Whenever I go to a party at my friend Dina Cheney’s house, it’s no ho-hum event—it’s a full-on gourmet food tasting. That’s because she’s an expert on throwing tasting parties. (If you have no idea what I mean, a tasting party is a fantastic way to get to know your palate: along with a bunch of friends, you try, savor, and compare several different types of a particular food in order to find your favorites.) Dina’s book, Tasting Club, guides readers through tasting all sorts of delicious things, whether savory (cheese, olive oil), sweet (honey, apples), or boozy (wine, beer).
Indeed, when Dina throws a tasting party, if I happen to have plans, I change them. Immediately.
This weekend’s tasting party involved something especially delicious: milk chocolate. When we arrived, Dina had already set everything up: She’d arranged six different types of milk chocolate across the table (brands included Valrhona, Amano, Askinosie, and Theo), along with water and bland crackers for cleansing our palates. She also provided us all with tasting sheets so we could record our thoughts.
Throughout the tasting, we evaluated the chocolates based on their appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and finish. It was amazing just how subjective the tasting was; each guest experienced each chocolate very differently. Guests' descriptions of a flavor could go from the simple (“floral,” “fruity”) to the complex and creative (“hay” and “sunshine”). Despite some disagreements, we all came away with a better understanding of our own personal milk chocolate preferences (which will definitely help me when I go to buy it at the store).
Now I’m inspired to host my own tasting—though I'm wondering how I could possibly top chocolate as the star ingredient.