One guest noticed the candles around the fountain and quickly counted them to see if the number matched the number of guests. He was familiar with Agatha Christie's book Ten Little Indians. He gasped when one of the candles flickered out and wondered who would be the first of the group to have his or her light flicker out......
Curiosity was everywhere. I gave permission to snoop through the carefully prepared food. Without hesitation lids were lifted and the aromas filled the room.
"It looks like normal food," came one comment from across the room.
"It smells like normal food, too," was the response.
Ahh...but looks can be deceiving. I smiled as I watched the guests whisper among themselves. The final dish joined the others on the hot food table.
"Okay, let's eat," I said.
One guest handed a plate to me. I declined and said, "No, that's okay, you first."
A plate was then passed to my husband who responded with the same words, causing uneasiness among the group.
I suggested since Josh Mackey the radio personality was celebrating his birthday, that he should go first. He bravely went forward, followed by his significant other, Danielle.
Since Josh was the only public figure present, we'll follow him through the dining process. He followed the rule and put a portion of each of the six dishes on his plate. He took his place at the table and waited on everyone to be seated. I, of course, was last.
"Please start without me, " I said.
Josh sniffed his plate of food, he turned each item over with his fork to study it. He tasted a fried wonton, whose ingredients were unknown, dipped in a sauce that was also curious.
He liked it.
Next, a bite of a round, fried, what appeared to be bread or hushpuppy like food. He dipped it into a creamy mixture that I had spooned onto his plate.
Again, he liked it.
The pizza looked the most strange, the final dish that my husband had brought to the dinner. We watched as Josh lifted the green topping from the pizza and tried to guess what it was. Spinach? No. Some sort of green vegetable. Danielle suggested it was kale. She was right. The contest was on.
Next were the meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce. But wait. There was something strange about them. Josh carefully at first, cut it open with his fork, then gave in and tore it apart with his fingers searching for an answer to the contents. He tasted, he searched, he tasted, he searched. "Could there be rice?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied. "Brown rice."
He sampled the toasted baguette bread with what he thought was a seafood spread over the top. But then he wasn't quite sure.
Finally, he sampled the final dish, he recognized they were potato skins, and quickly noticed the avocado bits on the top, mixed with other veggies.
"Okay, everything tastes good. What's in it?"
I then read the ingredients to each item the guests were astonished to learn that each item deliciously gourmet, with flavors that were creating wonderful sensations in their mouths, were vegan. Not just vegetarian, but vegan.
So I suppose if you are a meat eater and gag at the thought of vegetables, you might feel like the meal was deadly. Vegan cooking has no meat, no dairy, no eggs.
The guests were pleasantly shocked.
We had fried wontons in apricot/Dijon mustard sauce. The wontons had cashews, scallions, garlic and mushrooms. They were delicious.
The potato skins were crispy with avocado salsa, made with onion, cilantro, tomato and avocados.
The meatballs consisted of brown rice, lentils, walnuts, onion and fresh herbs, fried and smothered with sweet and sour sauce.
The crostini was baguette bread toasted in the oven then spread with a mixture of artichoke hearts, parsley and walnuts processed into a spread.
The jalapeno poppers were made with corn meal, almond milk, flour and jalapenos rolled into balls and fried then dipped in a maple butter.
Finally, the pizza, everyone's favorite. A homemade pizza dough, topped with fresh basil pesto, with oven roasted sweet potato cubes and then topped with wilted kale drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction.
Everyone went back for seconds, filled their plates and chattered about how good the vegan food was.
Then for dessert we had a three layer almond mocha fudge cake and chocolate mousse. Both made vegan style with no eggs or dairy and the mousse which is amazing, was piped into tiny chocolate cups with raspberry sauce drizzled over the top.
So this murder mystery writer's dinner was a success when the guests agreed the food was to "die" for.
A special thanks goes to my vegan daughter Dawn from CA who introduced me to Chloe Coscarelli's gourmet vegan cookbook.