DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an AU event in my AU series, Life Is a Banquet. By which I mean, it doesn't fit into LIAB as currently outlined, but it does make use of its characters, Miranda Priestly, renowned fashion editor, forty-eight, and Andrea Sachs, an aspiring twenty-eight-year-old chef who lives in the basement apartment in Miranda's home, where she served temporarily as a nanny to Caroline and Cassidy. And there is cooking. And with an apple developed here in Minnesota, which they dubbed the SweeTango unfortunately, instead of the really cool name I've chosen for it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To medoramacd[at]yahoo.com
Tasting the Possibilities
By Medora MacD
Saturday, October 4, 2008, 9 p.m.
Andy set a timer to remind her to check the oven in twenty minutes and leaned back against the kitchen counter with a heavy sigh.
Frack! Things had been going so well. The dishes had been turning out as planned. The beverages and the conversation had been flowing nicely, too, ranging from 18th century music to the upcoming presidential election. Nicely, that is, until she opened her mouth to insert blue cheese rice pudding and stuck her foot in instead.
Miranda had frozen, then dabbed her lips with her napkin and risen. "You'll have to excuse me," she said coolly. "I need some time to digest things." Then, as Andy had sat there gaping at her like an ass, the editor had made a controlled bolt to the library. Where she'd been ensconced for the last fifteen minutes or so.
Andy drew encouragement from the fact that Miranda hadn't closed the door behind her, at least not completely. It was open a fourth of the way, enough for Andy to catch glimpses of her as she paced to and fro in the small room.
On the other hand, that meant the door was actually three-fourths closed. That and the fact that Miranda was pacing something totally out of character for her those things were less auspicious a dire indicator of Miranda's state of mind.
Andy scrubbed at her mouth with one hand, fighting back tears. "Face it, Sachs. You're screwed. As Dad would say, 'It's all over bar the shouting.'"
"'And the dishes,'" she heard her mother's practical voice adding.
"And the dishes," she acknowledged, looking at the dinnerware and glasses that she'd stacked on the counter as she'd cleared each successive course. "Better tend to those while I wait for dessert and my goose to cook," she concluded fatalistically. "Might as well try to make my getaway a clean one while I'm at it."
She opened the dishwasher and started filling it, distracting herself from the heartache to come by recollecting the food that had been served on each dish and how it had been received.
Two Hours Earlier
Miranda Priestly paused at the entrance to her dining room, savoring the incredible smells emanating from the kitchen beyond it and finding herself, very unexpectedly, at a loss as to what to do next. Her dilemma was resolved when a tall young man in an immaculate chef's jacket appeared, his eyes twinkling.
"Good evening. Welcome to Café Sachs. My name is Douglas Kohl and I'll be entertaining you tonight while your dinner companion finishes dressing. Speaking of which " He stamped his foot on the oak floor three times sharply. "Andy will be up in three shakes of a lamb's tail. In the meantime, may I offer you something refreshing to drink?"
He gave Miranda a broad smile along with his arm and led her to the small library off the dining room, where a graceful marble mantel held buckets of ice in which a bottle and a carafe were chilling.
"Would you prefer some of the Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve? Or a cocktail of freshly squeezed, organic pomegranate, orange juice, and pear nectar? Or a delectable combination of the two that we're calling, due to its deep blush, Embarrassment of Riches?"
He picked up a champagne flute, warming to his subject. "The Heidsieck, as you may know, is one of the best of the champagnes that people like those of us who labor at Café Verdi can afford. It incorporates a healthy portion of older wine in the blend, which adds complexity and a delicious, layered, richer character."
"Pomegranate juice is the hot, new, antioxidant-and-flavenoid-rich thing, but the fruits have a long and storied history," he continued. "Very possibly the longest, in fact. The pomegranate not only appeared on the ancient coins of Judea, but some scholars believe that it was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. So, milady, what's your pleasure?"
Miranda couldn't help smiling, for all that she'd been plagued in recent days by thoughts of how much better suited Doug was for Andréa than her former boyfriend, Nate, had been."An 'Embarrassment of Riches,' please."
Douglas filled the champagne flute half full of the fruit juice mixture, dropped in five ruby-like pomegranate seeds as a garnish, carefully topped it off with the Heidsieck, and handed it to her with a slight bow.
The appreciative glance he ran over her ensemble made her very glad she'd opted for Ralph Lauren's classic trouser and jersey tank top and the fossil cream silk circle cardigan. She'd spent the better part of two hours ransacking her closet for clothes that were less "uptown" before she'd decided that, despite her general lack of fashion consciousness, Andréa instantly would perceive Miranda wearing anything tonight without a designer label on it as contrived and maybe even condescending.
