Wall burger

Verdict

Meat: I found the meat to be juicy, and Katie said hers had “solid char.” Andy thought the meat was on the mushy side. Quoth Jason: “It was good. I liked it.”

Bun: Everyone loved the pretzel bun, though Katie said the bottom of hers got a little soggy and that the cheese was poorly distributed.

Condiments & toppings: Andy and I found the cranberry mayo to be lacking in flavor, even when eaten on its own without a bite of meat. Katie and Jason gave the mustard relish a big thumbs up, though. The lettuce and tomato were fresh enough, though no one found them remarkable.

Worth mentioning: The fries were solid–worth ordering. Also, Hole in the Wall had a great assortment of shake flavors (including peanut butter and malt), which, sadly, we did not try. But they also has a fridge full of awesome-sounding soda flavors, including Shirley Temple soda, Cheerwine, and various cream sodas. I just had to get the praline cream soda from Louisiana. It was a little scarily sweet, but I appreciated the opportunity to try it.

Hole in the Wall soda

Bottom line: We all gave Hole in the Wall a solid for its burgers. We would return if we were in the neighborhood, though we probably wouldn’t drive across town just to go. The pretzel buns and fun beverage selection give it an edge.

Stop #2: The Apple Pan, West L.A.
Burger base price: $7.10

The only thing more adorable than the outside of The Apple Pan…
The Apple Pan
…is the inside of The Apple Pan! It’s just one giant counter (and in the middle of the afternoon, well past peak lunchtime, we had to wait for seats).
The Apple Pan interior
But while you wait, you can gaze into the back kitchen, where rows and rows of deep-dish apple pies wait to be cut up.
The Apple Pan pies
The menu features two “original” burgers–the Steakburger and the Hickoryburger–so we had to try both.
The Apple Pan menu
Burger cross-section:
The Apple Pan burger

Verdict

Meat: These are thinner, smaller burgers than most of the other entries out there. While no one found the steak burger remarkable, we all agreed that the hickory burger had excellent flavor.

Bun: No one was very impressed. Comments included “generic” and “not substantial enough for all the condiments.”

Condiments & toppings: The condiments were overwhelming, exploding out of the sandwich to make this our messiest burger-eating experience. The relish had an interesting flavor, but everyone agreed that there was way too much of it, and the delicious hickory burger was almost drowned in ketchup. As for the toppings, Andy said “I liked that there was half a head of iceberg in my burger. I could have taken the extra home to make a salad later.”

Worth mentioning: The beverage selection was poor (no shakes or interesting sodas). The pies looked amazing, though, and it wasn’t until we were a neighborhood away in the car that we realized we really should have tried a slice while we were there. Our mistake.

Bottom line: The Steakburger got a B- from everyone, while the Hickoryburger’s grades ranged from B- to A- for an average grade of B/B+ (terrific meat surrounded by lackluster everything else). However, The Apple Pan gets an A for atmosphere, and we’d go back to try some of that pie, at the very least.

Stop #3: Father’s Office, Mid-City
Burger base price: $12.50

Atmosphere-wise, Father’s Office is pretty much the opposite of The Apple Pan–very slick and modern. (Though, like at The Apple Pan, you order at the bar/counter!)

Father's OfficeFather’s Office makes a lot of “best burger in L.A.” lists–but the thing is, they won’t do any substitutions. And since Andy doesn’t eat cheese (and I don’t like melted cheese), that meant that their famed burger (which contains gruyere and blue cheese, as well as bacon and arugula) was untasteable for us. And by the time we got there, Katie and Jason were burgered out, so we didn’t end up having a burger there at all.

We couldn’t pass up dessert, though. Here’s the gingerbread ice cream sandwich with pumpkin ice cream (looks kind of like a burger, no? 🙂 ) And even better was the sticky toffee pudding a la mode. YUM.

Father's Office ice cream sandwich
Verdict

Nice desserts and beer list. Couldn’t try the burger, so if you’ve had it, feel free to weigh in in the comments.

Stop #4: Stout, Hollywood
Burger base price: $11

Stout, which focuses on burgers and beer, was a late addition to our first-day agenda…but a great one. Read on.
StoutThis is a sit-down, table-service place, though it’s not fancy or fussy. And while you can’t mix and match toppings here, you can have them removed, which is what Andy and I did to the cheese on our choice, the “Truffle Shuffle.” Jason had his burger mojo back by this point and went for the “Goombah,” while Katie sampled the bean-and-quinoa a veggie burger.
Stout menu
The “Truffle Shuffle” burger (minus cheese):
Stout burger

Verdict

Meat: Comments from the meat-eaters included “juicy,” “delicious,” and “solid.”

