Taste Buds

Gather your friends for a blind wine or beer tasting party



Crab cake with an avocado and cucumber salad in a crystallized ginger lime consommé

webphotographeer/istockphoto

Blind tastings are a fun, interactive way to host a party. With a minimal amount of preparation, you and your guests will have a lively afternoon or evening, 6-12 guests is optimal for this type of party. We recommend a 1 hour tasting, followed by a casual soup bar which you can leave simmering on the stove.

For the beverage tasting:

1. Choose Your Beverages

Select five beers or wines within a single theme (vertical tasting): For beer: all tawny, hoppy, stouts, or all from the same city or region. For wine: single variety-Shiraz, Malbec, Chardonnay, or same region wines are the most popular for blind tastings.

2. Cover the Bottles

Slip each bottle into a paper bag and secure the necks with twine or rubber bands. Label each bag 1-5.

3. Keep Pours Organized

Buy erasable chalkboard contact paper and lay it on a long table to identify each numbered bottle and pour taster-sized samples. Clear short plastic cups are fine for beer, but consider renting wine glasses from your local party rental store. Don’t forget to have spittoons (or vases) handy for guests to pour out extras. Plan on a 3-4 oz. taste per person. 

4. Take Notes

Print rating sheets to record their impressions of each tasting. Have tasters rate each beer or wine from 1 to 10, with additional notes on flavors, then tally scores at the end of the night.

5. Keep Palates Clean

Spicy and sugary snacks can alter beer’s flavors; nibble on plain crackers instead. Have pitchers of water handy as well to keep the palate cleansed. When the tasting is over, your guests will be ready to enjoy your soups and discuss their findings.

For Soup Bar:

Guests will love the casual feel of this soup bar, and because you can make these soups in advance (even 1-2 days), they can simmer on the stove until everyone’s ready. Offer simple sliced baguette, cheese, apples and dark chocolate as well. Pretty disposable bowls are spoons are fine, but you can also rent bowls and spoons relatively inexpensively.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

1 lb. baby portobello mushrooms, washed and cut in half

1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut in 1/2

3 Tbs. olive oil

64 oz. beef broth

1 ½ Tbs. unsalted butter

3 shallots, chopped

1 Tbs. chopped garlic

¼ C. Madeira

3 Tbs. flour

1 C. heavy cream or half and half

1 tsp. dried thyme

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and add mushrooms. Drizzle mushrooms with 3 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast mushrooms 15-18 minutes.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until shallot is tender, about 5 minutes. Add Madeira and simmer until almost all of liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Add remaining broth, cream, and thyme. Stir in cooked mushrooms and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened, at least 30 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.


BLT Soup

1 sourdough baguette

1 C. Italian breadcrumbs

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 head romaine lettuce

3 tbs. pesto

1 C. sour cream

8 oz chicken stock

48 oz. pureed tomatoes with juice

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 C. grated Parmesan

3/4 lb. bacon- save drippings

Black pepper

Cut bacon into 1" pieces and cook in a pan on medium high heat, stirring frequently until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and cool on a few paper towels. Save drippings in pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400. Slice baguette into 1" slices and brush with drippings. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in oven until crisp, about 4 minutes.

Combine 1/2 C. sour cream with pesto and place in a squeeze bottle if you have one. Thinly slice romaine lettuce and set aside.

Add bread crumbs to a small pan with 2 Tbs. bacon drippings and garlic salt. Toast over medium heat until crumbs begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Cool and set aside in a bowl.

Combine chicken stock, bacon drippings, pureed tomatoes and Italian seasoning in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Stir to combine and add crumbled bacon pieces. Cook for 5-6 minutes, add sour cream and Parmesan, stir to combine and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Season to taste and add pepper. Continue cooking, covered on medium low heat until ready to eat.

Ladle soup in a bowl, add a spoonful of breadcrumbs, a large pinch of shredded romaine and a squeeze of the pesto aioli. Add a sourdough round to the side of the soup and serve.


Chicken and Barley Soup

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, chopped small

1 C. chopped celery

1 C. diced carrots

2 C. diced cooked chicken

64 oz. chicken stock

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

½ C.  pearl barley

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and saute 2-4 minutes. Add chicken stock, thyme, Italian seasoning, barley and cooked chicken, reduce heat to medium low, cover and let cook for at least 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more stock if needed.


French Onion Soup

2 tbs. unsalted butter

3 onions, thinly sliced

1 tbs. dried thyme

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

64 oz. beef broth

1 baguette

1 C. shredded gruyere cheese

Melt butter in a large soup pot. While the butter melts, add the onions to the pot. Stir until combined and add thyme. Saute on medium high heat until onion begin to brown. Add broth, salt and pepper and let boil for 10 minutes. Lower heat, cover and cook for at least 30 minutes. Slice and toast baguette.

5 minutes before serving, preheat oven to broil. Ladle soup into oven-proof soup bowls. Add 1 slice of toasted baguette and a sprinkling of shredded gruyere cheese. Broil for a few minutes until top of cheese is bubbly and melted.


Festivities is known for the finest in catered foods, sophisticated presentations and innovative event designs.
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