"Speaking of an embarrassment of riches, you look absolutely incredible this evening, Ms. Priestly. Like a jeroboam of Dom Perignon White Gold personified, if I may say so."
"Not the Ice Queen?"
"Not ice," said an awed voice from the doorway. "Not that kind anyway. Diamonds. World-class ones. Wow. Just wow!"
Miranda pivoted toward the speaker and felt the air leave her lungs in a rush, both at the sentiment and the vision standing before her.
"Wow yourself," she managed after a moment. Worrying that her wardrobe would put Andréa at a disadvantage clearly had been a monumental waste of time. "You look "
She couldn't find the words to continue, to her surprise and growing chagrin. To buy time, she simply nodded, saluted Andréa with her glass and took a deep swallow of her drink. Seconds before the ensuing silence became unbearable, Douglas intervened.
"What can I get you, Andy?"
"I'll have what she's having, thanks," said Andréa, approaching them. He mixed her drink quickly and handed it to her, whispering something in her ear as he did so.
Miranda was struck again by the rapport the two of them had, how well suited they were for one another. She took another mouthful of her drink. She wondered what he'd said to her. Something endearing, no doubt. When Andréa's response came, though, it was sassy, not sentimental.
"Yeah, ya big lug, we do clean up real good. Now, get out of here. Thanks for your help. And tell Nigel thanks again too. He knocked it out of the park."
"That's right, Cheddarhead. He's picking you up at your place at 8:30 and taking you to Café Carlyle. My treat well, the first drink anyway. To thank you both for your assistance."
Miranda's mouth quirked at the puppy-like wriggle that followed. Douglas must really love jazz! He was almost bouncing with excitement.
"I'll just be going then, shall I? After I set up the salads, I mean. The first course is on the warming tray ready to be plated and Oh my god! I need to shower. And change! What the heck am I going to wear?" He looked imploringly at Miranda. "Diesel? Or Hugo Boss?"
"Diesel Denim or "
"Heavens, no! Black Gold! Or Hugo Black."
"The Diesel definitely," said Miranda, finally realizing what or rather who Douglas was excited about. "No cologne. And don't bother shaving."
"Thanks. You're the greatest!" Swept away by excitement, Douglas reached out to pull Miranda into a hug. Or began to, anyway, before freezing in mid-motion like a marionette whose strings had gotten terribly tangled. "I mean, uh "
"Good night, Douglas." Miranda patted him gently on the arm, releasing him from his paralysis. "And please extend my thanks to Nigel as well." She nodded toward Andréa, who was sipping her drink, an amused grin crinkling her mouth. "It wasn't just a home run, it was a grand slam."
After he bustled off, Miranda turned her gaze on Andréa in earnest. "Nigel, eh?"
"Oh, yeah. Both of them, it seems. Or " She ducked her head. "Were you referring to my outfit, maybe?" She fussed with her necklace. "You didn't think I put this together on my own, did you? I was able to insist, at least, that everything be machine-washable and something I could afford."
"Nigel's an artist, Andréa, make no mistake. But you provided the canvas upon which to create a masterpiece." She twirled her finger. "Let me see."
Hmmm. Nigel really had outdone himself. The collarless cerulean blue bolero she was wearing hugged Andréa in all the right places, as well as exposing those incredibly toned arms of hers. A shimmering necklace of oblong blue freshwater pearls drew attention to the neckline of a black crepe jumpsuit, which
"Off," Miranda commanded, pointing to the jacket, forgetting she wasn't at work. Andréa placed her glass on the mantel and shrugged it off, revealing
Good gods! It was the Sonia Rykiel or a very good knock-off, complete with the silver zip-fasten front pockets and that breath-taking, boned, corset-style quilted bustier.
Machine-washable? I don't think so. Nor something you can really afford. But bless you for this, Nigel. Bless you.
"It's not exactly OSHA-approved," Andréa said. "But neither was the other option, which not only had a plunging neckline but wide legs that might have snagged on things and tripped me up." She tugged self-consciously at the top of the bustier. "Good thing I'm not frying bacon tonight, or I'd be courting serious spatter burns."
"It's not hard to move in, at least." She swiveled from side to side, making the relaxed pleats of her pants riffle. "Nigel also found me shoes that had non-skid soles and were more fashionable than my Crocs." She held up a hand. "I know, don't say it: What isn't? Still, not bad for a little over two hundred bucks total, eh?"
"Or ten times that," agreed Miranda, knowing that number was closer to the actual price of the ensemble and vowing to reimburse Nigel for the additional cost out of her own pocket. And possibly to boost his year-end bonus as well.