Bun: This is a tall, substantial bun–very aesthetically pleasing in its perfect roundness.

Condiments & Toppings: Stout eschews the typical lettuce/tomato/pickle for its own custom topping combinations–and we think they should keep at it. The sauteed mushrooms and truffle aioli on Andy’s and my burger was terrific, and Jason loved the combination of cheeses and prosciutto on his.

Worth noting: Our side of sweet potato fries was definitely worth ordering–a good “crunch to softness ratio” as one of our tasters (okay, I) put it. The beer and wine list is extensive and was enjoyed by Katie and Jason; Andy and I would have liked to see more interesting nonalcoholic options, but at a place called “Stout,” we weren’t going to hold our breaths.

Bottom line: Solid A- grades across the board (including for Katie’s veggie burger). As Jason said, the whole experience just worked altogether. We’d definitely go back to try some different varieties.

Stop #5: Astro Burger, Hollywood
Burger base price: $3.20

Moving now from the gourmet to the…less gourmet. We kicked off day 2 of burger-eating at Astro Burger, which Katie described as having a “Greek diner meets fast-food burger joint” vibe.Astroburger

The burger:
Astroburger burger

Verdict

Meat: “Bland,” “thin and gray,” “well-done,” and “just like a Whopper.”

Bun: As Katie put it: “average and unnoticeable.” Andy, when pressed: “It had sesame seeds.”

Condiments & Toppings: Toppings were average/disappointing: bland shredded lettuce and mealy tomato. Katie and Jason got an avocado burger, and the avocado was nice and fresh, but Katie said it added more texture than flavor.

Worth noting: Thanks to the burger’s low price, we sprung for a pineapple shake, which was fine (though not so pineapple-y). Of note, though, is Astro Burger’s extensive vegetarian/vegan menu, complete with a lot of different fake meats. (Maybe they are better than the real meat?)

Bottom line: Our grades ranged from C- to C+, averaging out to C. Quoth Katie: “It hits all the requirements, but makes no attempt to excel.”

Stop #6: Fatburger, Los Feliz
Burger base price: $4.69

On to Fatburger, a California chain. Apparently, most of them look like generic fast-food joints, but this one was very cute!
Fatburger

Well, at least from the outside. It’s hard to see the menu in this shot, but Fatburger operates on a “build-your-own” model; no special buns, but all of the expected basic topping and condiment choices are available.Fatburger interiorThe burger:
Fatburger burger

Verdict

Meat: Katie and I both found the meat to be tasty, and I liked that the patty was thicker and more substantial than the Whopper/Astro Burger style of fast-food burger. Andy, on the other hand, found it bland and said the burger taste was overpowered by the relish. Jason said that, of the fast food chains, it’s the best by far.

Bun: Andy enjoyed that the bun was toasted, and Jason said his didn’t get greasy. Katie found it unremarkable; I thought it was a step up from the average bun.

Condiments & Toppings: We all agreed that the relish was strong, and that pickles + relish is probably overkill on this burger. Next time, we’d pick one or the other.

Worth noting: Katie and I split a red velvet shake, and appreciated the novel flavor, though we wouldn’t run back for another one.

Bottom line: No one gave Fatburger the same grade; they ranged from a C- (Andy) to a B+ (Jason) for an average score of B-. Three out of four of us would come back, and I would definitely choose Fatburger over In & Out Burger (which we didn’t visit on this trip, but which we have tried twice before–I’m just not a fan).

Stop #7: Comme Ca, West Hollywood
Burger base price: $18

Oops, forgot to take a picture outside of this restaurant…or inside…or of anything but the burger. (But oh, what a burger!) Briefly, Comme Ca is a fancy French bistro where the burger–while being the most expensive of our quest–is by far the cheapest entree on the menu. It comes with skinny French fries, strong garlic aioli for dipping, and a crunchy, salty slaw as the burger’s only condiment (unless you have yours with cheese, also an option).

Le burger:

Comme Ca burger

Verdict

Meat: Ah, subjectivity. Andy found our burger to be “flavorful but a little dry,” while Katie said her cheeseburger was “fairly juicy but not so flavorful.” Jason and I both thought ours had great flavor and texture.

