It’s party time! Are you searching for a party plan that is sure to be packed with fun and laughter? Search no more–and you can thank me later. I hosted a wine tasting and gift exchange and everyone had such fun I had to share the plan with you! It is perfect for a last minute Christmas party or New Year’s party. It is an adult party for the focus is on wine, but the best part is that the laughter just couldn’t be contained. I am already dreaming of hosting another next year—so in the meantime, invite friends to your party and have fun.
Ask each guest to bring two identical bottles of wine—one for tasting and one wrapped for gift giving. I capped the wine at $20.00 per bottle—but any kind of wine was allowed. Assemble the wines on the tasting table—and try to stage them from lighter whites to richer reds to sweeter dessert wines. The variety of wines is fun—and this was chaotic—but fun. Label each A, B, C and so forth. (Hint, as a wine gets a code, use a marker and mark the label of the tasting wine and the wrapped wine on the wrap or label so you can keep them straight—you will appreciate that later!)
Have each guest personalize a wine glass. Use a charm, or we used colorful paper circles of paper that slip over the foot of the glass. Encourage small tastes of each wine –and give each guest a score card so they can make notes and record their favorites. We used one sheet of card stock, coded with A, B, C, and so forth, to record the name, origin and grape of the wine, the color, aroma and flavor. We quickly realized we each had favorites and discovered new ones! (Was the tasting perfect and academic? No, but it was fun.)
Round out the menu! Serve a variety of cheeses, crackers and fruits.
I also added dips and appetizers prepared from our newest book—the Triple Slow Cooker Entertaining Cookbook, that in now available. We will share more news about this new book soon! We are excited and it is perfect for entertaining.
One favorite appetizer that is ideal to serve at any party is from 175 Best Babycakes Cupcake Maker Recipes. The recipe for Mushroom Morsels in crisp phyllo cups follows. We ended the evening with dark chocolate fondue and cheesecake—and completed the beverage service with lots of nonalcoholic beverages and coffee. Set the food table separately so access to both food and wine is easy.
Once we had tasted the wines, we exchanged gifts. Have you played the game where everyone draws a number and in order, picks a gift from the pile or steals from another? We did that—but went around twice so there was a lot of stealing. I expanded the instructions a bit so in addition to the numbers, there were extra directions. Sometimes, the game instructions required stealing—sometimes it required having everyone sing a rousing chorus of Jingle Bells before the stealing. At one point, someone had to share a story about the wine they brought or persuade guests to trade for the wine they held. The goal was for each person to leave with a favorite wine—but encounter lots of twists, turns and laughter along the way.
We then played Wine Wars—a game developed by our friend by Joyce Lock. To divide into 6 teams, each guest drew a slip of paper that contained the name of a grape often used for wines—so unexpected teams were formed and guests became acquainted with new people A confession—I had preselected the questions and just happened to select those that were especially funny or surprising. I had prizes for each member on the winning team—just small wine related items—but it added to the fun. Of course, if you were playing on New Year’s Eve and wanted the party to last, you could play the entire game, the correct way—but by limiting the number of questions, the playing time was limited and the laughter intensified.
So, get ready to party and invite your friends. Here is a favorite appetizer to serve at your wine party—or anytime you want a tasty appetizer. We would love to hear about your party and what fun you had.
Phyllo Mushroom Morsels
Makes 12 appetizers
12 sheets phyllo
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1 cup chopped mushrooms (button or a variety)
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped, marinated artichoke hearts, well drained
3 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, for garnish
Prepare phyllo cups: Thaw phyllo according to package directions. Carefully remove one sheet and place on board. Immediately cover the remaining phyllo sheets with plastic wrap and then a lightly dampened towel. (Remember to keep it covered as it dries quickly.) Fold the sheet into thirds, making a rectangle about 4-1/2 by 9-inches. Fold the rectangle in half making a 4-1/2-inch square. Use the large circle pie cutter and press firmly to imprint the circle on the phyllo. Cut out the phyllo circle using kitchen shears and place over a cupcake well in the Babycakes Cupcake Maker. Repeat with each additional sheet until all 8 cupcake wells are covered. (Keep remaining phyllo sheets covered.) Very gently press down with the pie form tool to shape into a cup. Spray each phyllo cup with nonstick spray. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until brown and crisp. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets.
Filling: In a medium skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallots and mushrooms and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes or until moisture evaporates from mushrooms.
Add spinach and artichokes and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through and spinach wilts and is hot, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cream cheese and gently blend until heated through and cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Dollop mushroom mixture into phyllo cups and garnish with parsley.
Recipe from 175 Best Babycakes Cupcake Maker Recipes, by Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss (Robert Rose, Inc., 2011)