Mercantile and Cafe- Murder strikes thrice
Sierra Lodestar 08/04/10

Murder Strike Thrice at Mercantile

By Antoinette May Herndon

A magician waves his magic fingers and a man disappears forever. A four-year-old boy watches, devastated by the loss of his father. The boy grows up embittered, determined to seek revenge on the magician.

When the magician is engaged to perform at the Angels Camp Mercantile and Café, the angry young man is waiting to exact revenge. And that’s only the beginning.

A voluptuous, white clad medium—or is she a witch?-- wanders through the cafe voicing frightening predictions. A fey former high school teacher, also in search of the magician, chats up spectators at the mercantile-restaurant. Two waitresses, Libby Amor and Niki Robinson, bustle about, perhaps a little too good to be true.

A plump white rabbit appears seemingly out of nowhere. In the magician’s skilful hands, cards perform in mysterious ways. People disappear only to reappear. All the while the angry young man bemoans the loss of his father and shouts furiously at the magician.

The Paul Herek’s magic show concludes and the bemused dinner guests at the mercantile-café prepare to adjourn to the upstairs dining room when, suddenly, one of them falls to the ground.

He is pronounced dead by a Danny Diamond, a swashbuckling detective who swaggers on to the scene. As the evening progresses, two more dinner guests slump from their seats. A triple murder!

But how and why?

That is for the mystery dinner night guests to determine.

Each diner is presented with a whodunit sheet which lists the suspects and asks the penultimate questions: Who is the killer? How did they do it? When did they do it? What facts or details support your theory?

It’s a puzzling dilemma which inspires lots of lively dinner conversations. Strangers become instant


As the mystery unfolded, dinner guests sat together at three long tables in a festively decorated upstairs dining room. We began with a piquant appetizer: crostini topped with argula, crumbled goat cheese, olives and roasted onion rounds. Delicious! It left me wanting more but then someone else got killed and I was totally distracted.

Still, I’ve got to tell you that nothing but my own demise could have distracted me from the next course, chilled cucumber and avocado soup drizzled with crème fraiche. This soup really was to kill for, the best thing on the menu—or maybe any menu anywhere that night. Yes, it was really that good. A perfect hot whether soup. Why don’t more restaurants think cold soup on these hot summer nights?

From that point on the guests had their choice of four entrees. Charles chose a vegetarian dish that featured his favourite food eggplant. The taste lived up to the gorgeous presentation and he was well pleased.

I picked the poached fresh salmon drizzled with watercress aioli and served with red potato and green bean salad tossed with Dijon vinaigrette dressing. The salmon was fresh and tasty. Just cooked just right.

The other two choices available that night for other diner included grilled New York steak on a bed of watercress, chipolino onion and tomato salad laced with green peppercorn jus, and sprinked with horseradish crème drizzle; and chicken breast served on top of heirloom tomato salad with Burrat cheese and kalamata dressing.

All the diners finished off with a luscious chocolate pana cotta with port balsamic, and glazed bing cherries and glazed pecans.

The price was $75 a couple or $39.95 for a single diner. The very excellent chefs were Christopher Lichtenhan and Pete Ramirez.

As we finished our desserts,

Danny Diamond, our intrepid detective—otherwise known as Eric Owens, came around and collected our crime reports. Things got pretty tense then as many of us were certain we’d discovered the villain. Many of us were wrong, too. Jay and Janet Brethauer, a canny pair of Palo Alto transplants living now in Bear Valley, were the master sleuths.

The killer turned out to Wendy Whiteside, a seemingly ethereal psychic with a very worldly agenda. Wendy, actually the well known localite actress, Cyndie Menert, played a fanatic who could not abide having her beloved Mercantile sullied by a wily magician. Now, don’t go thinking that I’m a killjoy for revealing the plot. Eric Owens creates his Danny Diamond Mysteries fresh for each Murder Mystery Dinner. Expect to see something brand new next month. Once again, the cast will be comprised of professional actors sparked by enthusiastic volunteers.

They promise dinner will be to die for.

VITALS: Angels Camp Mercantile Café is at 1267 South Main St., Angels Camp. Phone: 890-7155. The next Mystery Night Theater Night is scheduled for Aug. 29. Advance reservations required as space is limited. Many guests appreciate the free corkage service and enjoy bringing their own wine for dinner. Credit cards accepted.


Danny Diamond (Eric Owens) confronts Wendy Whiteside (Cyndie Menard) a suspect in a triple murder at the Mercantile Café,

Paul Herick (real name) and detective Danny Diamond (Eric Owens) discover another murder victim.

The upstairs dining room at the Mercantile is where the action is.

Guests attempt to solve the crime.

The interior of the Mercantile is filled with treasures from around the world.