RISMEDIA, February 25, 2009-A chocolate tasting is much like a wine tasting minus the hangover. Or more honestly, the hangover is the kind that leaves you wide awake at 2 a.m. trying to remember just how many pieces of dark chocolate you consumed. But hosting a chocolate tasting is enough fun that it makes the occasional sleepless night worthwhile.
Here are a few tips to help you host a chocolate tasting extraordinaire.
1. Decide on your chocolates. Dark chocolate connoisseurs might tell you that no milk chocolate should be allowed on the premises. I beg to differ. While you might not want to bring out the Milk Duds, milk chocolate has a storied history of its own, both in the world at large and in everyone’s personal chocolate coming of age (remember Halloween?!) I suggest including dark, milk and white chocolates, as well as truffles, pralines, ganaches, chews, well, you get the idea. (Maybe you need to buy a bigger house.)
2. Divide your tasting into sections. If you have three kinds of chocolate-dark, milk, and white-then divide your tasting into thirds. Even with cleansing, your palate becomes used to the chocolate that you taste and doesn’t adjust well when you suddenly switch types. So taste only one kind of chocolate at a time, and then move on to the next.
3. Cleanse the palate in between chocolates. Have plenty of room temperature water and plain crackers available to cleanse the palate in between tastings.
4. Set each type of chocolate out on a different platter (minus any labels). Tape a number to the front of the platter. On a master list, put the number of the chocolate next to the name of each chocolate. Put the master list somewhere you’ll be able to find it, even when you are completely wired.
5. Make your samples small. Remind everyone to write down the number of the chocolate they are tasting. If you make the pieces too big, once the endorphins get going, people will become wired and forget to write down the numbers of the chocolate.
6. Taste chocolate at room temperature. This one is a no-brainer, right? Too cold and the chocolate won’t melt in your mouth; too warm, and it melts in your hands.
Some people prefer to compare notes at the end of the tasting while my preference is to mingle and discuss as you sample. It can help to provide some starter vocabulary-these are words that are appropriate to both the chocolate’s flavor-i.e. bitter, astringent or salty-and texture-i.e. velvet, smooth or grainy.
Once all the chocolate has been tasted, you get to reveal the contents of your master list. After the unveiling, give guests chance to nibble on more of the chocolates they liked best. And be sure that you’ve purchased enough that there won’t be fisticuffs over the favorites.
Vanessa Raymond is Editor-in-Chief at www.HowToDoThings.com. For related “How-to” articles, go to http://www.howtodothings.com/food-and-drink.
© 2009, How To Do Things Inc. (www.HowToDoThings.com)
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.