Betting on the city of Detroit’s eventual comeback, cousins Addie and Samantha decide to risk it all on an affordable new house and a culinary career that starts with renovating a vintage diner in a depressed area of town. There’s just one little snag in their vision.
Angus, a weary, beloved local, is strongly opposed to his neighborhood’s gentrification—and his concerns reflect the suspicion of the community. Shocked by their reception, Addie and Samantha begin to have second thoughts.
As the long hours, problematic love interests, and underhanded pressures mount, the two women find themselves increasingly at odds, and soon their problems threaten everything they’ve worked for. If they are going to realize their dreams, Addie and Samantha must focus on rebuilding their relationship. But will the neighborhood open their hearts to welcome them home?
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 10, 2017)
Yes, I do love a good foodie novel and I was excited to get a chance to review The Welcome Home Diner about two cousins who buy and renovate an old urban diner, hoping to transform their neighborhood and help (and benefit from) the urban renewal happening in Detroit. I have my own a cafe fantasies. When I make something delicious in my kitchen I often think, "that's totally going on my cafe menu!" Having spent some time in and around the food business, a cafe is much more work and effort than I have to give at this point in my life but I can live vicariously (at least through the good moments) through Addie and Sam in this book. Their path to success and happiness isn't an easy one between their own personal dramas, a neighborhood and neighbors that are not very welcoming, and an online troll who seems bent on making things difficult for the cousins.
I've read a couple of books recently that have written about Detroit and efforts to rehabilitate and rebuild the city and The Welcome Home Diner does it so lovingly in the way Lampman describes the city and it's surrounding communities--it made me want to go take a look. I enjoyed the main characters and although Sam and Addie are cousins, they are as close as sisters and that relationship with it's high and low points, felt realistic. I loved the supporting characters, particularly the Welcome Home's staff. They were a group of colorful personalities, most overcoming personal challenges and situations, and I enjoyed seeing how they were rebuilding their lives and themselves as much as the diner, the neighborhood and their city.
Almost as important to the story and the characters for me in a foodie novel is the description of the food. I liked the blend of southern favorites and Polish and other ethnic traditions with farm-to-table practices and the focus on local ingredients. The Welcome Home had the kind of menu that would thrill me as a patron and I like when an author truly appreciates food and the art of cooking--it's no surprise Lampman is a popular food blogger. This quote from Addie, sums it up nicely, "Recipes are much more than instruction manuals. They're stories, rich with history, connecting the dots between past and present." This is not a book to read on an empty stomach as you'll see from my list of its food inspiration below.
The Welcome Home Diner is about more than the food--it's about relationships, friends and family--both the one you are born into and the one you create, and it's about community and reinvention. I found it to be an enjoyable read and I would happily go back and visit with these characters in another book. I'll be adding it to my collection of foodie books--I'd probably put it on my shelves for the gorgeous cover alone, but the story earns it a firm place.
If it sounds like a book you'd enjoy, make sure to enter the giveaway for a copy below.
Author Notes: Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.
You can connect with Peggy via her website, blog, Facebook or Twitter
There is far too much food in The Welcome Home Diner for me to list all of it but here are the highlights—garden-grown lettuces, smoked pulled pork, biscuits, chess pie, greens (turnip, collards and mustard) and potlikker (the seasoned liquid left from boiling greens), corn pone, heirloom salad with blue cheese croutons, buttermilk pancakes with apple-maple syrup and walnuts, chocolate egg creams, lavender lime soda, spinach salad with hard boiled eggs, bacon and lemony dressing, hot sauce, kale smoothies, cornbread, sweet potato hash, giant chocolate cookies called “Heartbreakers,” asparagus salad, smoked chicken, patty pan squash, lamb burgers with beetroot salad and tzatziki, pickled carrots (and pickled eggplant, peppers, zucchini, okra and tomatoes), crispy corn trout, Heirloom tomatoes, lemonade with citrus and ginger, spicy Green Zebra Tomato Curry, eggs over easy with blue corn grits and red eye gravy, gazpacho, twice-stuffed potatoes, sponge cake, coconut pie, fennel dressing, wild mushroom pâté, sage-crusted pork chops with baked apples stuffed with orange-scented sweet potatoes, shaved Brussels sprouts salad, sugar cookies, Singapore Slings, chutney, cabbage rolls, Steak Diane with wild mushroom fettuccine, Polish Stuffed Easter Eggs (the author has a recipe on her blog), strawberry pies, spicy grilled wings, and root vegetable soup.
