Archive for Party Ideas and Themes

How to host a Wine Tasting

Wine TastingWinefest is tonight!!! Hosting a wine tasting party isn’t the same as hosting other types of parties. There’s a little more planning that goes into it. Here are a couple of key tips and ideas to host a successful wine tasting party. 


8 tips to hosting a successful wine tasting

1. Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Have your guests pitch in! We are having everyone bring a dish made with wine. We also asked for everyone who wants to participate in the wine tasting to bring a bottle to share. Oh yes…and Dominos for the kids!

2. Have food specific for the tasting. We are setting up our wine tasting in the bar in our basement. You always hear about “cleansing the palate” when you are tasting different wines so we have bread, cheese and fruit to help with this. We are not offering any of those tasteless crackers!

3. Use glasses not plastic. If you are going to have a wine tasting, you really have to use glass! You cannot properly taste wine in a solo cup, really! With this many people, you probably don’t have enough of the proper shape for each varietal in a cut crystal glass, but glass is still key. Just try to use the ‘generic’ shape glass.

4. Dump buckets and water. It’s important to have a dump bucket so guests can dump any wine that they don’t want to finish drinking. You also want to have some pitchers of water so guests can rinse their glass between tastings if they want. However, if tasting in the same varietal, it’s best to have remnants of the previous wine than water anyway. 

5. Have a tasting sheet. The goal of a wine tasting isn’t to get drunk off of lots of different kinds of wine. It’s to try new wines that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to taste and see what you like! We have a sheet for guests to rate the wines on aroma (bouquet, nose), flavor & texture, finish, and appearance (color, legs, etc.). It will be fun to see which wines come out the winner!

6. The blind taste test. There are different ways to have a wine tasting. We have decided to do a blind taste test so each bottle will be wrapped in foil with a number on it. The guests will be given an index card to write down the description of the wine they brought on one side. That will be what the guests see when tasting the wine. On the other side of the card, it will be the name, vintage, year and price of the wine. We don’t want people to see the type of wine they are drinking or the price point until they have decided whether or not they like it!

7. Beverages. It might be a hard concept to grasp, but not everyone likes wine. You should have other options for the guests who don’t like wine or don’t drink alcohol. You also need water. Lots of water!!!

8. Have fun.  As with any party you host, have fun!! You are entitled to it as much as your guests are. For more ideas of planning a party, make sure you visit the Entertaining with Ease section of our website.

Valentines Day Card from Tiny Prints

Super Bowl Sunday Snacks

The big game is tomorrow. Whether you are cheering for the Broncos or Seahawks, chances are probably pretty good that you will be watching the game (or at least…the commercials). It doesn’t matter if you are hosting a party or going to a friend’s house, you will certainly need to have some Super Bowl Sunday Snacks!

Here are some of our favorites:

Amazing Buffalo Chicken Dip

Taco Dip

Pork Sliders

Bacon Wrapped Lil Smokies

Sausage Balls

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Turkey Roll Ups


Spinach Artichoke Dip


Pasta Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

BBQ Grilled Tri Tip Steak

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Chips and The Best Salsa Ever


If you have no idea about the game except that there is an opera singer singing the National Anthem, make sure check out Melissa’s articles on Flip the Field. You’ll be the life of the party!


Wine Tasting

For those of you have been following us since the summer, you will know that we kicked off our “Fests” with Baconfest in July. We followed that up with Beerfest in October and then Bourbonfest in December. As the one year anniversary of McNacks approaches this weekend, it only makes sense to celebrate with Winefest. 

We have asked that each person/couple attending bring a dish that is in some way made with wine. The wine can be in a sauce, marinade, white, red, port….anything! Anyone who wants to participate in the actual tasting is to bring a bottle of wine in a bag so the label is hidden. They will be writing down their wine, vintage, year, description and price on a card so people can know what types of wine they enjoyed and what they would go out and buy on their own. 

For the tasting, each bottle will have a number one it. We will separate the whites from the reds. Each guest will be given their own tasting sheet with the an area to make notes about appearance, aroma, flavor. We will have everyone vote for their favorite white and red. It will be interesting to see if the more expensive wines are actually the favorites!

As always, recipes to follow! Cheers!

Bourbon Tasting

If you are going to have bourbonfest, it seems appropriate to put together a bourbon tasting too. So, I did some research, bought a couple of bourbons and brought a couple more from home as my husband enjoys a sip of bourbon every now and again. It was fun and well received. I think we might have even learned a little something too.

how to have your own bourbon tasting

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon originally was created in Bourbon County, KY and has a higher concentration of corn than any other grain.

In America, bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn. Then it also has barley and either rye or wheat. It must not exceed 160 proof when added to the barrels to age. The barrels must be new charred oak barrels. Seriously, there is a law for this!

What is the difference between Whiskey and Bourbon?

Whiskey is just the generic name for Bourbon, Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Canadian Whisky (no, I didn’t misspell this, many whiskeys leave out the ‘e’), Tennessee Whiskey, and American Rye. That’s pretty much all ‘brown liquors’.

Scotch is whiskey made in Scotland with a greater concentration of barley instead of corn.

Tennessee Whiskey is bourbon filtered through sugar maple charcoal which gives it that ‘sweet’ taste.

Terminology used with Bourbon:

Straight = aged at least 2 years

Wheater = wheat instead of rye (softer flavor)

High Rye = made with higher concentration of rye than other bourbons. The rye is what gives it the ‘bite’.

Small Batch = little meaning, just smaller than something like Jim Beam

Single Barrel = entire bottle from a single barrel, no mixing

Bourbon Tasting Menu:

For the bourbon tasting, I brought 4 different bourbons with a decent amount of variation in them. I gave everyone who participated a sheet of paper for folks to take notes if they wanted. There was no competition although the tasting was a blind tasting. It was just to help find what flavors each individual liked and give some information to help them find other bourbons they might like in the future. No right or wrong answers, just a personal opinion.