Bun: Everyone was a fan of the toasted and buttered bun. “No bun-sog!” proclaimed Katie. (I should also point out that, between the thick burger and the substantial bun, this is a very tall burger, which may annoy small-mouthed folks. Given that, though, I didn’t have as much trouble fitting it into my [small] mouth after the first couple of bites, and it was not nearly as messy to eat as I feared.)

Condiments & Toppings: We were fans of the salty slaw…well, except for Jason, who said “it’s not a slaw.” Though, actually, I think he still liked it.

Worth noting: The fries and aioli were delicious. If $14 cocktails are your thing, Comme Ca has plenty of them to choose from, and according to Jason, an excellent wine list. Not so much of interest on the nonalcoholic side. The one dessert we tried, a caramel pot de creme ($8) was amazing. All that said, our service was kind of off–and when I’m eating at a place this pricey (entrees other than the burger were around $30), I kind of expect the server to be a little more knowledgeable and on-the-ball timing-wise than ours was.

Bottom line: Our grades ranged from B+ to A, averaging B+/A-. Jason and I both named it our overall favorite burger, but for the group, it came in a close second to Stout. If you’re looking for a swanky evening out during which you can still enjoy a burger, this is a great destination.

Stop #8: The Habit, North Hollywood
Burger base price: $2.95

From the priciest burger of our quest to the cheapest! The Habit is another California chain, and we visited the North Hollywood location, which is in a strip mall. No picture of the interior, but I thought it was a step up in decor and cleanliness from Fatburger, while Katie likened it to a Panera or Starbucks.

The Habit

The basic burger choice is the Charburger, which comes with mayo, pickle, lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions on a toasted bun. There are also a few other variations, such as the Teriyaki Charburger (featuring pineapple), which Katie and I tried.

The Charburger:
The Habit burger

Verdict

Meat: No one was blow away by the meat. Andy said it tasted like “a slightly less charbroiled Whopper,” and Katie felt it got a little lost among all the condiments.

Bun: “Normal.” “Unremarkable.”

Condiments & Toppings: Habit seems to go with a “more is better” condiment and topping philosophy, though Andy said that the caramelized onions on his burger were a nice touch.

Worth noting: Sweet potato fries were tasty. Shakes are available, and our malt vanilla shake was fine, though nothing to write home about. The price, however, really can’t be beat.

Bottom line: The Habit got B- across the board. (Personally, I’d rather sit down for lunch here than at Fatburger…but I’d rather be eating a Fatburger.)

Stop #9: Rounds Premium Burgers, North Hollywood
Burger base price: $5.45

Rounds is a little storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Not terribly exciting outside or inside.

Rounds Like at Hole in the Wall, you build your own burger by ordering off a handy checklist. We stuck to the basics, but chose chipotle ketchup off the list of sauces.
Rounds Menu
The burger:
Rounds burger

Verdict

Meat: Andy and I thought that the patty was juicy and had really good flavor. I liked the thickness, too. Katie was less impressed, calling both the juiciness and flavor “average.”

Bun: “Toasted.” “Above average.” “Solid.”

Condiments & Toppings: The toppings were pretty average; I wished that there had been fresh green lettuce instead of shredded iceberg. Also, while we thought the chipotle ketchup had a nice level of spice, it was too cold, even on a hot burger.

Worth noting: Drinks were uninspiring–no shakes, and just fountain sodas–and sadly, there is no public bathroom.

Bottom line: Our average rating was a B/B+. At $5.45, we all agreed that a Rounds burger is great value for the quality, and that if we were in the neighborhood, we’d make the effort to come back by. In fact, I’d be willing to pay a few dollars more for the same burger on slightly nicer premises, with a bathroom and better drink options.

***

Thus concludes our burger tour of L.A.–perhaps the first of many! Our winner overall was Stout, closely followed by Comme Ca.

Best meat goes to The Apple Pan for its Hickoryburger.

Best bun was the pretzel bun at Hole in the Wall.

Best toppings were found at Stout.

Best value was Rounds.

And for best fast food burger, Fatburger edges out The Habit.

Agree? Disagree? Couldn’t care less? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments. I’ll just say that I think we all had a great time channeling our inner Gladys Gatsbys for the weekend…and also that we’ll be quite happy not to eat another burger for a while. 🙂

Foodie Kidlit Friday: Interview with A TANGLE OF KNOTS author Lisa Graff!

