A Chat with Amy E. Reichert: Milwaukee + Coconut Cake

This summer I was really, really excited to read the debut novel,  THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE by Amy E. Reichert. I bought the paperback and ended up reading it as fast as  I probably eat coconut cake and lemme tell you, it did not disappoint. It’s fun, romantic, sweet and you really end up falling in love with the city of Milwaukee and all of its wonderful spots to eat, explore and have a romance.  The cast of characters are a delight to spend time with and you really root for love to win! Well, I did anyways.

if you haven’t had a chance to pick up this book, add it to your list, you will not regret it! 

Amy was kind enough to visit us here at  eat~write~love and  answered a few questions on writing, Milwaukee’s dining scene and book #2!

Thank you Amy! 

coincidence and coconut cake

Can you share any of your writing tips with readers and writers interested in your creative process?

Creativity and writing don’t always go hand in hand. With deadlines looming, sometimes you have to find a way to get it done, even if your muses are silent. In other words, power through. The only way to finish writing, is to write. Keep writing, even if the words are utter drivel. That’s the beauty of revision, you can always fix it later.

Al was initially unimpressed by Milwaukee as a culinary hot spot, do you find this to be often true with people you meet who aren’t familiar with the city? Can you expand on this?

One of the reasons I wanted to write about Milwaukee is it’s often overlooked, especially with Chicago so close. But it is it’s own city with it’s own character. Where else will you find racing sausages, world class festivals, and deep-fried cheese curds? It’s a quirky city – with the benefits of a big city but the charm of somewhere much more welcoming.

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What are some of your favorite places to eat, drink and have cake in Milwaukee and/or Wisconsin?

Obviously, I adore Northpoint Custard, though there are probably many other exceptional frozen custard stands that are worth visiting: Le Duc’s, Leons, Kopps, and Gilles to name a few.  As for dining, my current favorites are La Merenda, Wolf Peach, and Morel – they all have a farm-to-table style menu that I really love.  Bryant’s is a classic place for cocktails, they don’t offer a menu  because their bartenders  can make anything – instead the waitress asks what you like to drink than make suggestions. Lastly, the best ice cream in the city is at Purple Door Ice Cream – they have a Brandy Old-Fashioned flavor that is amazing!

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Tell us a bit about your own culinary background? Just an avid eater? A lover of dining out or cooking?

I’ve spent a lot of time in restaurant kitchens. I started working in restaurants when I turned 14, and put myself through grad school as a waitress. Now, I do love to dine out, but I also love to cook. I’ve learned enough that there aren’t many recipes that intimidate me – though croissants are still beyond my skill level.

Do you find that a restaurant critique has the power that your main character Al has in ruining the reputation of a restaurant? Does a bad review sway you from checking out a spot?

Based on my research, an official restaurant review probably won’t tank a restaurant that is already doing well, but it can

make the difference to one that is on the cusp, like Luella’s is in the book. Losing just a few customers a day can make a huge difference to a bottom line. In today’s age of online review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, I do think negative reviews are harmful to businesses. I’m often swayed by reviews. However, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to local places.

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Can you share some of your favorite food fiction books you are reading now? 

When I’m writing, I try not to read books too similar to what I’m writing. Right now, I’m reading Wonder by RJ Palacio and I just finished Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren. Some of my favorite food fiction I have read is How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue and When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison.

What can you tell us about your next book? 

Luck, Love & Lemon Pie will be out next summer. It’s about a frustrated housewife who hatches a scheme to reignite her marriage–and risks everything in a gamble she hopes is a sure bet.

Learn more about Amy at: http://AmyeReichert.com

LOVE: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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Last year when I heard that Ruth Reichl (former editor of Gourmet Magazine) wrote her first fiction book aptly titled, DELICIOUS!  I immediately added it to my  to-be-read shelf and waited for its release date.

She ended up having a reading at the independent bookstore close to my home and  I arrived early  and then joined the crowds on a warm Pasadena night to hear her read and have my book signed.

Surprisingly, when I came home, I read a few pages, but then placed my autographed copy of Delicious! on my bookshelf — where it has sat for the last year.

I just didn’t feel ready to read it yet, and now I think it’s because of all the chatter  at the time of her release and how it had been given the unpopular branding of  “fluff” “chick lit” “summer/light reading”  which, isn’t a compliment in the literary community.

The New York Times, where she worked as a highly popular and well-respected food critic for years gave her new book such a harsh review I had to wonder what she had done to her former co-worker to receive such a  lashing.

Here’s a taste:

“Ms. Reichl’s novel, however, is strictly kid stuff. It’s a gauzy ode to the liberating virtues of pleasure, glazed with warmth and uplift, so feebly written and idea free that it will make you wonder if the energy we’ve been putting into food these last few decades hasn’t made us each lose, on average, a dozen I.Q. points.” –  New York Times, May 6, 2014 

Pretty rough, right?

So, I let the book sit and I’d pass it everyday and stare at its beautiful book binder that said Delicious!  in swirly letters and I knew that when I was ready, I’d try again.  And so almost a year later, I did.  Over the weekend, I pulled it from my bookshelf and devoured it in a few days. It was lovely, smart, well-researched, thoughtful and a wonderful premise. It was a happily-ever-after kinda book and that’s OK.  It’s more than OK, it’s what she wanted to write and that’s the beauty of books.

And so for a few days, I lived inside of a gorgeous historical mansion where I was a writer,  I worked at a cheese shop, read old letters by James Beard and got to witness the journey of a woman who needed to find herself and fall in love.

If you love great writing and good food, Delicious! is the perfect entree!