Host Your Own Chocolate Tasting Party, Part II

Now that we've piqued your interest about hosting a chocolate tasting party, here are a few other tips to keep in mind

Once you've set your chocolate tasting party in motion by selecting the chocolates and sending off your classy invitations (see Part 1 of this article), the fun's just begun. Now you've got to actually put it together!

Here are some guidelines for you to consider while you do so.

The Ambience

No matter how extreme the choices -- or your passion for chocolate -- chocolate tasting is best conducted in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps with a little classical music in the background...and by that, I don't mean the Beatles or early Elvis. But hey, it's your party; do what seems right to you.

Serve the samples at room temperature, after giving them a little time to acclimate from the refrigerator. The chocolate will be much easier to savor if it melts exquisitely in the mouth, as chocolate should. This also allows one to better detect the subtleties of the various flavors.

Amounts and Gradations

I recommend that you offer no more than 6-7 types of chocolate for tasting, in quantities of about half an ounce each. That will keep the quantity and variety from dulling the palate...and your guests' systems from being overwhelmed from the sheer goodness (and sugar).

Begin with the mildest (or lightest) treat. You may want to start with white chocolate, or milk chocolate if you're one of those chocolate snobs, like yours truly, who doesn't consider clarified cocoa butter to be real chocolate (as tasty as it may be.)

Then build the intensity forward, increasing the percentage of cacao until you're partaking of the tongue-tingling darkest of dark chocolate (or the weirdest treat) that you've been able to acquire.

In Preparation, and Between

To maximize the tasting experience, ask your guests not to eat any spicy foods before arriving, and certainly don't serve any yourself. Then, of course, you'll a need to neutralize your palates between samplings. Plain room-temperature water, weak herbal tea, or white bread works well for this.

If you do serve food, breads or a mild cheese might be applicable, but certainly nothing so interesting as to detract from the chocolate. Heaven forbid.

During and Afterward

A chocolate tasting offers a grand opportunity to come together with your friends, laugh, and compare notes on the flavors you've tried. Who knows, you might just find a new favorite -- and yes, you might turn someone else into a chocolate extremo, if they weren't already.

Once you and your guests have eaten all the chocolate samples and finished your comparisons, and you've seen everyone off, you will, of course, have to do clean-up... and force yourself to polish off those backup samples you put aside, just in case.

And then it's time to start planning for your next chocolate tasting party!