Guest: Annette Dashofy

Edith, writing from our guest Annette Dashofy’s home state of Pennsylvania. Annette and I are both at the Pennwriters conference this weekend, but she has a new mystery out in her fabulous Agatha-nominated Zoe Chamber series, and she’ll send one commenter a signed copy of Fair Game! Here’s a little about the book:

Paramedic Zoe Chambers hoped a week at the Monongahela County Fair, showing her horse and manning the ambulance, would provide a much-needed diversion from recent events that continue to haunt her. An old friend, a bossy nemesis, and a teenage crush from her 4-H days fail to offer the distraction she had in mind. But ever the caregiver, she soon bonds with a troubled teen and a grieving father.

Back in Vance Township, a missing woman turns up dead, leading Police Chief Pete Adams into a journey through her mysterious final hours. With each new clue, the tragic circumstances of her death grow increasingly muddied.

A cryptic phone call leads Pete to join Zoe for an evening at the fairgrounds where the annual school bus demolition derby concludes with a gruesome discovery and a new case that may or may not be connected to the first. Pete’s quest for the motive behind two homicides—and Zoe’s stubborn determination to reunite a family—thrust them both onto a collision course with a violent and desperate felon.

Eating Out at the Fair

Although my Zoe Chambers Mystery Series doesn’t include recipes—Zoe isn’t much of a cook and only has two go-to dishes she relies on—there’s usually some dining out going on. Whether Zoe and Pete are having dinner at the fictional Parson’s Roadhouse, footlongs at the equally fictional Dog Den, or lunch at the less fictional Walden’s Café, considerable drama takes place over a meal.

In Fair Game, Zoe spends a week at the county fair and chows down on a lot of fair food. Last summer, I bought a week-long pass so I could do some research.

Our fair, and the one in the book, has a covered dining area separating two rows of food vendors. Additionally, there are the trailers parked along the midway. The aromas wafting from these concessions is enough to turn this health-conscious vegetarian back to the dark side. Sausage grilling with onions and peppers? They should make perfume with that fragrance. French fries. Pizza. Gyros. Tacos. Oh my.

My personal favorite stop is the 4-H Dairy Bar for a chocolate milkshake. (Disregard that previous comment about being health conscious.) I worked the booth as a kid. We were all expected to put in a shift. Younger members and those of us with skinny arms took the orders. Older, stronger kids—and often parents—tackled the chore of digging out the hard-packed ice cream and running the industrial-strength blenders. The milkshake I had last year tasted just as good as the ones I remember.  

Recently, as I planned some of my book launch events, the subject of what should be served came up. Chef Rick at the real Walden’s Restaurant in my little hometown of Burgettstown likes to create Zoe-specific dishes for the Dinner with the Author evenings we hold there. For the Fair Game dinner, I suggested dishes inspired by the county fair, which led to some back and forth discussion. Fried this. Deep-fried that. Let’s face it. Fair food is not exactly healthy.

I’ve also been pondering my menu for the launch party at Mystery Lovers Bookshop. I usually provide variations on cheese and crackers and cookies. And wine. For No Way Home, set in New Mexico, I switched the release party menu to tortilla chips, salsa, and queso. What could I serve for Fair Game? Corn dogs? Not good served cold. Funnel cake? A crowd favorite, but a deep fryer and powdered sugar in bookstore? I don’t think so. Cotton candy? Sugary fingers don’t mix with books either.

I guess cheese, crackers, and cookies will have to suffice.

Wickeds and readers: do you have a favorite food when you go to the fair? I’ll send a signed copy of Fair Game to one commenter!

Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. A lifelong resident of Washington County (PA), Annette has garnered four Agatha Award nominations including Best Contemporary Novel of 2018 for CRY WOLF. She’s a member of International Thriller Writers, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and is on the board of directors of Pennwriters. Fair Game is the eighth in her series.

