Dinner party gone bad? Roberta Isleib asks us to share.

by on September 16, 2008

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

We’re hosting a little party here folks and you’re all invited to participate in the festivities! It’s quite an honor today to be hosting a blog book tour for  Roberta Isleib’s newest novel, Asking For Murder. This suspenseful murder mystery is the latest in a series of fabulous novels that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night. Roberta is an amazing quadruple threat. She’s a clinical psycologist, a mystery writer, president of more book clubs/organizations  than we can count and she’s a dog lover.  We’re hooked and thrilled to be having her here today to share a bit about a scene from her book, a dinner party gone bad. This has to be a topic that all of us food bloggers find familiar, right everyone? We all cook, dine , entertain and we’re sure not all experiences are pleasant.


So let’s all welcome Roberta Isleib and let the festivites begin!

ROBERTA: Since Diane and Todd were gracious enough to host a stop on my ASKING FOR MURDER blog tour, I thought it would be fun to talk about dinner parties gone bad. Haven’t we all had one? Rebecca Butterman’s (my psychologist main character) disaster appears in Chapter 15 of Asking for Murder. Rebecca’s been busy trying to solve the mystery of who attacked her best friend, Annabelle. She’s invited Annabelle’s boyfriend, Russ, to dinner, thinking he might be the villain. Rebecca’s boyfriend Bob and friend Angie are present too. She’s sleuthing as she serves…

From chapter 15, in Rebecca’s words:

Over a second drink, I served the antipasto: brightly steamed asparagus,
marinated carrots and artichokes, piles of olives, little blocks of sharp
cheese, and miniature rolls of Italian salami. The conversation between the
men toured through the surprise upsets in college basketball and Tiger
Wood’s prospects in the new season.

“This is one gorgeous dish,” Bob said, winking at me.

I rolled my eyes. “Mind opening the Australian red?”

Russ drained the last of his beer.

“Another beer for you?” Bob asked him.

“I’ll get it,” I said, thinking Annabelle had reeled in a first-class oaf.
As I got up to fetch the drink and start the carbonara, my knees buckled
under me.

“Ahoy there, matie,” said Bob, grabbing for my hand.

Angie followed me into the kitchen.

“I don’t like him,” I whispered, setting a pot of water to boil for the
pasta and turning up the heat under the onion/pancetta mixture.

“I think he’s just out of his league,” she said, kneading my shoulders. “He
doesn’t know how to talk to smart women. I’ll take him the beer—let me know
if you need a hand.”

I added wine to the frying pan, grated a mound of cheese, and whisked three
eggs together. Annabelle was definitely a smart woman—what had they
discussed? Did they have anything in common? With the salad dressed and
carbonara steaming, I called my guests to the table.

“Did you ever get to see Annabelle last night?” I asked Russ, as we sat
down to dinner.

“They wouldn’t let me in,” he said, splashing a bit of sauce on the
tablecloth in the process of mounding his plate with pasta. “I called again
this morning and the clerk said not even to bother.”

“Apparently there was a punk rock star on the unit,” I said.

“Gangsta rap,” he corrected me. “Shock Daddy. He hit the top ten last week
with Assume I’m Right, Bitch. It’s interesting stuff.” Having twirled a wad
of spaghetti onto his fork, he shoveled it into his mouth, chewed, and
swallowed. “Don’t give me no lip because I earn the check,” he grunted,
swaying his upper body like an overdeveloped snake charmer and tapping my
grandmother’s sterling silver knife on my Christian Dior china. It would
take a hundred and fifty bucks on an E-bay auction to replace that one
plate. “Don’t give me no lip, bitch, assume I’m correct—“

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “That’s undisguised misogyny! That’s the
kind of bullshit music that gives young men a license to abuse.”

“Whatever,” said Russ, laughing. “Don’t take it so seriously. It’s just
music. When you’re working with your hands all day, you need tunes with a
good strong beat. Rap does it for me. Could you pass the cheese down this
way please?”

