Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.
I’ll admit, I did exactly the thing the old adage tells us never to do: I judged this book by its cover. But you see it up there, right? How could you not fall in love, but if for some odd reason, the cover didn’t draw you in, the description would get you: Lou is a chef. Al is a restaurant critic who writes under a pseudonym and is known for his scathing reviews. He dines at Lou’s restaurant on a very off night. And by very off, I mean walked in on her fiancé with another women when she stopped by to surprise him with a coconut cake– off. Al skewers her restaurant in a review. Then the two meet at random in a bar and Lou accepts the challenge to show Al all the best of Milwaukee’s food scene. One caveat– no talking about work. As Lou’s business collapses, largely due to Al’s review, the two fall in love. Which is clearly problematic.
Here are just a few things I loved about Amy E. Reichert’s THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE:
- The dramatic tension. Since Lou and Al agree not to talk about work and all the marketing materials for her restaurant use her given name (Elizabeth), Al doesn’t realize she’s a chef and she doesn’t know that he is he author of the scathing review. As a reader, you are just waiting for them to find out and the tension grows as they fall more and more in love. This makes the book completely un-put-down-able.
- Milwaukee. Since I’ve already admitted to judging this book by its cover, I’ll keep rolling with the confessions and admit that I’ve never particularly thought of Milwaukee as a must-visit city. Until now. Reichert’s descriptions of the Milwaukee Public Market and the amazing food festivals made me want to experience them first-hand. I also have to admit that I love a book that can send me searching for new beers I’ve never heard of. New Glarus Spotted Cow– yes, please.
- Food. So here’s my last confession of the post: I don’t particularly like coconut cake, but now I really want to eat some. My very most favorite thing about this novel is the author’s deep understanding of the role food plays in relationships. Lou’s coconut cake is made from her grandmother’s recipe. She describes the memory of her grandmother making it and then in the novel she makes the cake twice, with two very different results. So much of the growth and change she has experienced are reflected in what happens with the two cakes. I want to make the coconut cake recipe in the back of the book and eat every last bite, not because I suddenly like coconut, but because it means something. It has a story.
How do you pick one perfect beer pairing for a book that describes all sorts of amazing food from Cuban pork, to delicate French fish dishes, to bratwurst at baseball games. It was a tough one, but I’m pairing THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE with Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout. Vanilla is a key ingredient in the cake, as well as a scent that draws Al to Lou both initially and throughout the book. This dark, malty beer perfectly compliments the sweet vanilla flavor that you’ll find yourself thinking about over and over as you read. It’s also a really boozy beer, something to sip slowly as you spend a whole afternoon devouring this book. Which you will. I mentioned the un-put-down-able-ness, right?