Here's a get-together that has it all: sophistication, good company, and great food. Best of all, a tasting party takes much less work than a traditional dinner party and really comes together in a snap. How would you like to throw your own? Read on for FAQs, helpful pointers, and lots of terrific tasting party ideas.

  • What food should I choose? Traditional favorites for tasting parties include wine, coffee, beer, chocolate, cheese, and tea. But as long as you have a theme, almost anything could work: olives, artisan breads, Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon rolls...the sky's the limit!
  • When should I hold a tasting party? Whenever you have time. Although there are good reasons not to hold a wine tasting party in the morning or an espresso tasting party late at night, most foods will work whenever you and your friends are free. Late mornings and early afternoons are perfect for busy moms.
  • How many people should I invite? Tasting parties should be small enough that everyone can share opinions and sit around the same table. 4-8 guests is a good number to start with. Be sure to get a definite head count before you pick up supplies!
  • Should I serve anything else at a tasting party? It's up to you (and what you're tasting). Some foods, like chocolate, stand by themselves. Others, like olives or tea, definitely need to be complemented by something a little more substantial. If you do a honey tasting, for example, why not offer fresh scones after the tasting so your guests can use their favorite honey? Unlike a cocktail party, there's no need to go all out – one or two sides are plenty.
  • Blind tasting or not? Professional tastings are often blind – meaning that the tasters don't get any information about what they are tasting until they've made a final judgment. But for a casual get-together, blind tasting doesn't make a difference in your guests' enjoyment of the food and can take a little extra work to set up.
  • How do I choose which varieties to offer? You definitely want a range of flavors, so you could offer several brands or price points. For wines, you might choose the same vineyard's chardonnay from several different years or compare Australian, American, and Italian zinfandel. For chocolate, you could go by country of origin or percentage of cocoa. Shoot for between 5-12 different types for plenty of variety.
  • What else do I need for a tasting party? Don't forget the palate cleansers! Taste buds get tired, too. Depending on what you're serving, water, unsalted crackers, or small squares of white bread can all work in between tastings. You might also want to provide your guests with tasting cards, so they can record their impressions of each item.

If the last party you held was for your kids, a tasting party could be just the dose of chic you needed. Schedule in some time, come up with your own tasting party ideas, and treat yourself and your friends!