Occupation: Former restaurant critic, reluctant food truck worker
Darcy Burnett, the protagonist in my new mystery series, Death Of A Chocolate Cheater, will do just about anything for chocolate. She’s highly addicted to the substance and begins each day with a double-shot of mocha and ends it with a bite of Sees chocolate. Unfortunately, she hasn’t found any support groups for her illness (other than a group that meets at Sees Candy, where she snags free samples.)
Darcy has done a lot of research to justify her addiction, and she’s found that chocolate offers many health benefits. It’s a valuable energy source (one chocolate chip gives her enough energy to walk 150 feet, the length of her average Sees store.) Unfortunately, it would take her about seven billion chips just to get out of bed in the morning.
While working in her Aunt Abby’s tricked out school bus that now serves gourmet comfort food, Darcy learns that her aunt has signed them up for the San Francisco Chocolate Festival contest. She thinks a review of the festival for the “Chronicle” might get her her job back, so she dives into the research and finds other health benefits from chocolate. It alleviates depression, lowers blood pressure, relieves PMS (cures crabbiness), plus it has iron, helps prevent tooth decay, has antioxidants, minimizes aging,” and probably cures morning breath, soccer flop, and irritable bowel syndrome. Darcy is down with all that.
Of course, none of this is written on a chocolate bar label, but that doesn’t matter to Darcy. Even if chocolate came with a warning label that said, “This will kill you instantly,” she’d ignore it, because everything tastes better with chocolate. When Aunt Abby experiments with chocolate-covered bacon, potato chips, pizza, and carrots for the chocolate contest, Darcy agrees—they’re all better dipped in chocolate.
Today Darcy took a three-hour Chocolate Tour of San Francisco to learn more about the melt-in-your-mouth treat, hoping to gain an edge over the other competitors in the Chocolate Contest. After she listened to a lecture on where chocolate comes from (which sort of took the mystery out of it for her), she found out that, contrary to popular belief, chocolate was discovered by the Aztecs, not Mrs. Mary See. They took the drug in drink form (like Darcy and her mochas), and believed it gave them super powers (which it sort of does, right?) Then “Hershey” Cortez got hold of it, took it to Spain, and added a bunch of fat and sugar, making it addictive. Finally the Americans got ahold of it, added even more fat and sugar, and voila— chocolate addiction became widespread.
Darcy doesn’t go into all the “bean to bar” details for the newspaper article—that’s way too much information (sort of like knowing where babies come from.) But she gains a new vocabulary with words like conching (stirring), tempering (melting), and lecithin (a chemical). Unfortunately none of her new words turn up in a crossword puzzle.
The tour did teach Darcy the proper way to eat chocolate. Apparently she’d been eating it all wrong. She was taught how to use all her senses to enjoy the full experience.
- Listen—it should snap when you break it.
- Look—it should be brown (unless it’s white chocolate which isn’t really chocolate).
- Smell—it should smell like, well, chocolate.
- Touch—if it melts in your fingers, you’ve been holding it too long.
- And finally Taste—see if you can identify a “lingering banana with pound cake flavor” or “a rich green forest that’s been fertilized with sugar.”
In spite of all this, Darcy still prefers to just pop it in her mouth and eat it.
Her favorite part of the tour was the gourmet chocolate tasting by such exclusive chocolatiers as Recchiti Confections, Cocoa Bella, Chocolatier Blue, Neo Cocoa, and dozens more. After eating chocolates “infused” with ganache, cardamom, chili pepper, Nutella, quinoa, flax, and Dom Perignon (Oprah’s favorite), Darcy felt like Lucy Ricardo working on that conveyor belt and stuffing in as many chocolates as her mouth would hold. But she hopes all of this research helps her Aunt Abby win the Chocolate Festival Contest.
Of course, that’s when the body of one of the chocolate judges turns up, floating in a large vat of melted chocolate. . .
You can read more about Darcy in Death Of A Chocolate Cheater, the second book in the “Food Festival” mystery series, published by Obsidian. The first book in the series is Death Of A Crabby Cook.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on June 10 for the chance to win a print copy of Death Of A Chocolate Cheater. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Three (3) lucky commenters will be randomly selected. Winners will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.
About the author
Penny Pike AKA Penny Warner is the author of the food truck mystery series, Death Of A Crabby Cook and Death Of A Chocolate Cheater, featuring Darcy Burnett and set in San Francisco. Her next book, Death Of A Bad Apple, comes out in 2016. Contact Penny at www.pennywarner.com. Penny is also the winner of the 2014 Agatha Award For Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel.