pretty food gone wrong

May 12th, 2008 · 57 Comments

here it is…the epitome of springtime…  could this not be a more restaurant worthy presentation?  i mean, if this was put down in front of you, wouldn’t you have high expectations?  a yolky fettuccine dressed with creme fraiche… the waft of truffle hitting your nose… yes, this is going to be just incredibly….


dear readers, let’s just make this clear… it pretty much sucked.  it just did.  and it was altogether my own fault.  because each ingredient on it’s own was perfectly lovely.  i just didn’t know when to leave well enough alone…  and my pasta – as you might imagine – was freshly homemade, making it sting just a touch more. ..

pretty pasta (that you should never make)

a container of creme fraiche
2 entire ounces of very expensive white truffle oil
fresh chives
fresh parsley
black pepper

ok, had i stopped here, i’d have had my usual winner of a simple pasta dish…
but nooooo..

toasted pine nuts (borderline error)
about a solid cup of grated parmigiano (first major mistake)
very young broccolini, chopped and left raw (second major mistake)
lemon infused olive oil (i must have been on crack – seriously)
broccolini flowers to garnish (whateva)

toss, eat, gag, toss
mourn over your beautiful wasted fettuccine, truffle oil and creme fraiche  

so like, this is me failing miserably. 
i am humbled in the face of fine cuisine.
i repent to the god of all things culinary.

final note: i served this to 4 people at a business meeting. 

one was a chef.


so what was your biggest flop?

Tags: bad · pasta

57 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jennifer Hess // May 12, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Oh, no! So disappointing, but, um… at least it looked pretty?

    My biggest flop had to be the time I tried to make duck & sausage gumbo for dinner. With a frozen duck.

    It was a great gumbo THREE NIGHTS LATER.

  • 2 FrenchLaundryatHome // May 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Oh, bummer. That sucks.

    My worst flop was making a tagine about 10 years ago. I’d just come back from Morocco and was dying to do a lamb tagine. I thought I peeled the lemons properly, but must’ve included a bit of the pith on the peel because the entire dish tasted like eating a bar of soap, and chasing it with a bottle of dish detergent.

  • 3 Diana // May 12, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Lemons! The first time I made cheesecake from scratch, I zested my very first lemons. I included all the pith, too, because I didn’t know when to stop. It was pretty much ruined by the bitterness, but my roommates and I ate it anyway.

    At least your mistakes are beautiful! Full credit for going out on a limb.

  • 4 celine // May 12, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    ouch! so sorry to hear…
    I wouldn’t even know where to begin when it comes to listing my kitchen flops. too many to count!

  • 5 Summer // May 12, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    It is beautiful.

    But your description gave me flashbacks to college (not food-related), when the good-looking guy in the bar started making his way toward you. He’s so cute. You can’t believe he’s coming your way. Could he really think you’re cute too?!?! And then he opens his mouth to speak and can’t string a sentence together… dreadful.

  • 6 Lindsay // May 12, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Isn’t it disappointing? We’ve had our fair share of flops – but unlike you I’m never brave enough to post about them! hahaha.

  • 7 Stephanie // May 12, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Oh where to begin: I added 6 quarts of boiling water to a chicken stock recipe that only called for 3. I forgot to add the parsley when I was making a pesto. I added 4 tablespoons of baking powder instead of 4 teaspoons to a dutch boy recipe…well hell, the list is quite long.

    If I had a dollar for every time a dish flopped, I’d be writing this comment from my palatial villa in Italy while a hot young Italian stud named Paolo rubbed my feet.

  • 8 amy @ minimally invasive // May 12, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    You really intend for me to choose among my many culinary flops? Well … there WAS this one time I nearly killed my mother. For future reference: Never serve a sauce heavy on Sriracha to someone with severe acid reflux disease.

    Sorry your dinner sucked. Gorgeous picture, though.

  • 9 Becky And The Beanstock // May 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Well…. I think cooking is much like jazz. You have to aim big, bold and experimental to get something beautiful. Of course, there is a risk in that… But really, it is just gorgeous.

    My most memorable recent flop (there are so many) was when I tried making Cincy chili for a party. It’s chili, right? Hard to mess up. But I went overboard with the chocolate and the cinnamon, and also added too much heat. I tend to be… generous… with seasonings, and sometimes it can bite me. And everyone else. Literally. (But nothing disappoints me as much as getting food that look gorgeous but tastes like paper).

  • 10 Robert // May 12, 2008 at 4:47 pm


    Statisticly, 3 ‘Bad’ posts out of how many? Your still on the curve. No shrapnel, no embaressing off-color food, Id say it was just a halflop at worst. How many times have you been served something worse by a proud cook? So…..

    One upmanship? Me, nope, no flops here, ever. But let me tell you about growing up. Like when my mom divided her Sams Club size dishwasher powder into empty breadcrumb containers……. Dad made us eat the fried fish until we started blowing bubbles. Not a lie, swear.

    Heh! Top that.

  • 11 CeeElCee // May 12, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    At least I had an excuse. I was drunk.

    Your flops still probably taste better than most people’s magnum opi.

  • 12 robin // May 12, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Claudia- my biggest flop was some pasta with a white truffle oil concoction too!! Truffle oil is hard, man.

    Purdy pictures, though!!

  • 13 evil chef mom // May 12, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Ack! It sounds like should be good, what a bummer! Okay… my worst was serving raw potatoes in a potato salad at my own baby shower. For about two years my in-laws thought I couldn’t cook.

  • 14 cookiecrumb // May 12, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Oh, please tell me it was mainly the lemon oil that skunked your dish, because everything else in it sounds utterly plausible (if possibly out of proportion). Except the raw broccolini, gag.
    It’s pretty!

  • 15 Mal Carne // May 12, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I was trying to make a simple chicken diavola(ish) kinda thing. I paid no attention to how much rosemary I put in the marinade.

    Let is sit for 2 hours, grill it, and enjoy all of the flavors of a Vic’s inhaler.

  • 16 lucy // May 12, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    awww :(
    you’ve had so many phenomenal successes that this doesn’t even count.
    if it makes you feel better, last week I went to make scones for my work friends and they turned out so horrible that I had to hide them in the oven for two days before I could bear to look at them long enough to throw them out.
    I still think you’re fab :)

  • 17 indeo // May 12, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    beautiful photo. so sorry it sucked.

    the first time? oh, so long ago…i was 10 and had entered my family’s split pea soup into a local cooking contest. the plan was that my mother would teach me the recipe the night before the contest. instead, she went into labor. as she was giving birth to my baby sister, i was trying to read hungarian recipe cards from the family journal. i had thought 5 CLOVES of garlic was equal to 5 BULBS of garlic. the result? first place. to this day, i’m convinced that the judges took pity on a freaked out 10 year old girl. or, they really liked garlic.

  • 18 Lesley // May 12, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I sincerely hope that this continues to be my biggest failure.

    Side note: I’m making pasta primavera this week. There will be carrots. And no lemon infused olive oil.

  • 19 Heather // May 12, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I usually have the opposite problem. Food that tastes really great but photographs shite.

    Yours truly is a case of too much of a good thing. You get a pass from me, that’s for sure.

  • 20 RecipeGirl // May 12, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Oh my gosh, that’s too funny. Well, probably not “funny” for you, but a funny post nonetheless!

    I can think of a major flop:
    Way back when I worked in catering, we were in a rush to do a breakfast. I grabbed the “Pam” spray and sprayed the pans. Then I began to scoop the potatoes into the pans. But I sensed a strange smell. That SMELL was actually bug spray that I had used (thinking it was the Pam.!) Someone had placed directly next to the Pam on the shelf. I ruined half of the potatoes and we had to improvise. Funny that the bug spray bottle was almost identical to the Pam. Not funny that my boss was not too happy!

  • 21 We Are Never Full // May 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    this post was awesome! hilarious!!!! i’ve had many flops… mainly when baking. one is on my blog – i forgot to add baking powder to a cake. it never rose. i kept it in the oven for 3 hours hoping it would just eventually rise. yeah, that sucked ass.

    did the chef say anything? or was he polite? i appreciate your ability to admit defeat!

  • 22 demolcommie // May 12, 2008 at 9:42 pm


    My next mistake with truffle oil will be the first time I ever use it. I grew up thinking Crisco was only for the rich folks–we used Snow Cap lard and margarine.

    Like Indeo I went a little overboard with garlic once. I was having a couple over for dinner and decided to make this roasted chicken with garlic under the skin. I used a whole head and it was pretty strong. I wept when I opened the oven, the fumes were that strong. I and the lady guest ate mostly potatoes and veggies (and, of course, dessert). My buddy inhaled that chicken.

    Months later I said, “I didn’t know you like garlic that much.” He replied that he didn’t but there was no way he was going to waste food.

    Happily, my garlic jones has not moderated. A lady I used to date asked me, when I was cooking dinner for her (for the first time) how much garlic I had put in the dish I was making. I said, maybe 5 or 6 cloves–is that too much? She said there is no such thing as too much garlic. We were happy together for some time.

  • 23 Vincent // May 12, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    You see…this is why I love this blog. You have the stones to show accomplishment as well as…pretty pasta “that you should never make”. I will never divulge the secret to my culinary failures – lets just say it was a weird weekend full of pernod, a james brown impersonator and the smell of fear, my friends.
    J/K…you had like 30 different pasta dishes going at once, thats all.
    If you can stop using truffle oil – it has sucked for awhile.

    Above all else the post and pic was great, and in the words of my now famous next door neighbor here in Texas:

    “Yewww tawk guuud”

  • 24 Donald // May 12, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Claudia, that dish looks wonderful!

    Sorry it was mal.

    My biggest flop? I’ve had so many…maybe the one where I first learned how to test steak doneness but pushing them. I should have learned about that technique before using it on a houseful of people. I hand cut each individual steak and overcooked them all! All of them! Typically, I don’t blog about my mishaps, but then again, I haven’t had too many recent ones.

  • 25 giz // May 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    The disheartening part of it all isn’t so much the flop – we all have them – it’s all the damned work in making the pasta from scratch, the anticipation of fantastic ingredients and how beautifully they’ll all meld together.

    Robert’s bubble blowing has you hands down!!! I’m still peeing my pants. I think they call that child abuse.

  • 26 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // May 13, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Aw, it *sounds* like the pasta should have tasted good. Good on you for blogging about it tho. Last year I made a custard pie from scratch, (made my own pastry too) and didn’t realise it was on grill…which made for sugary scrambled eggs in a pastry shell… if only that was my sole claim to floppage. There’s plenty more where that came from… :)

  • 27 demolcommie // May 13, 2008 at 5:01 am


    This probably doesn’t qualify as a food flop but….

    When I was a kid, carrying the morning paper, I decided to be a good son and make coffee for the ‘rents one morning. When my dad came down to the kitchen he grabbed a paper from my bag, poured a cuppa and sat down to read.

    He took a sip out of his cup, spit it back into the cup and said.

    “How much coffee did you put into the percolator?”

    I said, “None, It was already full. I just turned it on.”

    He said, “That was yesterdays!”. My mom laughed her ass off.

  • 28 Peter // May 13, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I made a “torta rustica” that took forever to prep and unmolded as a sodden gray mess in front of about 25 people.

  • 29 ntsc // May 13, 2008 at 8:28 am

    The first time I made this pate [url][/url] I didn’t know to let it sit a couple of days and served that evening. It was awful. Three days later it was sublime.

  • 30 jim voorhies // May 13, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Well I made biscuits from scratch one morning as a treat for my new wife (long ago) that I believe are still used for the Stanley Cup Playoff games.

  • 31 Heidi // May 13, 2008 at 11:16 am

    At least it looked pretty!
    And I certainly feel for you on the fresh pasta front. It stings just reading about it.


  • 32 Chris // May 13, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I have had so many failures over the years, for the most part I have stopped keeping track.
    I can recall a recent failure trying to make corn tortillas. Frisbee anyone?

    It was a valiant attempt Claudia and so very pretty.
    I hope the dinner guest were if nothing else, impressed by the effort.

  • 33 diva // May 13, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    oooh, sorry to hear you were none too happy with this but you know what? it still looks so yummy i’d eat it any day. your homemade pasta looks fab.
    i hate it when it fails but it means you can try again!

    chin up!

  • 34 Dana // May 13, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Ohhhh nooooo! So sorry to hear this was a bust. Sounds good in theory, but like so many men out there, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work out in practice. Next time!!

  • 35 kate // May 13, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Well, it may be a flop – but it looked good. There’s points for that. And it’s reassuring to know you have a flaw for going overboard – I thought everything I’ve seen so far has been perfection and I was getting a complex.
    I’ve had my share of flops when I was first cooking for my family as a teenager. Best flop – Not remembering when I moved to Denver about high altitude. The cake I baked for my boyfriend chipped the cake platter, cracked the garbage can and broke my heart.

  • 36 christey // May 13, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    well suck ass then :(
    cause it does look damn tasty

  • 37 The Italian Dish // May 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    You were so brave to post this, honey. Gee….the picture looks so good!

  • 38 feeding maybelle // May 13, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Ah, as I was looking over pictures of Indian food, I realized good food is often ugly. It is counter to blogging and food magazines, of course.

  • 39 Quickthink » Blog Archive » How Do I Look Dear? // May 14, 2008 at 3:29 am

    […] attempts to generate”buzz” tend to kill off humor, and thus to chill dialogue. Here is an example from the other side, a humorous post from CEF on a failed effort to impress. I was […]

  • 40 Robert // May 14, 2008 at 6:21 am



    You even get credit for being your own antagonist today……..

  • 41 ElZorro // May 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Back when we first moved from Venezuela to KY, me + my sisters, whilst attempting to make something called “Peach cobbler” encountered this abbreviation: “3/4 cups of shortening” .

    Sister Carola thought it meant 3 or 4 cups, so 4 cups o’ Crisco went into it.

    It created an oil slick of such biblical magnitude that the EPA fined us halfa billion pesos.

  • 42 Kim // May 14, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Sorry about the meal, are you certain? That was one decieving flop as it looked like a winner from where I am sitting.
    Oh, I don’t flop, never have, never will. Now if you want a phone list of people I’ve cooked for, then you might get a comment or two. I am a trained cook who has the skill to erase from her mind even the slightest error, especially considering I will spend days obsessingly trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I can repent.
    I am proud of you for staying put after serving it to the Chef guest. I would have moved to another town. Good job for a fretter, got that one under-control.

  • 43 FlaNBoyant Eats // May 14, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    classic! i loved this post.

    oh boy.. how many of us can relate?? just this past weekend i made really really good orange cupcakes with orange icing, both very very good. however, the durn icing was soooo runny we ended up using it as creme fraiche over fruit!! ha ha ha….

    i put way too much pineapple juice in it..

  • 44 Jessica // May 14, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Thats a bummer, It looked really yummy. lol. This chicken thing I tried to make once was a horrible failure. My family had to resort to frozen pizzas.

  • 45 Julia // May 14, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    1) Pork chops marinated and grilled with — bananas. Looked like something fresh out of a diaper. Would guess the taste might not have been far off either.
    2) Made excellent pale pink gazpacho for a summer lunch. Stored it in two old juice bottles. Made beige iced Vietnamese sweetened coffee for later. Stored it in one old juice bottle. Came time for soup, poured one gazpacho plus one iced coffee into tureen and served. With bits of raw onion, cucumber and golden croutons. Gagging.

  • 46 Hillary // May 14, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Sad! It does look rather pretty. But yea, I’m trying to imagine pasta topped with creme fraiche as the main sauce. Nice attempt though.

    Oh yea, we’re also having a contest on our blog where you could win a package from Lou Malnati’s. Check it out!

  • 47 Paz // May 14, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    It sure looks purty. Too bad it didn’t taste the way you wanted. Good try, though.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.


  • 48 noble pig // May 14, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    It does look beautiful! I understand the sting if you made the pasta and then the ingredients were meh…that would soooo hurt.

    You look like a wonderful cook though. What a wonderful site you have here!

  • 49 melissa // May 14, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    That is definitely a surprise, considering its appearance.

    I’ve had my fair share of flops. Bad ones. Undercooked pork and fish are the worst cause the aftereffect can be killer on the tummy. I also made crab cakes the other night again – first time was pretty great, but for some reason this time I totally fucked up the filler and it came out too crabby (I know, like that’s possible? Yes!). It was stringy crab pieces surrounded by browned stuff. Decent taste, but the texture and chewiness were just too much to enjoy. $30 of fresh dungeness felt wasted.

    So yeah, I’m sympathizing.

  • 50 melissa // May 14, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Oh, and one was a chef?


    You’re still the shizz!

  • 51 White On Rice Couple // May 15, 2008 at 1:44 am

    But it does look good! I’ll still take it and wash it down with a good glass of Syrah!
    Flip “Flop” is my middle name. I’ll have one really good dish and the next one sucks because I tried too hard. My most recent flop was yesterdays attempt at making beignets for breakfast. My dough was too soft and sticky, I used peanut oil (bad idea!), and my results tasted like cardboard. I thought maybe dusting it to death with powdered sugar might make it better. Another bad idea!

  • 52 fluffernutter // May 16, 2008 at 10:02 am

    I got yer back girl — it’s hard to predict a flop. I once made a dish that was a finalist in the 42nd annual chicken recipe contest — it was called Pharoanic Chicken and it was Egyptian-y: cumin, cinnamon, lemon juice, allspice garlic, sugar. It was vile — we took a couple of bites, then I got up from the table, walked over to the recipe and threw it in the trash. We never really figured out why it was so awful.

  • 53 Traci @ Soup of The Day // May 17, 2008 at 12:51 am

    “…final note: i served this to 4 people at a business meeting. one was a chef.”


  • 54 Traci @ Soup of The Day // May 17, 2008 at 12:52 am

    For what it’s worth, it looked pretty. 😉

  • 55 yveala // May 20, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    my flops are too numerous and boring to go on about..mostly dumb ones like forgetting that the pasta is boiling or that the bird is still in the oven..but, your’s looked very beautiful and hopefully there was plenty of wine.
    one good thing about pasta that i’ve learned, you can wash it off and …your not going to like this…but… a store bought jar of good sauce hidden all the way in the back of the pantry is a big hit in desparate times.

  • 56 Hollidolly // May 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I once sprayed a baking pan for Ghiradelli brownies with Garlic Pam.
    I also baked muffins in a hurry one morning for a sorority brunch… These were muffins out of a package. I noticed my friends took one bite out of the muffin and then set them down on their plate.
    When I left, the host was insistent that I take the same thing.
    On the way home, I tasted one – only to realize that the outside was perfectly brown… and the inside was totally raw.
    My boyfriend at the time decided to throw the muffins out to the birds, in our yard. But the birds wouldn’t eat them either. I had to go out after a couple of days and throw them all away. :)

  • 57 Razor Family Farms // May 27, 2008 at 9:09 am

    I can’t make JELLO.

    Flan? Risotto? Bread? Perfect grilled scallops? Thick, rich, and creamy homemade yogurt? Easy.

    JELLO — forget it.

    There. I confessed. I feel so defeated.



Leave a Comment