Foodie Kidlit Friday iconWelcome back to my new blog series, Foodie Kidlit Friday! On selected Fridays, I’ll be talking to authors of great food- and cooking-themed books for kids and teens, giving books away, and sharing recipes from my own forthcoming foodie middle-grade novel, All Four StarsToday I am thrilled to welcome the fabulous Lisa Graff to the blog!

Lisa GraffLisa is the author of numerous middle-grade novels, including The Thing About Georgie, Umbrella Summer, and most recently, A Tangle of Knots, (which has a big foodie element and was longlisted for the National Book Award!). A former children’s book editor, she now writes full time. You can learn more about her at www.lisagraff.com.

Here’s a little more info about A Tangle of Knots:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born.  And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever.  However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan.  If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.

Tara Dairman: Welcome to Foodie Kidlit Friday, Lisa!

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa GraffA Tangle of Knots takes place in a universe where many people have a special Talent—and for one of your characters, Cady, that Talent allows her to instinctively bake the perfect cake for any person. I love this idea, and was wondering what your inspiration was for it.  Is there a real Cady out there? (And if so, can she move in with me?) 

Lisa Graff: I wish there was a real Cady out there! If so I would beg her to make me cake all the time. I’m not sure exactly where the idea came from, to be honest, although I do remember that I was in an airport when I decided that’s what Cady’s Talent should be, so most likely I was incredibly hungry at the time.

TD: Cady is one of many characters in A Tangle of Knots, and her story one of many intersecting plot threads. But somehow—like ingredients in the perfect recipe—every thread comes together in the end in a deliciously satisfying way! Did this require a lot of planning before you wrote the book, or were you able to make connections as you drafted? 

LG: Lots and lots of planning was required for this book, which was tough on me because I absolutely hate outlining. For most of my books I prefer to start writing a draft and going wherever the characters take me–which always ends up with me having to do TONS of revising on the back end, but I would happily throw away two-thirds of a draft rather than outline beforehand. For this book, though, I knew that would be an impossible way to do things. I spent three months brainstorming and outlining before I wrote a single word, and my outline–no joke–ended up being 72 typed pages. And, of course, I still had to do a ton of revision after my first (several) drafts. But the outlining was worth it, definitely.
 
Absolutely Almost by Lisa GraffTD: Cady’s scrumptious-sounding recipes for cakes for various characters are sprinkled throughout A Tangle of Knots and are also available on your website—as is a recipe from one of your other books, Sophie Simon Solves it All. Do you have plans to write any more foodie-themed books in the near future? 

LG: The main character in my newest book, Absolutely Almost, which comes out next June, is more than slightly obsessed with doughnuts, although he doesn’t make them himself (he only eats them).

TD: When you were developing recipes for A Tangle of Knots, did you have to do a lot of test baking at home? Which recipe was the trickiest to get right, and do you have a favorite of all of the cakes?

LG: I tested so many cake recipes for this book! I knew I wanted to include nine different cake recipes in the book, and I wanted them to not only represent the nine main characters but also cover a wide range of cake types and be recipes that children could theoretically make themselves fairly easily. I think I tested about thirty or forty cakes before I settled on the final batch that’s in the book now. (It was a tough job, but somebody had to eat it. I mean, do it…)

Lisa testing cake recipes!The trickiest cake for me to get right was V’s Mystery Fudge Cake, which is basically a lava cake (a chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate center). I knew from the get-go I wanted to do a lava cake for her, but I tried out recipe after recipe, and none of them worked at all! I must have made four or five “lava” cakes that ended up having no “lava” in them. It was very frustrating. I finally found a recipe that worked really well, though!

I love all the cakes in the book, but my favorite at the moment is probably Miss Mallory’s peach cake. Or Will’s s’more cake. Or… I think I might have to go find some cake to eat now!

Thank you so much, Lisa, for talking to us today about writing and food! And wow–that s’more cake looks incredible!

Readers: If Cady were to bake you your ideal cake, what would it taste like?

And the winner of TASTE TEST is…

Taste Test by Kelly FioreMaryanne Fantalis!

Woohoo!

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my interview with Kelly Fiore last week. I hope that those of you who didn’t win will check out TASTE TEST anyway!

Next Friday will be quiet around here for Thanksgiving, but I’ll be back the week after with more Foodie Kidlit Friday goodness. See you then!