"You look good enough to eat," she added, still in a bit of a haze. When what she had said belatedly registered in her head, she felt her face heat. "Eat with, I mean if you'll forgive me for ending a sentence with a preposition."
Enough with the flirting. It's pointless anyway. Nothing can come of this. It was time to scramble back to safer ground.
"So tell me. What exactly are we doing here tonight?"
"So tell me. What exactly are we doing here tonight?"
Andy gulped. That was the $64,000 question, wasn't it? And the answer was ... More than you know, lady, she thought. More than you know. Or at least I'm hoping so.
She crossed her fingers and prayed that the message she was going to try to send Miranda would get through and be well received.
Okay, Sachs. Showtime! Here goes something! She cleared her throat.
"What Doug and I have prepared for this evening is a seven-course tasting menu, samples of dishes that we hope you will enjoy, first and foremost, and the best of which we may present to Chef Alberto for possible inclusion on the November menu at Verdi. With that in mind, we've tried to use as many seasonal, locally grown ingredients as our budget would allow. To get the biggest bangs for our limited bucks, something that is also necessary at the restaurant, some ingredients have been incorporated in more than one dish. We've tried to use them imaginatively.
"Budget wasn't the biggest challenge, to our surprise. That turned out to be figuring out how to stage things so you and I could actually dine together at some point."
"Instead of you spending most of the evening twiddling your thumbs in the dining room, I mean, while I slaved over a hot stove "
"I don't get to see you cook and plate? Unacceptable!"
Miranda's disgruntlement wasn't feigned, Andy saw. "Oh, c'mon. You've seen me cook dozens of times."
"Not like this. Nothing of this scale and scope. I want to watch you work your magic."
"Ah," said Andy. "Like the day I got to spend at Runway? I'll say it again, getting an inside look at what you do, watching you in action? That was mind blowing."
What it actually was, she thought, was hot. Or as Lily would say, "HAWT!"
"Mmmm," Miranda murmured. She appeared pleased at the compliment, Andy decided. Well, actually, the correct term might be "cocky." It was kind of cute.
"It's a good thing we came up with Plan B, then, isn't it? I mean, you showed me yours. I guess it's only fair that I show you mine." Andy waited a beat before adding with what she hoped appeared to be a guileless grin, "So to speak."
"Saved by the bell," Andy said with another grin. "That's the kitchen timer telling me to get started. May I escort you to our table?"
She lifted the nearly empty flute from Miranda's hand, her senses tingling as their fingers brushed, and set it beside hers on the mantel. Snagging her jacket with one hand, she offered her other arm to Miranda and walked her to the back of the house, past the dining room and alongside the kitchen, to the terrace that overlooked the back garden. The scene of their Sunday morning brunches, it had been transformed on this fine October evening from a cozy place to drink mimosas, eat French toast and work the crossword into an intimate bistro with a small linen-draped table set with fine crystal and gleaming silver. They shimmered in the flickering glow of short beeswax tapers that were set on a sideboard instead of usurping space on the table. The area was further illuminated by light spilling into it from the adjacent kitchen, which would allow them to enjoy the meal with their eyes as well as their other senses. She pulled out a chair that offered Miranda a view into the work space and motioned her into it. She put her jacket on the other chair, deciding to leave it off until things got cooler.
"I'll be back with the first course momentarily." She retreated to the kitchen, trying to focus on the elements needed to make the course work but succeeding only in calling to mind the myriad ways she could fuck it up beyond all recognition.
This dish requires no more cooking, she reminded herself. Just plating. She pulled two square plates closer to the warming tray, quickly ladled onto each of them three silver-dollar-sized pieces of pasta and a dollop of sauce, and then added an artful spray of spiced seeds across the dish. After nudging one or two seeds into a more visually pleasing pattern, she picked up the plates and delivered them to the table. She seated herself and
"Before we begin " She pulled a large bottle of Pellegrino out of a nearby cooler and filled Miranda's glass, then her own. "A toast to damn, I was going to look up something profound on the Web about friendship or inspiration or both." She shook her head. "This will have to do." She raised her glass. "Thank you, my friend, for demanding that I dream and dream big. And for convincing me that it is possible to make the dreams that you dare to dream come true."
"To making your dreams come true," Miranda said in reply, touching her glass to Andy's. After taking a swallow of the mineral water, she caught Andy's eye and bowed slightly, saying the grace that she and the girls had learned from Andy. "Itadakimasu." (I receive.)
She picked up her fork and prepared to take her first bite. "What do we have here then?"
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