by Cynthia Chow
& Amy Pershing
This week we have a review of the latest Cape Cod Foodie mystery by Amy Pershing along with a fun summer food guest post to go with it. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Murder is No Picnic: A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery By Amy Pershing
Review by Cynthia Chow
Having finally given up on the dream of owning her own restaurant, Samantha Barnes has established herself as the Cape Cod Foodie, the Clarion’s newspaper food writer. And while she’s looking forward to Fair Harbor’s Fourth of July celebrations full of parades and barbeques, Sam is even more thrilled to discover that the legendary Clara Foster still has a hand in running the French country Clara’s Place restaurant, and not only that, she’s willing to share her secret for her Best Blueberry Buckle in the World.
Sam may be more of an eater than a cook and has never before done a video cooking demonstration, she can’t resist Clara’s offer to do a segment filmed out of the icon’s own enviable kitchen. Even that astounding experience pales in comparison to Clara’s priceless cookbook collection that includes a signed first edition Escoffier’s Le guide culinaire and even 1747’s The Art of Cooking. Those would seem to be the only original masterpieces in Clara’s possession though, admitting that the paintings by Edward Hopper on display are only copies painted by Clara’s late wife after selling the originals to fund the restaurant.
That overwhelming cooking experience would be the last between the women, as the following morning Sam’s editor calls with the assignment to write Clara’s obituary. A kitchen fire not only burnt through Clara’s home, it destroyed the book collection and tragically left her dead. Sam’s objections that she writes food editorials and not obituaries are overturned the more she learns about the “accidental” death. Clara’s arthritis would have prevented her from using a heavy cast iron pan that was the source of the fire, and she would never place it on a much smaller burner or use it to cook [shudder] generic brand bacon. Teaming with Detective Vivian Peters, whom Sam isn’t jealous of, not at all – they quickly learn of disputes over Clara’s estate and rivalries within the restaurant. Things get really uncomfortable when Chef Ed Captiva becomes the primary suspect, as he just happens to be the cousin of Jason Captiva, Sam’s maybe-sorta-mostly boyfriend.
This book should come with the warning, “Do not read on an empty stomach.” There are so many glorious descriptions of the seafood Cape Cod is famous for that readers will be desperate for their own clambake or lobster roll. Even though Sam does take an adventurous tour in Clara’s kitchen to create the infamous World’s Best Blueberry Buckle (the secret is using huckleberries), she focuses on taste-tasting the variety of crustacean sandwiches available during the summer. A recipe is included for a “Darn Fine” if not “Best” blueberry buckle, satisfying those cozy readers looking to take a test run themselves. Romance readers will be wanting more of the interactions between Sam and Jason, whose various jobs have taken them out of town and testing their commitment needs and fears. The adorable Diogi (D-O-G) and Ciati (C-A-T) fill out the rest of their tentative family, it’s just up to the humans to embrace it. Sailing lessons, seafood preparations, an explanation of the differences between a picnic table and an outdoor dining set, and a petnapping make this the perfect escapist destination for the summer.
How to Eat Your Way Through a Summer Day
by Amy Pershing
Look, I understand that summer means a lot of different things to different people. The beach. The mountains. That shady patch in the back yard. Baseball. Sailing. Bicycle riding. Lying in the hammock. Kids. Dogs. Fireworks. Fireflies. Add one to the list or cross one off. But there is one thing we can all agree on. Summer food. There’s nobody who doesn’t love summer food. And if there is, they’re not invited to my picnic.
I spend the best part of the summer on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod (which also happens to be – surprise – where my Cape Cod Foodie mystery series, including this summer’s Murder Is No Picnic, is set). A great deal (okay, almost all) of my time on the Cape is spent enjoying its foodie bounty. I thought I could share that bounty with you by eating our way together through the perfect Cape Cod day (with dessert at every meal, no less).
Breakfast is easy. Coffee on the deck until fully fortified with legal stimulant. Then a quick drive into town to the Cottage Street Bakery to pick up a couple of dirt bombs. Dirt bombs, for the uninitiated, are, as I describe them in Murder Is No Picnic, “deeply moist, tender muffins with just a hint of nutmeg that have been dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. One dirt bomb can hold you for an entire day.” Which, of course, never happens. Because there’s so much else to eat.
Like the scrambled eggs and bacon He Who Must Be Fed is making when you get home using fresh eggs provided by my best friend Jenny, who lives just up the lane. The eggs have thin blue shells and yolks so rich they are almost orange. So we start breakfast with eggs and bacon and then each have a dirt bomb for dessert.
To compensate for breakfast dessert (which I personally think is a genius idea), we take a nice long walk along sandy roads dotted with silver-shingled cottages and discuss what we want for lunch.
What we want for lunch, we decide, is everything on the blackboard menu at the Nauset Beach clam shack. Fried clams (whole, not strips) with tartar sauce. Fried onion rings (not the fat, breaded kind; the thinly sliced, lightly battered kind). Grilled hot dogs with mustard (in lightly toasted New England hot dog buns). And, for dessert, soft-serve vanilla ice cream cones dipped in that mysterious melted chocolate that instantly forms a shell over the ice cream. (How do they do that?)
A short nap and then it’s time for a trip to the farmers’ market which yields the world’s sweetest scallops, harvested and shucked that very morning on my friend Lilee’s fishing vessel; some early corn so fresh the silk lives up to its name; and two pints of fat, just-picked blueberries. A quick stop at the wine store for a couple bottles of rosé, and we’re set.
And then (get this!) when we get home, my best friend Jenny’s daughter Molly’s fisherman boyfriend Matt comes by to taunt He Who Must Be Fed with a striped bass that he’s just pulled out of the bay. Jenny, Molly, and Matt are immediately invited to dinner, and we promise huge helpings of Sam’s (Sam being the Cape Cod Foodie herself) Pretty Darn Good Blueberry Buckle as payment in kind for the striper.
So here’s how dinner plays out:
Scallops lightly sautéed in browned butter on a bed of baby arugula to start. Then grilled striped bass with lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh oregano, accompanied by grilled (and thus lightly caramelized) corn on the cob. And finally for dessert, Sam’s Pretty Darn Good Blueberry Buckle with its crunchy brown sugar topping dolloped with whipped cream. And, oh, yeah, the rosé. Lots of rosé.
And so to bed. We’ve had a lovely food-filled day.
But before I leave you, I’d like to suggest that you pick up a copy of Murder Is No Picnic not only because it’s a great summer read (if I do say so myself as shouldn’t), but also because it includes the recipe for Sam’s Pretty Darn Good Blueberry Buckle!
To enter to win a copy of Murder Is No Picnic, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “picnic,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen July 23, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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