Just who snatched the baker’s engagement ring?
This was the mystery that puzzled a group of 30-somethings as they wandered downtown Patchogue restaurants on a recent October night — some of them with fake mustaches stuck to their faces — in hot pursuit of suspects.
Along the way, there was beer. And pizza. And arancini. There were also high-fives as the friends figured out clue after clue. The baker, though, existed only as an illustrated figure on their smartphones — the central character in a new self-guided culinary tour of the village’s eateries called Food Done It?
Sort of a walking dinner detective mystery, Food Done It? combines elements of escape rooms and pub crawls. It was created earlier this year by Elizabeth Poretsky and Kevin Hindley of East Patchogue after they had an aha moment about the town’s blossoming food scene, where a new restaurant seems to open every few weeks.
“It’s insane, what’s happening here,” said Poretsky, a junior high school teacher by day who has long been food-obsessed. “I thought, people take food tours in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Why not Long Island?”
Poretsky and Hindley came up with the idea of a self-guided dining tour driven by smartphones — specifically, an illustrated mystery of a baker who wants to propose to the woman of his dreams, but whose engagement ring has been stolen by one of a handful of suspects.
Though the “Cupcake Conundrum” takes place in 1918, the tour goes down in real time, at four downtown restaurants that offer up tapas-style bites to participants who have paid $60 each and wander from spot to spot, picking up clues and “interviewing” suspects along the way. (Groups are four to eight people.)
“It’s both a puzzle and a gentle scavenger hunt,” Poretsky said, as well as a movable feast that chefs have totally embraced. “The food was supposed to be nibbles, but the chefs have just gone crazy.”
The first paid tour was in September, a group of friends celebrating a 21st birthday who posted some of their pictures to Instagram. The intense social-media-friendliness of the tours poses a slight challenge to Food Done It?, as restaurants are supposed to remain a secret until the tour actually begins.
One eatery, though, is not a secret: The tour’s starting point is PeraBell Food Bar on East Main Street, where groups nosh on short ribs as they watch the opening video for “The Cupcake Conundrum,” before picking up clues at five other places.
Because Poretsky and Hindley wanted to keep the tour’s cost low, Food Done It? sleuths pay for their own drinks — but restaurants have been game about offering specially priced beer flights and cocktails, such as “mystery mojitos,” that play into the theme.
The couple is busy planning new mysteries, including a winter-themed tour called “Fire & Ice” that will hit different restaurants, and they’re doing it with added amore: A few weeks ago, during a test run, life imitated art when Hindley took a knee to propose to Poretsky. The ring hadn’t been stolen, and she said, “Yes.”
WHEN | WHERE Participants chose from a few pre-selected start times, and tours are daily except for Fridays. The roughly three-hour tour hits six restaurants in downtown Patchogue.
COST $60 per person