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon

Foodie Kidlit Friday: Interview with Taste Test author Kelly Fiore (and giveaway!)

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon

Welcome to the first post in my brand new new blog series, Foodie Kidlit Friday! Every other Friday, I’ll be talking to authors of great food- and cooking-themed books for kids and teens, giving books away, and sharing recipes from my own forthcoming foodie middle-grade novel, All Four Stars.

To kick the series off, I am so lucky to welcome the talented Kelly Fiore to the blog! Kelly’s debut young adult novel Taste Test was published on August 27 by Bloomsbury USA–it’s received excellent reviews, and this particular reader just couldn’t put it down. 🙂

Kelly not only agreed to answer my questions, but is also giving away a signed book and swag to one lucky commenter (details at the bottom of the post), so be sure to leave a note and enter!

Here’s a little more info about Taste Test:

Taste Test by Kelly FioreIf you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good. 

Tara Dairman: Welcome to Foodie Kidlit Friday, Kelly!

Kelly Fiore: Hi Tara – it’s so great to be here! Thanks so much for the opportunity to chat with your readers! 🙂

TD: Let’s jump in with some food talk right away. Your main character in Taste Test, Nora, is a serious cook—though her taste is more down-home barbecue than haute cuisine. Does that reflect your own culinary background, or was it more of a conscious choice you made specific to Nora’s character?

KF: It’s a little bit of both, I think. I’m from Maryland, where we’re know more for our blue crab feasts than barbecue, but I grew up next to the grill while my dad cooked his famous pork ribs. Like Nora says in the book, barbecue has its own language and I feel closest to the North Carolina style, with an emphasis on pork.

When I wrote Nora, I wanted to write her as a spunky, present-day Joey Potter (from Dawson’s Creek): a not-so-rich, not-so-uppity smartass who could hold her own next to tough competitors. I wanted her to be an expert in something that wasn’t considered “fancy” so that she could prove that the art of cooking isn’t just about ingredients – it’s about technique and flavor, too.

TD: One of the (many, many) things I loved about Taste Test was how each dish cooked by a teen contestant on the show reflected his or her personality. What was your method for coming up with the right choice for each character? Did you have to make lists and charts, or were you able to come up with the right food-fits on the fly?

KF: I think the food writing was, by far, the most difficult part – I worried a lot about things feeling authentic. It’s surprisingly (or not surprisingly?) hard to write that momentum of a food competition – the vigor and energy, along with the cooking itself. I’m glad you feel like the food reflects the contestants because I tried to make sure each contestant, especially Nora and Christian, was cooking food that they had experience with in their “everyday” life. I actually have a back log of recipes I didn’t use for the book because they really didn’t have a place in the final manuscript.

In terms of method, this is where I checked out the cooking competition Top Chef for ideas on themes and ingredients chefs gravitated toward. But, because this is a book for teens and I wanted teens to actually cook the recipes at the end of the book, I tried to pick things that would cater to their tastes as well.

Courtesy of YA Books Central, where you can enter another giveaway for Kelly's books! http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/cover-reveal-just-like-the-movies-by-kelly-fiore-giveaway-us-only

Courtesy of YA Books Central, where you can enter another giveaway for Kelly’s books! (Click image to go to that post.)

TD: Taste Test is your debut novel, but you have more books on the way. Will they feature foodie themes, too, or go off in a different direction?

Unfortunately, no food 😦 But I have two books coming out over the next year and a half or so. Just Like the Movies is my sophomore novel, again from Bloomsbury USA. It’s about two girls – a bubbly-but-insecure track star and a quiet-but-sarcastic wallflower – who have nothing in common except an appreciation for great movies and the desire to have a perfect, Hollywood love story. When they meet by chance at a screening of Titanic, they formulate a plan to help spring their love lives into action – by using movie strategies made famous on screen. This book has everything – flash mobs, makeovers, meet-cutes, and, of course, the infamous John Cusack/Boombox scene – but this time, it’s using an iPod and speakers. 🙂 Just Like the Movies comes out in July of next year.

In contrast, my first novel with HarperTeen, The People Vs. Cecelia Price, is a far darker, more gritty subject. It’s still YA, but it focuses on the inner workings of a family that is struggling with addiction, and the aftermath of an unexpected death. The main character, Cecelia, is in custody for the murder of her brother, Cyrus. As we get to know CeCe, we find out how incredibly damaged and volatile her life had become – and how she had to shift from part time student to part time drug dealer in the blink of an eye. The People vs. Cecelia Price is scheduled to release in Winter 2015.

