Category: Party Planning

Scratch ‘N Sniff Your Way to Becoming a Wine Expert!

“Most of what you taste is actually the smell.”

Remember the scratch ‘n sniff stickers from your childhood, the ones we would scratch and were supposed to smell like popcorn, cotton candy, and licorice?  It took him four years, but Master Sommelier Richard Betts has answered the prayers of former 1980’s sticker collectors everywhere with his new board book, The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That.

The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Curious? Skeptical? Me too. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you ever spy me halfway through a bottle of wine and sniffing a board book it typically just means I’ve had too much wine after reading the kids their bedtime stories, so this gives me a great excuse to scratch ‘n sniff like the mature adult my mother thinks I am.

I enjoy attending wine tastings. My preferences usually gravitate toward heavy-bodied reds while turning my nose up at the sweet white wines. But what if your palate is inconsistent and unpredictable, or you wouldn’t know a granache from a syrah? Would you be interested in learning how to refine what it is you like? Many times your wine tasting attendant doesn’t have the time or training to tell you why your preferences are what they are, so maybe a whimsical board book would be a fun addition to your next wine tasting party!

“Break down the smells, isolate them, show people what they smell like, reassemble them to help people say “Okay, I like x y and z” and then it points you directly at what wine you’ll like.”

Betts (and his collaborators) have broken down the different categories of aromas we smell in our wine glasses, and with scents such as popcorn, vanilla, strawberry, pepper, tarragon, gardenia, butter, and even bacon, his promise is that he’ll help us follow our noses to the wine varietals we will love. (Bacon wine–and it’s Canadian counterpart, Back Bacon wine–should be on tap at Burger King, amiright?) This hardcopy book is available from Amazon and B&N, and you can learn more about the author here. I can’t wait to compare nose smudges above the sniffy parts with my fellow party guests!

“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.”

Richard is determined to remove the barriers to our enjoyment of wine and being knowledgeable about what we like. I enjoyed listening to his interview on The Wine Crush from February 2016 and am convinced he is committed to taking the snobbery out of wine and educating even those of us who think we know a thing or two about grapes. Check it out!




Party Planning: Best Chip Dip Recipe Ever!

dip recipe

Much to George Costanza’s dismay, “double dipping” has indeed shown to increase germs in your bowl of dip by a factor of 1,000*. So long as that number doesn’t scare you, then boy, do I have a recipe for you!

*We’re guessing. Sounds about right. My degree is in Political Science, which means I’m practically a trustworthy scientist anyway.

Ripe, creamy avocado. That bite of fresh garlic. The savory spiciness of jalapeño sour cream. The brightness of the lime juice–yum! This cool but spicy avocado dip recipe is low in cost and makes party-sized quantities, plus is great for dipping chips, veggies, any bite-sized Mexican finger food and pairs great with the Mexican beer of your choice.

I used to make another version of this tasty dip, but since discovering Zesty Jalepeño Sour Cream from Shamrock Farms I am convinced this is the best iteration of my recipe so far! This dip is a new regular at all my parties, including my Super Bowl party and Cinco de Mayo extravaganza (to be honest, that may very well just consist of me, some taquitos and this dip recipe). This recipe is also my submission to the Shamrock Farms Football Food Face-Off Contest, and I encourage you to enter your own recipe for a chance to win too!

Toss all of this into your food processor and pulse for 20 seconds:

  1. Two avocados (avocado prep tip here)
  2. Two cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated on a microplane
  3. The juice of one lime (lime juicing tip here)
  4. Half of one bunch cilantro, or more if you love cilantro (some stems are fine)
  5. 2/3 of a container of Shamrock Farms Zesty Jalapeño Sour Cream
  6. A few pinches of kosher salt

Spicy Avocado Cilantro Jalapeno DipThese quantities are measured for a full sized food processor. If you have a half sized food processor, or one of those cute little choppers, of course reduce the quantity of ingredients and mix the batches together. I trust you. Do your thing.

