Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category

oct05Unlike hosting a dinner party or planning a bridal shower, a wine tasting event requires hardly any planning. With a wine tasting, you can spend less time prepping for the event and spend more time enjoying your guests. This is a stress free way to host. It also gives a great excuse ends to test their palette. Now let’s go on a grape exploration.

Picking a theme is necessary, as it will help you decide which wine to buy. Start by deciding if you want red, white, sparkling, or dessert wine. Or just stick to wines within a specific region (Willamette Valley or Napa Valley), or taste the same varietal produced in different parts of the world (Cabernet Sauvignon). With the surge of eco-friendly trends, organic wines are now available, perfect for a eco-friendly theme.

wineThink about your guests and how much they know about wine. If you’re hosting a group of novice wine drinkers, a more basic tasting such as an introduction to one of the major red wine grapes works best. If your group is more experienced, try experimenting with lesser-known varietals or different years (vintage) of the same wine. Also think about the season: heavy and full reds don’t mix well with a hot and dry August evening, but they would be perfect in February around the fireplace.

You can host a wine tasting on any budget. While some bottles can costs hundreds, even thousands of dollars, yet a great tasting can be done on almost any budget. Go to your local grocery, Trader Joe’s or World Market to find some budget friendly bottles. Ask the reps from the store, one might be able to recommend a bottle for you.


To share the cost of the event, make the tasting a potluck style tasting. Or have tiny bites to supplement your tasting. Prepared food and no-cook items can easy bulk up a menu.

No Cook Items: cheese, crackers, breads, chutneys, fresh or dried fruit (apples, pears, grapes and figs), pickled vegetables, nuts, honey, jam, salami and other dried/cured meats,

Prepared foods: deli counter sliced meat, pre-made desserts from your local grocery or bakery. Remove wrappings and transfer everything to several serving dishes. Then clean afterwards is a snap. cheese

Offer food or drink that will help cleanse the tongue (palette) of any flavor remnants.  Chilled water and bland crackers are a great example. Try to avoid flavored breads or crackers.

If you want to trim your budget, skip the crackers and bread, but water must be offered.


Line up wines in the order in which they will be tasted. Although there are no set rules, Cheney recommends starting with whites and finishing with reds, and going in order of driest to sweetest and lightest to heaviest.

Six different wines are enough to keep your guests entertained with flavors. Offering more than six can make your guests feel overwhelmed and rushed to try them all. In addition, it can get your guests beyond drunk. :)

After the tasting, if you your guests are not too full, offer them dessert. Pairing something light with coffee or tea will help settle the stomach. Don’t forget to offer nonalcoholic options to your  guests whom are driving.

Chill the Wine

In general, white wines are chilled and reds room are at temperature. If your house is warm, you can put the bottles in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes or just until they are cool to the touch. Red wines should not be served cold, so be sure to take them out of the fridge about one hour prior to pouring.

Opening and Pouring Wine

Opening all your bottles ahead of time can streamline the tasting process, especially if you have a large group. But if the party is small enough, opening the bottles at each round is acceptable (and more fun).

The Tasting Steps

1. Introduce the Wine
Start by introducing and pouring your first wine, then walk the group through the tasting process detailed below. Throughout the tasting, encourage your guests to keep in mind that this is a fun, social occasion, so it is not a competition. Just a relaxed way to try to new.

2. Look
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle over a white tablecloth or napkin and examine the wine’s color and intensity. Is it a deep red, a light gold? Is the color saturated throughout or does the wine look watery around the rim/edges? Does it look viscous or watery?

3. Smell
Place the glass on the table and swirl it vigorously to release the wine’s aromas, then bring the glass up to your nose and inhale. What does the smell remind you of? Cherries? Tobacco? Oak? 

4. Sip
Take a small sip and swish around. Allow some air to help release the aromas and flavors. Think about what flavors you taste as well as the wine’s acidity and sweetness. Also consider the wine’s body and texture: Is it light or heavy? Thick or thin? If you’re sampling red wine, think about the tannin level—tannins make for a dry, almost cotton-dry. Again, you may want to close your eyes to focus on what you’re tasting.

5. Swallow
Swallow the wine and think about its finish and aftertaste. Does the flavor linger (have a “long finish”) or disappear quickly? Is the wine one-dimensional or more complex?

6. Evaluate
Do you like this wine? Try to identify exactly what you like or dislike, as that can help you identify wines you’ll enjoy in the future. And, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers—it’s all a matter of personal preference.

7. Samples #2 to #6
In between each sample, be sure everyone cleanses their palate with water. Sample the wine with a morsel of food. Does it bring out hidden flavors?

For subsequent wines, you may want to once again lead the group through the formal tasting process—this can be especially helpful for newbie tasters. But, if you think your group would prefer, feel free to let everyone taste on their own.

8. Final Discussion
Once all the wines have been sampled, lead the group in a discussion about all six wines. (If you held a blind tasting, this is the time to reveal your bottles.) For fun, have everyone vote for his or her favorite and rank the wines in terms of preference.

A prost to you and your next party! Cheers!

(Credits: Photo – Pottery Barn; Thoughts and Ideas from: Wine Lovers, Forbes, Epicurious and my past experiences)

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aug03Pottery Barn is one of my favorite stores. Their products are always high quality and fit seamlessly into my kitchen and parties. However, their prices are sometimes a bit steep. I always wait for the sales and use their 10% off coupons to buy my current lusting. The Party Planner from Pottery Barn is a great tool they’ve updated with juicy new tips for casual dining and parties. Learn how to host a wine tasting and learn the different varieties of wine. Or if you are just in the mood for a creative new party. Check out their site to help your creative juices flowing.

