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Need help with tasting contest idea....

Hi there,

Not sure if this is the right category, so please move it to wherever it fits best.

My husband is giving me a birthday party next week and we're wanting to have some fun and different games to play. A couple of the people coming are blind and we didn't want everything to be visually oriented. So, naturally, food came to mind, and I thought about doing a tasting game. I was thinking of having maybe 10 little Dixie cups per person, with a different food or drink item in each one. I want some of them to be a bit difficult so that not everyone will guess correctly. I would LOVE suggestions for what to put in the cups!!! Most of the people coming AREN'T chowhounds or foodies, but I still think they'll enjoy the game.

Thanks in advance for your ideas...

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  1. Did you happen to see that episode of Top Chef where they did that? I think the top person only got 4 out of 25, or something like that! Then, when they got home, they did a spoof of that, but used junk food for the tasting... the trophy for the winner was a Pork and Beans can trophy! I'll start thinking about what to use... I think the ones they used on Top Chef would be too difficult for non-foodies!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Katie Nell

      Yes! It was Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen that gave me the idea, but I'd totally forgotten about the junk food contest. I'll have to incorporate some of those kinds of food into the contest for sure. Looking forward to hearing your ideas!!!!

    2. This is kind of on the simple side but I seem to recall that someone once did a jello test. They made all of the different flavors....but did not add any coloring so all of the samples were clear. Apparently, people thought the test was going to be easy but without the coloring, many got the flavors wrong.

      I like the idea of a junkfood test or childhood classic foods test. There are many foods I ate as a child that I no longer eat. I wonder if I would immediately recognize them?

      1. Have yourself a little Fear Factor fun. Just kidding. Don't go putting any bull pissel in any dixie cups. On a more serious note, be sensitive to your guests tastes. Avoid hot and spicy foods (as tempting as that might be). Some people are very sensitive to the heat. Look for foods with texture and with layered flavors. I see no harm in including one or two foods that someone might find repulsive, like sweetbreads, or oysters, or goats milk. Matter of fact, my guess is you'll have people asking for recipes or store locations by the end of the night because you will have converted them. You will have gotten your guests to try foods they would have otherwise shyed away from. Then again, this can also reconfirm ones dislike for something as well, be assured.

        I'm tempted to suggest seafood, but I now realize that some might be allergic. It would be great to witness people experiencing a raw clam (or oyster) on their tongue for the first time while blindfolded. Sweets are a good suggestion. Honey covered Greek desserts could wow them with taste and texture. Perhaps an exotic fruit. A piece of a grilled meat to accompany that exotic fruit would work well. You can listen to your guests say "What is that?", because of the contrasting or layered flavors. It should be fun whatever you decide. Be sure to let us know how things turn out. I'll let some others chime in with their suggestions. :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cheese Boy

          Yes, but you don't want gagging (or worse) either! I could see a lot of people gagging on raw oysters!

        2. I like cheese boy's way of thinking in terms of layering and texture but post reminded me that you need to ask about any food allergies beforehand. You don't need someone's throat closing thanks to peanuts.

          The other part about the fruit and the meat...we have this local restaurant that makes a date wrapped in bacon fritter...AMAZING but I have yet to try to duplicate at home.

          On the dessert side, the local dimsum bars here have this wonderful steamed warm tofu dessert with a ginger syrup....I would think you could duplicate something similar. Also, one of my personal favorite desserts....fresh cut strawberries, cracked pepper, and balsamic vinegar! Then there is the deep fried Snickers route.....

          One more thing, if you are near any ethnic grocery stores, they have fun and unusual snacks and drinks that could be challenging to identify.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rHairing

            Lychee jellies!! :-) The texture would weird them out until they actually tasted them.

          2. Your ideas are great...keep them coming! Excellent to ask about allergies first.

            I'm starting to think of having Level 1 and Level 2...everyone does Level 1 which is one thing per cup...leaning towards junk food, sodas, etc. but will also throw in a *smoked* (not raw!) oyster to make it interesting. Those with the highest scores then move on to Level 2 where there will be a mixture of 2 things in the cup. I like the strawberry & balsamic idea. I was also thinking it might be fun to have some dark chocolate and have people guess what percentage it is. There are a few chocophiles in the crowd. :)

            More ideas, please!!! (Think specifics...if YOU were doing this, what 10-ish things would you put in the Level 1 cups? And what things would go in Level 2?)

