This week, Shanna takes the role of a classic crime detective to find the mystery—and the dinner—on the Spirit of Washington’s “Mystery Dinner Train.”

I had been a private gumshoe too many years to go for a comy gag like that. The train conductor had told me that what I was missing was inside the train.

I stood.  My eyes turned toward the mountains. I was looking for some short-cut that would lead me somewhere, anywhere, to the perfect Valentine for my schweetheart.

The conductor’s smile pulled the corners of his mouth out half an inch.  He reached inside his coat, prowled in a pocket, came out with a ticket. “Here.” He said, pushing the ticket in my hand. “Try it.”

Without looking back, I laughed at myself. I had time to turn around and see the words “Spirit of Washington” sketched across the locomotive. “Maybe, just maybe this could be THE Valentine gift,” I sighed.  The lightness had gone out of my step when I realized my Valentine could see through a brick wall as quickly as anyone.  This wears whiskers! I thought of all the past candy and cards. Enough already, I had to keep it a surprise!

I was looking for more than that fancy pants three-course gourmet meal.  I needed a little mystery to keep this romance alive! Just then, the Conductor handed me a brochure. Mayhem, intrigue, and a whodunit good time was available on a MURDER mystery train!

My eyes quickly swept the room.  I was sitting inside the Olympic railroad car built-in 1937.  People were boarding as the servers helped them find their dining tables.  I looked at them.  They looked at me.  My hunch says all of them could be the murderer! I would trust no one and suspect everyone!

I was breathing heavily with the effort of adding more honey butter on my roll.  I had already had plenty of the herbed cream cheese and salmon rillette.  It was a matter of minutes before the crisp romaine tossed with poppy seed vinaigrette dressing topped with fresh grapefruit, and toasted almonds were about to arrive.

I asked the waiter, Paul, for the recipe. He bared his uppers and lowers. He was more than glad to share:

MRS. T’s Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Dressing

¼ cup of sugar

1 ½ T onion juice

1 cup of vegetable oil

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

1 ½ T poppy seeds

1/3 cup cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients except (the oil and poppy seed) in a blender until they are well mixed.  Add the oil slowly while continuing to blend when thickened stir in the poppy seed and refrigerate.

A young lady brightened with a smile stood up and instructed us all to wear our name tags for I.D. when they find the dead body.  She goes through the instructions fast, with technical terms flying like sparks from a train wheel.

I was lucky that night; we had a live crowd.  Not a dead beat in the group.  You could tell they were eager for the 44-mile round trip dinner experience to begin.

Suddenly a gorgeous raven-haired woman pushes her chair away from the table.   She is gagging. NO. She is choking. Her table mate’s complexion went pasty.  Suddenly the raven-haired beauty clammed up and started eating again.

Parts of it rang as wrong as a counterfeit quarter.

I whirled around, and there in the aisle stands a Detective. His teeth were smoky.  He shook my hand. I rubbed my fingers back in shape where he’d squeezed them into pretzels.

He wants to know if I was acquainted with a certain gentleman.

I told him, “Don’t push me around.  I might crack you one on the kisser.”

He went searching from table to table.  More suspicious characters started fighting.  Suddenly one of them staggered and went down into a withering heap.

The wheels of calamity were moving, but before I knew it, they had us debarking the train at Columbia Winery.

After a tour of the gift shop, where a quintet sang their hearts out, then a wine tasting we went for a tour of the winery.

Only we found more than wine barrels.

The plot thickened . . .

Cast of Characters

Spirit of Washington Dinner Train A 3 ½ hour round trip adventure including a wooden trestle built-in 1891 102 feet in height.  Seven vintage cars that have been completely restored showing scenic views with gourmet cuisine.

Gretchen’s of Course is a partnership of Schwartz Brothers Restaurants.  Guests are offered a three-course meal with an appetizer, choice of entrees, and dessert.  Northwest wines and beers are also featured.  They do all the food preparation, the staff, and the table settings

Columbia Winery  Enjoy a 45 minute stop at the winery. Including complimentary Northwest wines and a tour. Columbia is exclusively known for its Winemaker, David Lake. He is the only Master of Winemaking in the United States.

It’s a Mystery Be sure to share some personal information, and you might end up a murder suspect.  You get the chance to solve the murder, and booby prizes are awarded for the very good, the very bad, and the funny answers.

Shanna is a Northshore resident who enjoys sharing her stories and recipes with readers.  Her column appears regularly in the Citizen