Authors: Julie Hyzy
Praise for the
New York Times
Bestselling White House Chef Mysteries
HOME OF THE BRAISED
“Action-packed . . . With grace and aplomb, Ollie juggles her job and sleuthing, receiving a very pleasant surprise of her own at the satisfying conclusion.”
“[Ollie is] a spunky heroine . . . The plot was dynamic, ripe with clues, and paced swiftly but not too quickly . . . A great read.”
“Julie Hyzy never disappoints . . . This was a fast, fun killer read.”
“Another thrilling entry into the White House Chef series . . . There’s wonderful talk of food along with a great deal of tension, thrills, and intrigue.”
“Hyzy, as always, fills this novel with a clever plot and fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses of life in the White House. But it’s Ollie who carries the series, and never more so than in this moving page-turner.”
“This time [Ollie’s] investigation is a personal one, as closely held family secrets are revealed. Scenes in the White House kitchen will appeal to foodies. A touch of romance rounds out this delectable offering.”
—RT Book Reviews
“[A] mystery delight . . . This is a fantastic installment in the series . . . The White House staff is still quirky and interesting, and the recipes at the end range from really easy to needing to raise the spirit of Julia Child as a spirit guide . . . and yes, there is fondue.”
—Kings River Life Magazine
AFFAIRS OF STEAK
“Hyzy shines in this volume.
Affairs of Steak
proves unequivocally that this series burns as bright as the sun during a sweltering D.C. summer.”
“These are wonderful books, enjoyable to read, hard to put down, and they make you really look forward to the next one in the series.”
“Fun and intriguing . . . I will keep my eye out for other books in the White House Chef Mystery Series.”
BUFFALO WEST WING
“Hyzy’s obvious research into protocol and procedures gives her story the realistic element that her readers have come to expect from this top-notch mystery writer. Adventure, intrigue, and a dash of romance combine for a delicious cozy that is a delight to read.”
“A captivating story from the very first page until the end . . . From the easy-to-recreate recipes in the back to its high-energy, ever-changing story line, this one is good enough to serve to the higher-ups . . . Great job, Julie Hyzy. Another all-around great read!”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“Every White House Chef Mystery is cause for celebration. The daily schedule in the White House kitchen is trauma enough, but Hyzy always ratchets up the tension with plots and danger . . . Julie Hyzy’s star shines brighter than ever with
Buffalo West Wing
—Lesa’s Book Critiques
“The ever-burgeoning culinary mystery subgenre has a new chef-sleuth . . . The backstage look at the White House proves fascinating.”
“A quickly paced plot with a headstrong heroine and some recipes featuring eggs all add up to a dependable mystery.”
—The Mystery Reader
HAIL TO THE CHEF
“A gourmand’s delight . . . Julie Hyzy balances her meal ticket quite nicely between the glimpses at the working class inside the White House with an engaging chef’s cozy.”
—Midwest Book Review
“[A] well-plotted mystery.”
—The Mystery Reader
STATE OF THE ONION
“Pulse-pounding action, an appealing heroine, and the inner workings of the White House kitchen combine for a stellar adventure in Julie Hyzy’s delightful
State of the Onion
—Carolyn Hart, national bestselling author of
Death Comes Silently
“Hyzy’s sure grasp of Washington geography offers firm footing for the plot.”
“[A] unique setting, strong characters, sharp conflict, and snappy plotting . . . Hyzy’s research into the backstage kitchen secrets of the White House gives this series a special savor that will make you hungry for more.”
—Susan Wittig Albert, national bestselling author of
The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush
“From terrorists to truffles, mystery writer Julie Hyzy concocts a sumptuous, breathtaking thriller.”
—Nancy Fairbanks, bestselling author of
“A compulsively readable whodunit full of juicy behind-the-Oval Office details, flavorful characters, and a satisfying side dish of red herrings—not to mention twenty pages of easy-to-cook recipes fit for the leader of the free world.”