            1 Reply
            1. re: wyf4lyf

              Here are some ideas...
              Level 1
              I'm thinking some weird textures and some comparisons...
              1. cheez wiz, or however you spell it... blech! but I bet some people won't know what it is!
              2. cotton candy
              3. you could do a taste test between two beers... Natural Light or something awful vs.
              4. a good beer (don't know what this would be, since I don't like beer!)
              5. see if people can tell the difference between Oreos vs.
              6. Hydrox! (My daddy would know!)
              7. Mr. Pibb vs.
              8. Dr. Pepper (or Pepsi vs. Coke, etc.)
              9. marshmallow fluff
              10. some kind of really processed food... cheetohs, pizza rolls, or Pop Tarts... something along that line!

              Level 2
              1. fennel
              2. cilantro
              3. jicama
              4. pork belly
              5. Sriracha
              6. I think the balsamic and strawberries would be a good idea!
              7. basil ice cream (I'm obsessed with the idea now! Actually, different herbs in ice creams would be a fun taste test... lavendar, thyme, etc.!)
              8. cocoa nibs
              9. some kind of cheese would be challenging, I think
              10. lobster

              I hope you report back! And take pictures of people and their faces!!

            2. Do fruit and the people have to be blindfolded! Go to ethnic grocery stores; it'll be fun.

              What kinds of things do you like to eat that you think your friends wouldn't try unless you made them? Try that!

              1. What a great idea. Where's my invitation?

                1. Allright, I'll give you 5-ish ...

                  Level 1

                  1. Cheese Doodles (They'll be begging for more).
                  2. Root Beer Soda
                  3. PBnJ on white bread (Crusts removed and quartered).
                  4. A *pitted* salty Green or Black olive
                  5. One gummy bear or one Swedish Fish

                  Level 2

                  1. A slice of Dry Sweet Italian Sausage skewered with a grape.
                  2. A cooked scallop wrapped in bacon.
                  3. The smoked oyster (let's not forget that) w/ a piece of fennel.
                  4. Swiss cheese and salami on a small baguette w/ a basil leaf and tomato
                  5. Celery stalk filled with a peppered goat cheese

                  * I love the use of a fresh fennel bulb most because many people don't know it tastes like licorice and most are also unfamiliar with its crunchy texture. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised. Besides that, it's a great digestive aid. I think they'll need it once they are through eating peanut butter, oysters, and whatever else you decide to challenge them with. This will be great!!! Stick with the fennel idea for sure.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    OK, I was with you when you suggested the oyster, the only reason that people don't eat raw bar is that they dont' know any better!

                    But a Swedish fish.

                    If I went to a party and someone made me eat a Swedish fish I would sever all diplomatic ties!


                    When I finally got that evil confect unstuck from my teeth I would have a few choice word for the host!

                    1. re: Kater

                      If allergic to seafood, a Swedish fish is the next best thing. It's also high in omega-3, or is that red # 5 ...? HHmm. Can't recall. ;-)

                  2. What a fun idea! I wanna copy someday. Here are some more ideas:

                    Level 1:
                    1. Greek style (very thick) yogurt
                    2. Boiled shelled soybeans (edamame)
                    3. Common chocolate-candy bar (whatever you want to pick)
                    4. Dark (70%) Chocolate
                    5. Milk chocolate (but buy a very good european one, it will throw off those who aren't serious chocoholics into thinking it's semisweet chocolate)
                    6. Exotic but common fruit like kiwi or passionfruit. I beg you, don't put durian in the game.
                    For the last 4, a mini herb test (with fresh herbs):
                    7. Cilantro
                    8. Basil
                    9. Oregano
                    10. Tarragon

                    By the way if you use liquids you should warn people which ones are liquid, so they don't choke & drown or something.

                    Level 2:
                    I can't think of too many; Many great ideas already suggested. Here a few more, some easy some hard
                    1. Tomato & feta cheese crostini
                    2. Stone fruit poached in wine and/or liquer (apricot, peach, nectarine or plum) poached in wine (to me it's hard to differentiate btw the stone fruits if you buy them at a regular supermarket & poach the heck out the texture). Make them guess what kind of alcohol if you want it harder.
                    3. prosciutto & melon (too easy?)
                    4. dolmas (rice wrapped in grape leaves)
                    5. Loved the smoked oyster & fennel idea so I'll just second that.

                    1. A girldfirend of mine does somehting like this with wine.

                      On the invitation she asks each guest to bring their favourite bottle (we are all youngish-30 and under so no very expensive bottles show up). She covers each of the bottles with these little aprons that she made. She give each guest a tasting cup. Each guest tastes each wine and writes which red and which white they liked the best and what grape they thought each wine was.