There were a few different recipes I wanted to recreate--the lavender-lime soda, maybe a meat-free potlikker, or the Green Zebra Tomato Curry. There were also a handful of recipes in the book (the pancakes and apple-maple syrup with walnuts, the greens with turnips and potlikker, the lamb burger sliders, the crispy corn trout, the Heartbreakers, Ginger-Molasses Bundt Cake with Lemon Curd, Babcia's Golbaki (cabbage rolls), white and dark chocolate-covered strawberries, and skillet-fried chicken). Most of the savory dishes included meat which I don't eat and I wasn't feeling like baking, making pancakes or eating something sweet.
I have been craving tabbouleh and when I read the description of Sam and Uriah eating out at a Mediterranean restaurant and Sam noting the extra herbs (oregano and thyme) that popped up in the tabbouleh they ordered, I wanted to make the salad--even though it isn't a big part of the book. The heart wants what the heart wants. I had an Ina Garten recipe for Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta bookmarked to try that used mint and parsley and decided to add oregano and thyme to it and adapt it to my needs. I make tabbouleh fairly often and have made it with quinoa before (posted here) although I don't often think to change out the grain from the usual bulgur wheat. Qunioa is great if you need to avoid gluten or just want the protein and extra nutrition it provides.
To go with the salad I decided to do a spin on Paul's Great Lakes Crispy Corn Trout from Welcome Home's menu, only as good trout is hard to get here in Hawaii, I decided to use some local Monchong which has a firm, flaky texture and a moderate, buttery flavor. I think Sam and Addie would appreciate the use of locally-sourced ingredients. Since I used fillets rather than a whole fish, I worked a little dried sage into the coating rather than in the cavity of the fish.
Quinoa Tabbouleh with Herbs & Feta
Adapted from Ina Garten, via Food Network.com
(Makes 6 Servings)
1 cup quinoa (I used sprouted quinoa)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I reduced to 1 tsp here)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good olive oil (I used about 3 Tbsp)
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (5 scallions)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (2 bunches)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
(I used 3/4 cup parsley, 1/2 cup mint, 2/3 cup oregano, & 1/3 cup thyme)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem
2 cups medium-diced feta (8 oz) (I reduced to less than 4 oz)
Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon of salt, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the grains are tender and open (they'll have little curly tails). Drain, place in a bowl and immediately add the lemon juice, olive oil and salt to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Add the quinoa and mix well.
Carefully fold in the feta and taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold
Crispy Cornmeal Fried Fish (Machong)
Adapted from Paul's Great Lakes Crispy Corn Trout via The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman
4 whole trout, 10-12 oz each, boned
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs fresh sage
1/4 cup ground cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Rinse the trout and pat dry. Season the cavity of each fish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place 2 sage leaves in the cavity of each fish. Close the cavity by threading a wooden skewer or toothpick through the flaps.
In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal and flour. Dredge both sides of the trout in the mixture.
Heat two large skillets over medium--high heat and divide the oil between them. When the fat simmers, add 2 fish to each skillet and fry until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the fish with a large, flat spatula. Continue to cook the fish on the other side until just cooked through an golden, about 4 minutes.
Transfer the fish to a platter and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.
Notes/Results: Let's start with the salad which was really tasty. I say add all the herbs to tabbouleh--don't limit yourself to just parsley and mint. I liked being able to get a bit of the oregano, thyme, mint and parsley in each bite. I did reduce the salt in this dish--with cooking the quinoa, the dressing and the veggie mix (Ina had anywhere from 1/2 tsp to 2 teaspoons salt in each step even before the feta is added, I just don't think it needs that much. There is a note in the recipe that Ina uses Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which is very coarse and to use less if you use a finer grain salt. I say taste and use your judgment and think of your heart! ;-) Speaking of feta, 8 ounces is WAY too much. I cut it down by less than half and it was plenty. I just don't think this salad needs as much cheese as it has quinoa in it. In fact next time I would reduce the cheese again, but double the quinoa to make it more grainy. (OK, seedy, quinoa is technically a seed.) But still, I really enjoyed the salad both with the fish and on its own--I will happily make it again. For the fish, I don't usually "fry" my fish and especially monchong but it worked quite well--crispy and slightly crackly from the cornmeal on the outside and tender and juicy inside. It was delicious indulgence. An excellent dinner.
I'm sharing this post several different places including:
I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Potluck week--our chance to make any recipe from our current IHCC chef (Ina Garten) or any of the previous IHCC chefs.
The Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
As my tenth entry for Foodie Reads 2017. You can check out the October Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what foodie book everyone is reading this month.
Finally there's Souper Sundays, hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.
Note: A review copy of "The Welcome Home Diner" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Welcome Home Diner to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.
To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) and tell me about your favorite family recipe or favorite diner meal, or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of The Welcome Home Diner.
There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or author Peggy Lampman (@dinnerfeed). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)
Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, November 3rd.
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