One of the benefits of going out to eat is the chance to try something new. It is when chefs push the envelope is when I learn the most.
The good news is that we can create the same kind of experience for our guests when we entertain. We can provide them with the chance to try something new.
From age three to nineteen, every Thanksgiving and every spring we were invited for a large group dinner at the Shigehara’s home. I remember the timing specifically because the Ten Commandments movie would air on TV in the spring and The Sound of Music movie would air on TV at Thanksgiving and everyone would gather in their den to watch.
Those dinners at the Shigehara home were magical. There was always a traditional dish or two yet you could always count on something different and unique. It was there that I learned about smoked Gouda and butternut squash. My family did not buy smoked Gouda or butternut squash so it was a mystery and a delight to try.
The next time you host a dinner party, add something new for your guests to try.
Create a taste-testing table at your next dinner party.
Here is how it works.
Plan a get-together. It can be casual or formal.
Think through your meal plan and pick an area that you want to set up as a taste-tasting area. It can be a taste-tasting area for chocolates, salsas, whiskeys, olives, or whatever. For this example, we are going to pick appetizers.
Think through what were you already planning to serve as appetizers. Chips, dip, grilled dates, an assortment of cheeses? Okay, let’s focus on the cheese.
Do you usually stick with safe? If cheddar is your game, shop around and pick an assortment of cheddar cheeses with unique ingredients. Blue cheese is another great one. Haven’t you ever wondered about the different offerings of blue cheeses? For this example, we are going to pick Blue Cheese as our taste-tester.
You just went out and purchased three types of blue cheese: Blue Stilton, Danish Blue, and Buttermilk Blue. Now, set them out separately on platters or plates. Time to transform the sampling plates into a taste-test area.
Include compliment foods such as apple slices, crackers, and honey. These are great choices for blue cheese.
The taste-test area will encourage guest participation because they get to sample and vote for their favorite blue cheese. It is actually fun to hear some passionately try their best to win votes for their favorites.
Create mini chalkboards by spray-painting chalk paint on inexpensive picture frames. Mismatched shot glasses are perfect for holding individual pieces of chalk.
When guests arrive, encourage them to taste-test the cheeses. Of the three, which was their favorite? Have them put a chalk mark on the picture frame that represents their favorite cheese they tasted.
Not only are you expanding your guests plates, you are also learning your guests preferences. It will allow you to mentally note who are the more adventurous eaters are and if their palates prefer more savory than sweet.
The possibilities are endless.
The best thing about a taste-tasting table is that it instantly creates a conversation area.