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Julie Hyzy
White House Chef Mysteries
STATE OF THE ONION
HAIL TO THE CHEF
BUFFALO WEST WING
AFFAIRS OF STEAK
HOME OF THE BRAISED
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MENUS
Manor House Mysteries
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
GRACE AMONG THIEVES
GRACE TAKES OFF
GRACE AGAINST THE CLOCK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
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A Penguin Random House Company
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MENUS
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with Tekno Books LLC
Copyright © 2015 by Tekno Books LLC.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-59268-7
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market / January 2015
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: The recipes contained in this book are to be followed exactly as written. The publisher is not responsible for your specific health or allergy needs that may require medical supervision. The publisher is not responsible for any adverse reactions to the recipes contained in this book.
For Rene, with love and gratitude
A significant scene in Ollie’s new adventure takes place at Blair House—the president’s guest house on Pennsylvania Avenue. While I was able to discover a great deal of wonderful information about the home’s history and its individual rooms, I couldn’t locate a copy of its floor plans anywhere. What to do? Answer: I created my own. If you happen to be one of the lucky few who have stayed at Blair House in the past, and you find yourself cringing at my depiction of its layout, let me know. I’d love to talk with you!
Several years ago, our daughter, Robyn, asked her friend Jamie Pogue for title ideas for this series. He came up with an amazing list of options and, with this book, I’ve finally been able to use one of them. Thank you, Jamie!
Thanks, too, to Elaine Weinmann Miller, who rose to the Facebook challenge when I requested help naming a fictional country. Thanks to Elaine, Saardisca was born.
Very warm thanks to my editor, Natalee Rosenstein, at Berkley Prime Crime. I’m so lucky to be able to work with her and her awesome assistant, Robin Barletta. Thanks, too, to Stacy Edwards, Erica Rose, and countless others who move my stories from manuscript to finished book.
Sincere thanks as well to Larry Segriff at Tekno Books, who keeps everything running smoothly and is never too busy to answer e-mails. Thanks to my enthusiastic agent, Paige Wheeler, and to my friends at CozyPromo.
Big hugs and smoochy kisses to my family. Love you!
As executive chef at the White House, I was responsible for feeding the First Family and—whether they be friend or foe—all the home’s guests. I took my duties to heart, and was exceedingly proud of my team and the small part we played in shaping our country’s history.
My role at the White House had evolved over the years, much to the Secret Service’s dismay. Through no fault of my own (well, most of the time) I’d been entangled in situations involving enemies of the president, international assassins, and those who attempted to conspire against the United States. Armed with stubborn tenacity and more than a bit of good luck, I’d had a hand in seeing justice served, and even saved a few lives in the process.
It had been suggested, more than once, that President and Mrs. Hyden find less of a troublemaker to head up their kitchen. But the First Family liked me and what I brought to the table, both literally and figuratively.
Several months ago, Special Agent in Charge, Leonard Gavin—Gav—and I had gotten married in a surprise ceremony here in the White House. Surrounded by friends and family as we exchanged vows, my life changed forever. After the ceremony, during the sweet reception that my assistants, Bucky and Cyan, had arranged for us, I’d endured countless good-natured barbs about how, now that I’d “settled down,” perhaps my terrorist-fighting days were over.
And maybe they were.
Since our wedding day, life had been very, very quiet. And truly, I had no quarrel with that. If I never went into hand-to-hand combat, if I never faced another barrel of a gun, if I was never again left bound and gagged with no chance of escape, well, I wasn’t about to complain.
I rested my chin in one hand, elbow perched on the White House kitchen’s gleaming countertop. The fingers of my other hand beat out a non-rhythm of impatience against the shiny stainless steel.
It’s not that I craved life-threatening adventure. Not at all. But right about now I would have appreciated a little diversion.
Unfortunately, however, we were in the middle of a government sequester. State dinners had been delayed, parties canceled, and visitors put off until our country’s leadership got its act together.
Staring at the clock, waiting for Bucky to return from an errand, I reflected on the boredom that loomed ahead. I longed for a challenge. I hungered for the excitement that came from planning a state dinner—the kind that kept guests talking for years, regaling envious friends with descriptions of mouthwatering appetizers and luxurious entrees. I ached to collaborate with the florist, the sommelier, and of course, Marcel, our executive pastry chef who could dream up a dessert that was as spectacular as it was sweet.
My skin practically crawled, itching for the president and First Lady to announce that a hundred guests were expected for dinner tomorrow night. I wouldn’t have minded, even if they demanded we serve a seven-course meal. I would have gone insane with preparation, of course, but that was far more appealing than the doldrums we were facing now.