How about a tequila tasting? Bottoms up!

Or Bridal shower?

Do you think this is just a gimmick to get you to buy their products? Or do you like the way they’ve set up the site?

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jun11Farmers markets are starting to reopen and the summer blooms are just bursting with bright and bold colors. They sweet fragrance entices you to buy a bunch. Now what? Here are some simple tips to make your fresh picked bouquet look beyond spectacular and last longer than expected.

  1. Clean and Water: Remove any leaves that are going to be submerged in water. This will make your water last longer (ie. cleaner) and your flowers look look clean. Cut stems at angle and put in water immediately.HW0_44999
  2. Cut, Refresh, Repeat: It can be tedious, but it will help prolong the life of your flowers. If you don’t have time to change the water, use an opaque vase, to disguise the murky water. Use warm water for everything. Except hydrangeas, they require hot tap water. Tulips don’t need fresh water, so no special treatment for them.
  3.  Special Stems: Hydrangeas or lilacs are woody and need lots of exposure to the water. Split the stems several inches up from the bottom to expose the white inner part of the stem to the water. For bulbs, tubers and iris, score the bottom of the stem. Also for tulips, use a needle and prick the throat of the tulip to prevent it from growing.
  4. Same Colors: Buy flowers that are the from the same color palette for an easy and chic arrangement.
  5. No Crowding Please: When using a larger vase or wide mouth bowl, it may require using a large quantity of flowers, but all you need is scotch tape. Create a grid on the top so your flowers will sit in its own section. CRW_0093No crowding!
  6. In Your Hands: Hold the flowers in your hand. It is easier to rearrange then placing them in the vase. Once you are satisfied, tie with some string and place in your chosen vessel.
  7. Wilt-free: Try not to place your flowers in front of a warm sunny window. The heat will stress your flowers and cause them to wilt.

Do you have any more tips or tricks? Please share!

(Tulips: Podesta Baldocchi; Calla Lilies: Gifford’s Flowers)

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I’ve been making these fluffy poms for several years (the first being for a birthday in 2007) and they still get a big reaction. They are quite the conversation starter and really make a space spectular. They can be used for all types of events (graduations, weddings, showers, birthdays etc). We are busy people. Plain and simple. There are other things on our to-do list and making 50 tissue poms is not one of them. However, you still want to be the perfect party planner. If this sounds like you, I am here to do the grunt work and give you all the credit. Visit my Etsy store on how to order a customized kit for your next party. If you are in Portland, I can help fluff the poms prior to your party. If you have any questions, please email me or message me via Etsy. Thanks, beautiful!

IMG_1819shown in sky

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mar12There are several people who I really admire. Ina Garten is one of them. She is the hostess with truly the mostess. Have you seen her houses?! I mean, really. East Hampton AND Manhattan. Niiice. She does have it all and seems quite happy. She cooks AMAZING food (I use a lot of her recipes for my events), hosts fabulous parties, she even laughs at her own jokes. She is totally my kind of person.

My most recent cookbook is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessinagarten10a Back to Basics. Throughout the book, it lists tips in the way of top 10 lists. This particular list is great. I should email this list to everyone, because I’ve definitely had spinach in my teeth, more times than I like to admit. Here is her list, however, I left her commentary out. I’ve add my own comments, because I laugh at my own jokes too.

  1. Double Fisting – For all events other than a dinner party, focus on snacks that can be eaten with one hand.
  2. Bears eat Beets – I am usually the guest who will wear white and drop my plate full of beets on your off-white silk covered couch. For your furniture’s sake, don’t serve beets.
  3. Three rich courses – Pick a menu that will balance your heavy entree or super rich dessert. You don’t want to roll your guests to their car.
  4. In a Nutshell – With the  percentage of people with allergies rising, be cautious and don’t serve food with nutmeats. Unless you keep an Epi pen around, I would advise against the Cranberry Nut Orange Zest Tea Cookies.
  5. Garlic and Raw Onion Breathe – Don’t worry. The cast of Twilight won’t be knocking at your door. Try to avoid dishes heavily laden with garlic and raw onions.
  6. Is there something in my teeth? – Yes. There. Is. If you serve it, then watch out for karma. Your teeth will have poppy seeds, spinach and basil in every possible crevice.
  7. Corn on the Cob – This is another food item that loves to live in between your teeth. BBQ are great for this, but at a dinner party, cut it from the cob and serve in a nice bowl.
  8. Smells fishy – Always have another food option besides fish available.
  9. That’s Gutsy – In general, avoid internal organs. Unless (here is another exception), you are hosting a Fear Factory themed party. Then go hog wild. heh.
  10. In the Raw – Avoid using raw beef or raw eggs in your dishes. Being the hostess and finding out you gave food poisioning is a horrible feeling.

What are your thoughts? Agree? Agree to disagree (my favorite)? Disagree completely. Leave your comments, I promise not to flame.

(image by Carrisa Katz)

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mar11I love perusing the internet for new blogs and ideas. However, if you already been to this page, then you know it is a great source of ideas and real wedding snapshots. This post caught my eye. I check the page quite often and you can always catch me drooling over the pictures of real weddings and innovative ideas. In my blogging world, SMP is the dreamy out-of-my-league-kinda-guy that owns a 3 story craftsman with all the built-ins. A girl can dream. Right? One. Day.

DIY + Green + Edible = my favorite centerpiece.  It includes all my must haves.  It is simple and very fresh.  Potted herbs flank the basket of goodies. Using several types of bread will create drama and dimension.  As for me, I would choose the focaccia and smear it with the herby pesto AND hummus. Visit the site, but come back soon!

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