Egos as poisonous as false morels are the special of the day in Gordon’s second Napa foodie mystery.
Of course the reason chef Sunny McCoskey (Sharpshooter, 2002) agrees to cook her famous wild mushroom pasta for a swanky Napa Valley benefit dinner is that she sympathizes with the Open Space Coalition, but the fact that hunky star chef Andre Morales is hosting the event is a significant incentive as well. While preparing her sauce in the high-tech kitchen of Vinifera, Morales’s restaurant, Sunny discovers that the jar of dried morels contains several poisonous false specimens. Spending a wonderful night with Morales compensates Sunny for having to make do with supermarket mushrooms and white truffle oil, but the trouble at Vinifera is just beginning. One of the owners, obnoxious and demanding Nathan Osborne, is found at his home, dead of heart failure while sipping a $200-a-glass Burgundy. Having discovered that Nathan and her new beau were pouring counterfeit wine, however, Sunny doesn’t buy the death scene setup. So she simultaneously investigates and alienates everyone at Vinifera: handsome Andre, muscular bartender Nick, tattooed waitress Dahlia, snobby sommelier Remy, and Nathan’s business partner Eliot.
Sunny’s neurotic habit of sticking her toque where it doesn’t belong is the only sour note among the otherwise delectable details of Napa Valley food culture that Gordon serves up.