Most of all, I wanted Cyan back.
Until the country’s situation improved, a number of “nonessential” members of the White House staff were on furlough—among them, Cyan. I certainly didn’t consider her nonessential. Quite the opposite. But when the government decided to slash salaries, they neglected to seek my counsel.
Bucky and I were doing our best to keep the kitchen operating efficiently, which—to be fair—wasn’t difficult, given the ripple effect the sequester was having on entertainment. I thanked my lucky stars Bucky hadn’t been sent home, too. I’d have gone stir-crazy on my own.
Because cost-cutting strategies involved eliminating most fancy dinners, he and I didn’t have much to do beyond preparing the family’s meals and feeding numerous—often angry—congressional leaders during marathon negotiation sessions held at the White House.
Marcel, the executive pastry chef whose French accent seemed to grow thicker with each passing day, had also been kept on. I knew why. Despite what the anti-Hyden pundits may assume, Marcel’s job wasn’t secure because the First Family chose to indulge their collective sweet tooth. Truth was, the Hydens weren’t big fans of dessert. They preferred savory items.
What kept Marcel busy in his kitchen was the fact that the president recognized how effective a tray full of expertly crafted and lick-your-fingers-clean pastries could be at the bargaining table. While my concoctions of steak salad, lobster bisque, or pork tenderloin sandwiches satisfied appetites, Marcel’s creations had far more potential to cheer up grumpy lawmakers.
In my heart, I knew I shouldn’t complain. Granted, Cyan was out of the kitchen, and that wasn’t optimal. But, on the bright side, Virgil was missing, too. A few months earlier the First Lady had delivered an ultimatum to our high-drama chef: Virgil would be required to seek help for his anger management issues and apologize to me and my staff or his career at the White House was over. The man had attempted to undermine my authority and sabotage my career once too often. That final, fateful time, Mrs. Hyden had witnessed his hostility and laid down the law.
Since that fateful day, we hadn’t heard a peep from the dining diva. Our chief usher, Peter Everett Sargeant III, kept us informed enough to let us know that Virgil remained in town, but beyond that, no one knew what he was up to, nor whether he’d taken steps to address his problems. He hadn’t apologized. I had a feeling it was that, more than the mandate to get help, that was holding him back from returning to work.
With all that in mind, I’d decided that my only option was to wait out the sequester with little to no complaint. Except for worrying about Cyan, who was living without a paycheck for the foreseeable future, we were under very little pressure. Food preparation at the White House had been the quietest and least stressful it had been for as long as I’d worked here. Maybe I should try harder to enjoy the lull.
“Good morning, Ms. Paras.”
I straightened to see Peter Sargeant and his assistant, Margaret, in my kitchen doorway. He wore his customary squirrel-alert expression. She carried a tablet and blinked at me from behind large tortoiseshell glasses. Neither smiled, but that was no surprise. Having them show up in my kitchen together, however, was. The last time they had, it had been to inform me of Cyan’s furlough. I braced myself, hoping Bucky wasn’t about to be cut, too.
Sargeant stepped forward, his ever-eager associate close behind. “I hope we aren’t interrupting your busy day.” Giving a derisive look around the quiet, pristine kitchen, he added, “Or your daydreaming.”
“What do you need, Peter?” I asked, ignoring the snarky comment. Over the years I’d come to accept his personality. I appreciated the fact that I could depend on him for support when I needed it, but on a day-to-day basis, I found dealing with his persnickety attitude to be more than a bit tedious.
He turned to Margaret. “You may do the honors.”
She was tiny, even shorter than Sargeant, with small fingers and big eyes. Mid-forties, she sported a short, dark bob and wore clothes that were so perfectly suited, I wondered if she and Sargeant shared the same tailor.
“We have news and important updates to share with you.” She cleared her throat and read from her tablet. “The first comes from an e-mail to Peter Everett Sargeant, from Parker Hyden.” She glanced up at me at that, lifting her eyebrows in emphasis, as though I wouldn’t have recognized the president’s name on my own.
“Share the pertinent information, Margaret,” Sargeant said. “No need for dramatics.”
Margaret tightened her lips at the rebuke, pushed her glasses up her nose, and went on. “We will host a Saardiscan dignitary for dinner, approximately two weeks from now.” She slid her gaze toward Sargeant before continuing. “The second update comes from the secretary of state, informing us that the chefs who were originally scheduled to visit your kitchen are on their way, too.”
“The Saardiscans are coming?” I repeated. “What about the sequester?”
Margaret said, “Does it matter? We were told to notify all departments. That’s really all you need to know.”
Even Sargeant seemed taken aback by his assistant’s snippiness. “Yes, well, there is more to it,” he said. “As you know, the Saardiscan chefs’ visit was arranged for more than a year ago. We were loath to cancel.”
I did know. This was a very big deal where our two countries’ diplomatic efforts were concerned. “But you did cancel,” I said. “Are you telling me they’re coming tomorrow, after all?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, closing my eyes for a brief second to gather my thoughts. I’d wished for this, I reminded myself. Mere moments ago.
Sargeant went on to explain, “When the sequester was first announced, everything was canceled. The problem, at least as it relates to the White House, is that negotiation can be delicate with some countries. Saardisca is one of these.”
I understood, even as my mind raced. Had we planned to entertain chefs from France or Canada, the administration might have been able to rearrange things with little more than a polite apology. Saardisca, however, was an uneasy ally. A frenemy. We hadn’t had a political or ideological blowup between our countries in more than a decade, but that didn’t mean we agreed on everything. Truth was, we didn’t agree on much.
Yet, I wasn’t prepared for this sudden change. I’d had a plan in place for the Saardiscans’ visit, but once the sequester had been imposed, I’d put those plans on hold. I needed to salvage my notes, pull lists together, and set up flowcharts.
Ideas banged against each other in my noisy brain; I barely registered that Sargeant was still talking.
“Fulfilling our promise to Saardisca has been deemed of the utmost importance. The decision, therefore, has been made to honor our agreement.”
“I wish I would have known this was a possibility,” I said.
One side of his mouth curled up. “I’m sure the president regrets his oversight in neglecting to include you in the decision making.”
I ignored the sarcasm. “How long will they be here?”
“Two weeks?” I repeated, surprise jolting my voice up several notches. “I thought they were to visit for three or four days.” So much for the original plans I’d made. Those notes would barely get me started.
“Things change,” he said, deadpan. “In what appears to be serendipitous timing, the delegates will be working with you for the duration of the Saardiscan presidential candidate’s visit to the United States. President Hyden will host an official dinner for all of them when the candidate returns here after touring the country.”
“Did you say
?” I asked. “You mean it’s the challenger for president who’s coming to visit?” That surprised me. The incumbent had been in power for decades.
“Yes, Kerry Freiberg,” he said. “If you kept up with headlines, you would know that her campaign has been gaining steam.”
I did keep up with headlines, but there had been no mention of her coming here. “She’s the first female to run for that office, isn’t she?”
“No one expects her to win, but the fact that she’s the first woman to make it this far is garnering her a great deal of press.” He sniffed. “And because her platform is based on improving diplomatic relations with other countries, a stop in the United States is a requirement.”
“A two-week stop.” I rubbed my forehead. I needed to get organized, and quickly. “Tell me what I need to know. Do you have the date that we’ll be hosting her for dinner? Will there be more than one event? Do we have dietary dossiers for Ms. Freiberg and the members of her staff?”
Margaret had begun taking notes, writing longhand with a stylus, as I outlined all the information I’d need.
“We will get back to you on these matters,” Sargeant said when I took a breath. “And whatever else you need to know. As you can imagine, there are other departments to be notified and a great deal that my office needs to oversee. If you’ll excuse us.”
Bucky returned a little while later, bringing with him the woodsy scent of autumn air. He hung up his windbreaker and came to stand over my shoulder to study the notes I was jotting as thoughts occurred to me. I would arrange these scribbles into some semblance of order later.
“What’s up, chief?” he asked.
My mind twisted and flipped with a myriad of things I needed to do—hundreds of things I wouldn’t have imagined having to worry about a half hour earlier. My fingers tingled; my leg bounced with impatience.
I looked up at him, grinning. “We’re having company.”