ROBERTA,  again :
The party only goes downhill from there! Tip number one: try
not to mix detective work with entertaining! And number two: watch your
alcohol consumption! Of course Rebecca does a lot right, too. She chooses a
menu that she’s tried before–and one in which the food can be prepared
ahead. Like Todd and Diane, she’s a super cook and entertainer.

Now the floor is open for your stories.I’ll send a signed copy of ASKING FOR MURDER to the person with the worst disaster!

White On Rice Couple: Wow, thanks for the fun Roberta! You’re so correct, sticking to a menu that we’ve tried before is vital to avoiding any potential disasters. We normally do choose menu’s that we’ve tried before, but the one time that we didn’t , it was a disaster !  A few weeks ago we catered our first party of 35 people. The birthday boy requested mini sized devils food cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting and raspberries for his birthday dessert. He didn’t want anything fancy, just simple cupcakes. Well, we decided to surprise him and make him a GIANT CUPCAKE for his serving. We’ve never made a giant cupcake before and thought it would be easy to make a giant cupcake. How difficult could it be? Just make some three and five in cakes, stack them and carve out a muffin top. Easy! Geez, were we WRONG!

Here are some pictures to illustrate dinner party disaster evening:

First off, the good news: mini devils food cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Beautiful raspberries on top

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

waiting in line for the garnish….

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

…with baby chocolate mint leaves!

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Voila! Easy!

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Now the disaster: Our attempt at the Giant Cupcake! First of all, it was a lopsided, uneven mess! Crap! And on top of that, we forgot to bring the parchment paper to wrap the base to create the cupcake paper look on the bottom . Diane is using a paper napkin to wrap the base. We carved the cupcake top too fast and it tapered too much at the top. It looked like a funny looking mushroom cake instead of a cupcake!

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Look closely at the dots on the paper napkin! It looked so bad, we decided to eliminate the paper all together.

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

We ran out of frosting and tried the best we could to seal the messy cupcake top. There were so many gaps, we tried to patch up the holes with what ever frosting we could salvage.

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

The wife of the birthday boy holding the lopsided, uneven finished product. The raspberries were all crooked too because we tried to hide all the open gaps with raspberries. We also forgot to bring the birthday candle, so the hosts were frantic! The only thing we could come up with was a TEA LIGHT ! So you can see the tea light plopped on top of the chocolate “mushroom” mess!!!!!

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

The birthday boy says: “OMG! WTF??!!! Eeeeeek! How scary.”.

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

But he graciously smiled for the picture and blew out the tealight. Later on that night, the top of the giant cupcake was so top heavy, it fell over!

Milk Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

So there is our disaster story: The attempt at the giant cupcake. Please share your dinner disaster story and maybe you’ll win Roberta’s signed book! Also, a big thanks to our friend, Dani, who started this great Blog Book Tours event.!!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manggy September 16, 2008 at 1:25 am

Hey, it doesn’t look that bad! Okay, maybe the tea light is kind of toeing the line, haha :) Cake-sculpting is definitely something to be done way in advance, with a frozen, already stacked cake. I haven’t tried it before because I’ve not had a request for over-the-top decorating. But the cupcakes do look quite delicious :)
I haven’t had a real blow-up disaster, but I did make a dessert for a party where one guest was diabetic, the other was watching his cholesterol, etc… So in effect I made something quite tasteless (even if it did look good). Yuck!!

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2 Lisa September 16, 2008 at 3:27 am

I wish I would have known you guys were going to make a giant cupcake, I would have told you about this pan:

http://www.goodyblog.com/playing_house/2007/07/super-size-your.html

It’s Wiltons giant cupcake pan. I don’t know anyone who has bought it yet, but it looks pretty cool.

The mini cupcakes look devine. You know I am a sucker for a good cupcake.