Here are the 4 bourbons we tasted.

Maker’s Mark – TN –Wheater – Soft – Major Brand with Wild Turkey and Jim Beam

High West – UT – Blend – Straight

Wathen’s – KY – Single Barrel – Straight

Four Roses – KY – High Rye – Small Batch – Straight

Smells and Flavors Found in Bourbons:

For the tasting, I provided this list of potential smells and flavors to be on the look out for while tasting each bourbon. I’m no expert and have no idea which you might find in each of the 4 we tasted but this proved helpful to think about while tasting.

Sweet aromatic flavors, such as vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch

Fruit and floral flavors, such as apple, pear, dark fruit (figs, raisins, dates), citrus and rose

Spice flavors, including black pepper, tobacco leaf, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon

Wood flavors, such as oak, cedar, pine, almonds and pecans

Grain flavors, such as corn, malt and rye

What to look for when tasting bourbon?

Each piece of paper for the tasting had a letter for the bourbon we were tasting (A-D) and then a place to write down notes on the Appearance, Aroma, Taste, and Aftertaste.

After everyone tasted all 4, I placed the bottles out and had them guess which one was which. A couple of people got them all correct which was pretty cool.

The favorite of the group? Well that ended up being Four Roses!

Bourbonfest – Recap

Bourbonfest was this past weekend. We had lots of great food, and some food that was just all right. There were lots of meat dishes and desserts, since those were the easiest recipes to find. The grilled chicken I made was…just ok. Instead of using the bourbon jelly as a marinade, it would have been better as a glaze. The stuffed mushrooms were a little too ‘bourbony’ for our taste, but I know exactly how to change up the recipe for our liking the next time. The salad was changed due to a small kitchen disaster that will be detailed in a later post. The smokies were a big hit, as were the ones that a friend brought. The only difference in our recipes was that we used different BBQ sauces.

The biggest hits were Bourbon Sliders, Bourbon Meatballs, Chicken with a Bourbon Glaze and all of the desserts. I have asked for the guests to share their recipes so we will post those as they come in.

Melissa took charge of an actual Bourbon tasting which she will detail later too. As she was getting it ready and guests were participating, the talk of “what fest is next” came up. Since we were impressed with Melissa’s Bourbon tasting, naturally we decided on a “Winefest” –  complete with a full wine tasting!


When I had Beerfest a few months ago, some of the guests were talking about what the next function should be. It seemed too early to do Baconfest Part 2, and Broccolifest really just didn’t sound too appealing. After awhile, we came up with Bourbonfest!

At Bourbonfest this weekend, all dishes need to be made with Bourbon. Most people think only desserts and meats are made with bourbon. WRONG! While these are the most popular, I was able to find a great recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms with Bourbon and a Mixed Green Salad with Bourbon Dressing (we have to have our greens). I am also making smokies in a BBQ and bourbon sauce, as well as grilled chicken marinated in a bourbon jelly I found at a local Beerfest a few weeks ago. If these recipes are up to my standards, I’ll post them next week!

So far, guests have signed up to bring bourbon brownies, a bourbon BBQ dish, bourbon meatballs, chocolate bourbon bundt cake, and bourbon bread pudding. I know a few other dishes are in the works as well.

I haven’t had Bourbon except for in a bourbon ball since…well..let’s just say it’s been a while! We are certainly in for an interesting night!!

All things Bourbon


Beerfest Recap

Last night was Beerfest. We ended up having 15 people due to some people having to cancel. No worries, though. That always happens when you plan a large get together. As I mentioned before, I made ribs, drunk chicken, beer cheese soup and fried pickles. I will be honest and tell you that the chicken was probably the most moist chicken I have ever had. Despite my better judgement, I used Budweiser for the beer. The smell of that beer is not exactly pleasing to me and it brings back some bad memories, but a lighter beer in a can is what was needed, so I caved. Who knows, maybe that’s why the chicken was so moist?!!!!! The ribs were as good as our local BBQ joint if I do say so myself. I did two things differently 1) After an hour and 45 minutes in the oven, I turned the oven but kept the ribs covered in there for about another hour and a half 2) I used Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer. I will post the recipes for the fried pickles (amazing) and beer cheese soup (also wonderful) later this week.

We had a family bring beer cheese bread (that was great dipped in the soup or by itself) and beer bacon macaroni and cheese. Probably no explanation is needed for that!!! All sorts of goodness in one dish!!! They also brought 2 growlers of beer and a growler of root beer for the kids. One growler was hazelnut and one was pumpkin spiced. I was a little hesitant as I have never been one for flavored beer. HOWEVER, these were AMAZING!! If you have a place near you that sells growlers, I would highly recommend you trying it out!!

Another family went healthy and brought a nice leafy green salad with a beer vinaigrette dressing. It was really very good and the leafy greens added some nice color to our plates. No, I don’t have the recipe for that, but I will try to find one similar as I will use it as a regular homemade dressing.

The comedy of the night came from our friend who’s wife just had a baby. Remember….our one “rule” was everyone had to bring a food item with beer. He thought “out of the box” and brought a food item with a side of beer. He picked up some wings (always good with beer) and grabbed a 4 year old Busch beer camo can that he has had in his fridge for over 3 years. We kept teasing him that the person who gave it to him must not like him much. Busch? In a can? Really? We had some laughs and decided that the beer can will follow us to future get togethers and be our new “mascot”.


At some point through the course of the night, the conversation turned to “What fest is next?” We’ve down Baconfest and Beerfest. Brocollifest was obviously shot down and we quickly agreed on Bourbonfest!!! Lots of yummy recipes to choose from!!!! Stay tuned!