The spice of this dip depends on Shamrock Farms Zesty Jalapeño Sour Cream. This adds a little spice to the dip, which is mild enough to please most people. If you’re like me and prefer super spicy food, feel free to add one half or one whole fresh jalapeño to the food processor with your other ingredients.


dip recipe


Party Planning: An Introduction

It’s January, you say? That must mean it’s “invite friends over to watch sportsball, eat too much and drink too much” season!

Relax–it’s not as if your guests expect a Snackadium come February 7th. I mean, my sportsball party could never be complete without one, but I won’t judge you if you don’t go through that trouble. (I’m kidding.)

This is the first of a series of party planning posts intended to make your next college football championship party, Super Bowl party, March Madness party, or even a 2016 Masters viewing party your best one yet!


Super Bowl Party Planning!
This new Solo cup is the best thing to happen to parties since the first Solo cup.

Have you heard of the latest in disposable beer cup technology at your local supermarket? These It’s My Solo Cups solve the problem of not being able to find your drink two seconds after you set it down! They are “Peel & Scratch”, so no writing utensils necessary! You could also use this product for beer (or wine, cider…) tastings. Number all the cups so your guests know in which order to test them, and everyone can follow along on their notes sheet. These cups can be hard to find, but Phoenix sources suggest first checking at Fry’s Food Stores.



Super Bowl Party Planning!
The Most Expensive Mouthwash You’ll Ever Make the Mistake of Swallowing on Purpose.

People casually refer to this year’s Super Bowl as taking place in “the Bay area” or San Francisco (it’s in Santa Clara–close enough), which is as true as last year’s casual references to the Super Bowl being held in Phoenix (it was Glendale). Since the broadcast networks, and fan friendly events, will be based in the actual city of San Francisco, serve shots of Fernet at your Super Bowl party. Yes, even you can impress your friends with being “in the know” by serving them this revolting abomination tasting of bitter, black licorice flavored Listerine*. If they aren’t hip enough to enjoy Fernet, explain to them that San Francisco bars would never steer us wrong, that it is very cosmopolitan and they should be, too.

As a matter of fact, just serve cosmopolitans. That sounds way better.

Super Bowl Party Planning!
Not your mother’s bloody Mary. It shouldn’t be anyone’s bloody Mary. Your doctor is angry that you’re even looking at this.

Speaking of San Francisco, what about offering a bloody Mary bar? Everyone in the 415 knows Sunday is Brunch Day, and nothing says “I hope brunch cures my hangover from last night so I wake up on time for work Monday” like a high sodium concoction of vodka and poor decision making. In all seriousness, a bloody Mary bar is a great idea**. Lay out your assembly line thusly:
1. Disposable cups (see above)
2. Ice
3. Bloody Mary mix
4. Vodka
5. Hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or Cholula can be procured from the tables of popular breakfast diners)
6. Skewers of bacon wrapped tater tots
7. Skewers + set of tongs + stirring spoon
8. Bowls or mason jars filled with: lemon wedges; lime wedges; celery sticks (best with the leafy tops left on!); green or black olives, whole; peppercinis, whole (optional); fried chicken, whole (optional).


Super Bowl Party Planning!
This Arizona Cardinals fan sure hopes for fewer Seattle-centric Bingo squares.

Death, taxes, and being forced to put up with a non-football fan at your Super Bowl party: these are the only things guaranteed in life. Whether your disinterested guest is a 30 year old girlfriend or a 3rd grader, perhaps a lively game of Super Bowl Bingo will help keep them engaged and feeling relevant! As soon as the two teams are announced (soon!) you could Google “super bowl 2016 bingo” and some cleverly updated printables should return in your search results. And if there are 3rd graders around, let’s hope “marijuana” won’t be a center square this year.


In any case, we hope you enjoy our next few posts with party prep tips and we sincerely hope your team wins. Unless your team is Seattle. Amen.

*That was insulting to the comparatively wonderful taste of Listerine. I take it back, Listerine.
**Also in all seriousness, Google image searching “bloody mary” is a terrible idea.