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3 Happy Cook September 16, 2008 at 4:34 am

Well i do agree that the b’day boy was really gracious.
Love you small cup cakes they look BEAUTIFUL.
Till no no big disaster for parties.
Can we make up a story :-))))))))))

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4 Roberta Isleib September 16, 2008 at 5:25 am

Love the cupcake story! hard to top that one…yes, of course, if you really haven’t had a disaster, exaggerate! Thanks for stopping by. Roberta Isleib

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5 maybelles mom September 16, 2008 at 7:41 am

Love the giant cupcake–really fun.

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6 alexandra's kitchen September 16, 2008 at 7:45 am

that is kind of amazing. I love it. it’s so funny to see next to that army of such elegant mini cupcakes!

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7 evil chef mom September 16, 2008 at 8:08 am

those cupcakes are beautiful… and i bet even the large one tasted good!

i was eight months pregnant with number three… so one was three years old and the other was one… and here i am pregnant as all get out, taking care of the other two sous chefs, husband is at work and i was suppose to make potato salad for my own baby shower that my in laws were throwing me… lets just say i was a little overwhelmed and had other things on my mind!so i brought potato salad but the potatoes were a little undercooked…. more like raw! and no one told me.

husband got a call from my m-i-l the next day asking if i was if he and her grandchildren were eating okay and did i always serve raw food.

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8 Donald September 16, 2008 at 8:14 am

Tea lights? Wow. I guess that’s improv at its best.

I bought a whole beef tenderloin for a dinner party some years ago. I hand cut each steak to order and began cooking. With each varying steak cut came a varied temperature preference. I ended forgetting who wanted what and overcooked them all. I just told my guests, STFU and eat your shoe leather!

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9 Manggy September 16, 2008 at 9:17 am

By the way, the birthday boy really looks like Keith Olbermann! (Dunno why I felt the need to add that, haha :)

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10 Hank Phillippi Ryan September 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

Oh, now you;ve done it. I’m sitting here, disdappionted, because I can;t think of a dnner pary disaster. SHouldt that be agood thing?

But my favorite DPD story, aside from Roberta’s which IS hilarious (but haunting) is Julia Child’s.

She tells the story of preparing a huge Thanksgiving dinner. And then bringing out the beautiful glorioulsy garnished turkey on a silver tray, and presenting it to her guests.

Amidst the oohs and ahhs, she spills the whole thing, plop, on the floor.

She said she scooped up the bird, gave a huge smile, and said–”Oh dear. But no problem! I’ll just go back into the kitchen and get the OTHER turkey!”

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11 Hank Phillippi Ryan September 16, 2008 at 9:59 am

Huh. And that’s why one should always proofread their posts.

What I meant was:

Oh, now you’ve done it. I’m sitting here, disappointed, because I can’t think of a dinner party disaster. Shouldn’t that be a good thing?

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12 Cyndi September 16, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Would you mind sharing the cupcake recipe? Especially for that milk chocolate frosting! It looks so utterly delicious and creamy that I want to lick my monitor right now!

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13 Maryann Miller September 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Loved your excerpt, Roberta. My funny dinner story involves a disaster at dessert time. I made the mistake of trying a new gingerbread cake recipe for a dinner party for a few friends. As I was cutting the cake and topping each piece with vanilla ice cream, I wondered about the cake being a bit “crispy ” but it was softer in the center, so I went ahead and served it, adding plenty of ice cream to soften the top. One guest, who was known for being outspoken poked at his with his fork and asked if I intentionally made gingerbread jerky. That opened the floor, and another guest commented that if the pieces were round they could be used for hockey pucks.

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14 veron September 16, 2008 at 1:39 pm

I don’t think it looked like a disaster. I would glad eat that giant cupcake!

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15 Dani September 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm

My worst disaster…. hubby and I together making Eggs Benedict for a LaRgE crowd. Big mistake. The marriage almost didn’t survive the curdled Hollandaise. It was, no doubt, an amusing performance for the spectators!

What a great post, you two. My suggestion is that Dr. Butterman simply hire you for her next dinner party. So much less stress for her.