TD: These sound so different and intriguing, Kelly–congratulations on your success in writing and selling such a variety of books!

Last question: It’s Friday night. Are you at home trying a new recipe, or out on the town, trying an exciting new restaurant?

Since Book Club was last night and I had a delicious night out with some girlfriends, tonight I’m staying in. I think I’m going to make a spicy marinara with pasta for dinner tonight. I canned a heap of tomatoes over the summer, but I have a feeling they won’t last through to next year. Being married into an Italian family means Sunday Sauce (or Sunday Gravy, as some Italians call it) almost every weekend.

Thank you so much, Kelly! Happy writing (and eating)!

KFPhote3Kelly Fiore has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Mid Atlantic Arts Council in both 2005 and 2009. Her debut young adult novel, Taste Test, is available now from Bloomsbury USA. Her forthcoming titles include Just Like the Movies (July 2014, Bloomsbury USA) and The People Vs. Cecelia Price (Winter 2015, HarperTeen). She lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and two very feisty cats.

****

Giveaway details: Kelly has been kind enough to offer the following prizes for one lucky commenter! (This is a US-only giveaway.)

-a signed hard copy of Taste Test
-a “foodie” charm bracelet with kitchen-themed charms

You can earn one entry by leaving a comment here, and up to two extra entries by posting about this interview on Twitter and/or Facebook! Please include a link to your tweet or FB status in your comment to qualify for the extra entries.

Sample tweet:
Win a signed copy of @kellyannfiore‘s TASTE TEST at @TaraDairman inaugural #FoodieKidlitFriday interview! http://bit.ly/1apItGj

Sample Facebook status:
Meet YA author Kelly Fiore and enter to win a signed copy of her foodie novel TASTE TEST! http://bit.ly/1apItGj

Thanks again for reading and entering! Good luck!

Links, a giveaway, preorders, ARCs, and a new interview series!

Whew! I guess the title says it all. Dear blog readers, it seems that I have quite a few things to catch you up on! Let’s jump right in.

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers1) I have a new post up at Emu’s Debuts called “How Being a Debut Author Turned Me Into a Book-Buyer” (which is also rather self-explanatory as blog post titles go). In the comments section, I ask people to share their own book-buying habits and advice on how to choose which books to buy and which ones to borrow. And all commenters are entered into…

2) A giveaway of Fair Coin by E.C. Myers! The winner will be announced next Monday, November 18, so please leave your comment this week if you’d like to enter. You will have your choice of a hardcover, e-book, or the brand-spanking-new audiobook of this fabulous, Andre Norton Award-winning novel if you win!

3) If you clicked on that Fair Coin link above, you found yourself at IndieBound.org, a great site that helps you find books you want for sale at your local independent bookstore. And guess what other book you can now find on that site, and from several other booksellers? (Hint: I wrote it.)

That’s right–All Four Stars is now available for preorder! The sites where you can order it are all linked on this website’s Books page. I’ll make additional links active as it becomes available from more booksellers. The book releases officially on July 10, 2014. Exciting!

ARCs of ALL FOUR STARS!4) Even more exciting than seeing my book for sale online has been holding the advance reading copies (also known as ARCs, or bound galleys) in my hands! They arrived on my doorstep in October, and they are gorgeous. All but one are already out there circulating among early readers, but I hope to get a few back and be able to do a giveaway or two at some point. Stay tuned!

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore 5) And last, but not least, I will be kicking off a brand-new blog series right here two days! It’s called “Foodie Kidlit Friday,” and will focus on awesome books for kids and young adults (and, let’s face it, us adults who love kidlit!) that feature food and cooking themes. I’ll be getting things started with an interview of Kelly Fiore, whose debut YA novel Taste Test (set at a reality cooking show for teens) released recently and knocked my socks off. And one lucky commenter will win a signed copy from Kelly!

I’ll be aiming to do this series every other Friday (on weeks alternating with the Colorado is for Writers series, which posts every other Tuesday). And in addition to interviews, I’m also planning to start sharing recipes for dishes featured in All Four Stars! So, this should be a very fun series indeed.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but pop back by on Friday for the Taste Test extravaganza. Thanks!