60 Thoughts

  1. Cotton candy has always been a favorite. Don’t know about all parts of the country, but I also love fresh, hot out of the oil, fried pork rinds too. Use to get candy apples, but seems I’m the one to get the mushy apple.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I’m not big on pork rinds, but candy apples are great. Health food, right? Ha!

  2. Thanks for having me here today, Edith and Wicked friends! I think I’ve made us all hungry!

  3. Waving hello! I fell in love with funnel cakes at Pennsylvania fairs, back when I lived there. They’re not the same anywhere else!

  4. Funnel cake is always good. My favorite, though, is the chocolate nut bar. It’s vanilla ice cream on a stick with a thick chocolate coating, then it’s covered in nuts. The salt to sweet ratio is perfect.

  5. I always like getting strawberry crepes at the fair. Legallyblonde1961 at yahoo dot com

  6. I love funnel cakes and any wierd new taste that is available.

  7. I like to go to the food pavilion at the State Fair of Texas and get their nachos — piled high with a Texas flag on top – and a giant cinnamon roll. On the midway, you can’t beat the funnel cakes, although the deep-fried cheesecake comes pretty close ~

  8. Minnesota State Fair features butter sculptures of the queen and her court . . .
    Hmm, also messy for a bookstore. How about cookies shaped like school buses?

  9. Congratulations on your new book, Annette and all of your Agatha nominations. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were newbie authors together. I haven’t been to a fair in years but I think Sno-cones were a go to favorite — cherry or grape.

    1. Thanks so much, Sherry! I sooo enjoyed being fellow Best First Novel nominees with you!

  10. My favorite fair food is definitely a funnel cake! There is absolutely nothing better! I loved going to the fair as a kid and now I get to enjoy taking my kids to the fair.

  11. It was always cotton candy and corn dogs. These days fairs have such exotic foods, but in the olden days when I was young these basic goodies (?) we didn’t get any other time of the year were a real treat.

  12. I haven’t been to a fair in ages. The last time I went, I tried chocolate covered bacon which was…interesting.

    I’m not a deep fried fan, so most of the food doesn’t interest me.

  13. Our County Fair is a street fair. It goes around the court house square and down a few blocks to the fairgrounds where the barns and show rings are. The street to the fairgrounds used to be half junk food alley and half industrial tent. Two years ago they blocked a parallel street and added MORE food. 😱 I usually go up and have dinner every evening (that it doesn’t rain, we usually have one day of rain or even snow…it’s the last week of Sept) and on Fri/Sat, I’ll have lunch and dinner. I love sausage and onions and peppers. There’s a stand with pork burgers. I love a church stands pies. Another church sells homemade ice cream. I love the smothered burrito at another place. The horsemen assn. has wonderful full meals. The beef and noodles with mashed potatoes and green beans are great. So I don’t choose one favorite. It’s choosing what to eat on which day!!
    The book sounds great too. 😉

  14. Fresh hot funnel cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar & an ice cold lemon shake-up

  15. Funnel cakes in Pennsylvania, fry bread in the southwest, mushroom ice cream in Kennet Square, PA

    1. I love fry bread (heading to New Mexico next month!) but mushroom ice cream???? Uh. No.

  16. Hi Annette and Wickeds! If I had to choose I’d definitely go for one of those 4H chocolate milk shakes.
    Congratulations again on your Agatha nominations, Annette and Edith!

    1. Thanks, Shari (and congratulations on your WIN!) Oh, yes, the chocolate shakes are the best!

  17. Oh I do love funnel cakes. Haven’t had one in a long time tho.

  18. Don’t enter me since I already have a signed copy but my favorite fair food is sausage and pepper sandwiches

  19. I went to the fair every summer. I was in 4h and my horse stayed there. I loved it. My favorite treat would be cotton candy.i really want this book it reminds me of my younger days.

  20. Our local fair is a Strawberry Festival so I love the strawberries and ice cream, but will sometimes sneak some cotton candy in as well. I have to say I love this series Annette. It is one I always watch for and I really enjoyed Fair Game.

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