Thanks for the added bonus chapter, Roberta. Nice blog book tour!

Dani

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16 Gayle September 16, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Cooking disasters – where do I begin?
When I was young, I made a grilled cheese sandwich for my brother… in bacon grease. It was beautifully browned and completely sodden with bacon fat.
Then there was the time I misread the directions for a chocolate cake and put 3/4 cup of flour instead of 1-3/4 cups of flour. It looked like a torte, only not so tasty.
And once, my boyfriend and I had another couple over for dinner and decided to make a souffle de Grand Marnier for dessert, which we had made before. He asked me to preheat the oven in such a way that I thought he was saying he would preheat the oven and no one preheated the oven. The damn souffle didn’t rise, but we served it anyway.
Years later, I still have my moments. I’ve burned so much meat that we have a priest on call just to give it last rites. Crockpot dinners have been underdone, veggies have been overdone, but my family doesn’t complain. They just order a pizza.

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17 Chris Redding September 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

I’ve never had a whole dinner party go bad, but I did once set a cheesecake on fire.
I left it under the broiler. When I opened the door the top was in flames. Thankfully hubster (a firefighter) was just in the back yard. I walked with it to the kitchen door and asked if he could help me with it.
He put it out, then suggested maybe I needed a torch to do cheesecakes. I looked at him in horror and said, “You want me to use open flame? Look what I do with a broiler.”
cmr

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18 Food Woolf September 16, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Thanks introducing us to Roberta and your dinner party nightmare! The giant cupcake idea is hysterical! Too bad it was too top heavy! You two are such rock stars I’m sure the guests quickly forgot that mishap.

Brooke

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19 Helen Ginger September 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Oh, I’ve done the usual — cooked the turkey with the plastic wrapped innards still inside. Problem is, I’ve done it twice.

But I learned. I really did.

Now I make ham.

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20 Roberta Isleib September 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Thanks for all the wonderful stories! The Julia Child story reminded me of dinner at a friend’s house many years ago. Let us just say there were quite a few beverages consumed before the meal. My friend opened the oven, pulled out the chicken breasts bathed in some sort of white sauce, and promptly dropped it face-down on the floor. We all stood around looking at our supper.
“Thank God,” she said, “that I just washed the floor this morning.”
And she forked the chicken back into the pan.
And we ate it!

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21 Helen K. September 16, 2008 at 8:44 pm

My disaster occured when I offered to bring the dessert for a holiday dinner given by the family of my daughter’s boy friend. I baked a 3 layer chocolate cake with whipped cream filling & super chocolate icing. I had made this cake many times & my husband always did the icing using a hand beater with the icing mixture in a bowl over a larger bowl of ice. The cake is then put into the refrigerator over night to set. When I got to the dinner party the hostess told me that she did not have any room in the refrigerator. The turkey was taking much longer than they expected to finish baking. After a delicious meal my cake was brought out to the table. I knew that I was in trouble when I saw how much the cake had collapsed & appeared to be sliding off of the cake plate. The hostess kindly handed me the cake knife & trying my best the first slice slid off onto her beautiful antique table cloth. I was happy that my daughter ended up marrying someone else so I did not have to suffer the jokes at all future holiday dinners.

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22 grace September 17, 2008 at 3:10 am

the next time you have a “disaster” like that, i’ll be happy to help you dispose of the wreckage. :)

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23 John September 17, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Hi Roberta,
Just wanted to say that I love the dysfunctional dinner scenes in your books! The one in ASKING FOR MURDER is hysterical, as was the church dinner in PREACHING TO THE CORPSE. I’m still chuckling over that one!
John

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24 Chez US September 17, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Great story! Cupcakes, even the big guy, looked great! By the way, check it out .. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku5521752/index.cfm?pkey=ccake-pans-cupcake-pans&ckey=cake-pans-cupcake-pans

for next time! Have a great trip you two

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25 Hélène September 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm

I can’t stop myself from coming back and reading your stories. I just ordered a copy of that novel, thanks.

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