Whether you're a lover of fine cheese, gourmet olives or all things related to Asian edibles, chances are your pals will enjoy giving some of these foods a taste as well. Host a tasting party so your circle of friends can nibble on some of these tasty treats and open their palate to a variety of foods they've never tried before.
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Setting Up the Event
While you could host a tasting party much as you would a cocktail party and invite a large number of your friends, consider instead limiting the guest list to just four to eight friends who can all sit comfortably around one table. With a smaller group, you can really discuss the food after you taste it, comparing the merits of each different bite to each other. Once you've hammered out the guest list, send out electronic invitations -- a tasting party isn't typically fancy enough to warrant paper invites, unless you want to make it a semi-formal affair -- and request an RSVP about a week before the party so you know how many bites of food you need for the evening.
Choosing the Culinary Selections
The sky's the limit when it comes to selecting the type of food you want to serve at your tasting party. You could limit it to a variety of one type of food, such as a sampling of hard and soft cheeses or a selection of shellfish prepared in multiple ways. If you go with just one type of food, decide whether you will have a blind tasting. This means the guests don't know what variety or brand of food they're tasting, but rather judge the food solely on its flavors. Alternatively, choose a cuisine -- such as Mexican, Mediterranean or French -- and prepare a number of small bites of classic dishes. For example, if you host a Mexican tasting party, serve up bite-sized pieces of carne asada, shooters of sopa de fideos and, naturally, a variety of tequilas to sip. You could also choose one ingredient to showcase in multiple ways, such as an herb like mint -- prepare tasting-sized portions of pasta with mint pesto, peas with mint and feta and a dessert of mint chocolate mousse.
Additional Food and Drinks
In some cases, the tasting should be enough food for the party. If the tasting selection is small or limited, you might add a few other dishes so your guests don't go hungry. Stick to basics such as nuts, fruit and cheese so the guests don't overwhelm their palate. Add a selection of white and red wines that best complement the food you're serving -- such as a rich red wine at a chocolate tasting or a light, slightly acidic white wine with seafood -- and some ice water so guests can cleanse their palates.
Invest in tasting-specific serving dishes for the party, such as large spoons -- big enough for just one bite -- and miniature bowls for soup tastings and small plates. Line up each bite on a larger platter and pass it around the party so guests can help themselves. Offer each guest a paper guide to what they're tasting, with lines so they can each write a note on what they liked about the food. Later, ask each guest to share their notes so the party-goers can compare. If you want to turn the tasting party into a game, don't name the recipe you used; instead, ask each guest to name as many ingredients as possible that are in the dish. The guest who gets the most ingredients right wins a prize.