                      THe best red and white gets a small prize and then the gal with the most correct wines gets a prize. She has booby prizes for the worst wines and worst guesser too.

                      It is soo much fun! No gals in the group are what I would call wine snobs so it is all about fun.


                      1. Along with the strawberries and balsamic vinegar, I would recommend mochi. If you have a trader joes, they sell a green tea or ginger mochi. The talk of basil ice cream reminded me...if you can find it...basil seed drink. Out of curiosity, I bought a can in my local asian store. It has the texture of runny gelatin and the basil seeds look like little tadpoles. It's actually quite tasty! I think if you go online, you can find a recipe. Bubble tea might also be interesting.

                        Also, lavendar seems to be all the rage right now. I have seen it in everything from cookies to goat cheese

                        1. Dagoba chocolate makes some really interesting flavors that might be hard to identify. My favorite is mint (with rosemary). You can definitely taste the rosemary at the end. The brand has quite a few blends like this that might spark conversation.

                          1. Thanks for all of your great ideas. Here's what I *think* I've decided to go with...I might make a few changes...

                            Round 1
                            Velveeta cheez
                            Marshmallow fluff
                            Pop tart
                            smoked oyster
                            Coke Zero

                            Round 2
                            celery w/goat cheese
                            blue cheese w/dried cherries
                            strawberries w/balsamic
                            mozzarella w/basil
                            bacon-wrapped date
                            cocoa nibs
                            milk chocolate
                            dark chocolate
                            bittersweet chocolate
                            pomegranate juice

                            If there's a tie after Round 2, then I'll probably bring out a few pieces of different bittersweet chocolate and have them guess the percentages.

                            I'll let you all know how it goes!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: wyf4lyf

                              OK...so of course, after I post this, my brain starts spinning and I revamp the contest.

                              Round 1 -- Junk Food Only
                              Cheeze Whiz
                              Marshmallow Fluff
                              Pop Tart
                              Lucky Charms
                              Hot Dog
                              Milky Way
                              Snickers (or i might be evil and do Milky Way DARK)
                              Coke Zero

                              Round Two -- "Gourmet" 1 item
                              Smoked Oyster
                              Cocoa nibs
                              Pomegranate juice
                              Blueberry juice
                              Cranberry juice

                              OR I could set out all 20 of the above items and see how many each person can guess in 5 minutes. What do you think??

                              Final two contestants will compete in the "mixed cups" challenge:
                              Celery with goat cheese
                              Strawberries with balsamic
                              Brie with dried cherries
                              Bacon-wrapped date
                              Mozzarella and basil

                              If it's still a tie...then I'm going to get one of those complicated chocolates with several flavors in it and see if they can identify it. If they both do, then it's a tie, and they both win and their teams split the points.

                            2. For dark chocolate, I suggest going to TJ's. The highest percentage I've seen there is 85%(Valhorna), then 80% (Scharffenberger), and so on.

                              OH and try NUTELLA!

                              May I add - you could try a rose-saffron, pomegranate, or chai tea latte ice cream from Bliss! :-) Whole Foods and Bristol Farms carries them.

                              Best wishes! Let us know how it goes!

                              1. Something that stumps people everytime is spiced tomato jam. They know it is red but are always surprised to find that the base is tomatoes. Had some last night on hot biscuits (real biscuits made with good park lard. even my DH who is not much of a jam eater was spreading it on his biscuits.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Candy

                                  Yum. I was planning on blindfolding people, though, so they could only smell and taste.

                                  1. re: wyf4lyf

                                    I like this whole idea. It should be fun. I have one question though. Are the lemmings allowed to touch the item or are they basically only allowed to "gulp" it from their dixie cups? Touching it might give it away.

                                    Refer to definition number 2:

                                    1. re: Cheese Boy

                                      My thought was to not let them touch it. I'm thinking for all the solid-ish food, to have one bite in a plastic spoon instead of a cup. Easier to eat marshmallow fluff that way, for instance. We shall see!!

                                    2. re: wyf4lyf

                                      You could still do that. I'd bet they would be totally stumped.

                                  2. We did something similar in a wine tasting class I took. The only difference was that we had to smell everything rather than taste. It was fun, but challenging. For example, cloves was one of the things to smell. I knew it was a common spice, but couldn't quite place it. We used various fresh fruit, chocolate, coffee, spices, leather, etc.