Monday, February 13, 2012

RE-ceiving Guests: Champagne Tasting Party

A PARTY TO LOVE.  My friend, Martha, and her husband, Walter, hosted a wonderful champagne tasting party this weekend to celebrate  St. Valentine's Day.  Martha and Walter graciously allowed me to take pictures and to share many of the thoughtful details that made the party a big hit here. 

TWIN PINK HEART WREATHS.  Before the hosts even opened the door, guests were greeted by charming pink floral heart shaped wreaths which Martha hung with ribbon on her front doors.

FULL OF SURPRISES.  As soon as I walked in the door, I noticed a new large piece of artwork in Martha's living room.  At Christmas time, Martha had a mid size piece of folk art over her living room sofa and 2 small canvases which she used to make folk art style Christmas trees from strips of Christmas gift wrap.  If you want to compare, you can see the "before" in the Christmas Tour entry for Martha's home HERE  This new art piece with graffiti style hearts was colorful and whimsical, just like Martha.  I thought it was perfect, not just for the party, but for the space.  It really captures Martha's high energy, fun vibe.  Walter, caught me admiring the art and proudly informed me that Martha had *MADE* the art work for the party.  Martha shared how she found an image online as inspiration and then made the wall art in about 30-45 minutes in another entry HERE.  Martha and Walter stand in front of her masterpiece above.  Seriously, it is AMAZING in person and nearly every guest ended up inquiring about it.  Before I left the party, Martha said she was thinking of leaving it up after Valeintine's Day is over and I told her she should absolutely leave it up - it is AWESOME.
THE SETTING.  You can see the canvas fits the space very nicely.

THE FIRST STATION.  Martha asked each couple or single person attending to bring a bottle of champagne for the tasting. Some dropped off their bottles early if they could, so the bottles were already chilled when the guests arrived.  She had plastic containers set up on different tables with names tags identifying the bottles only by a number.  She wrapped each bottle of champagne up in aluminum foil so the bottle's packaging wouldn't influence its scores.  Above is her dining room table aka Station #1. 
CLOSE UP OF DECORATED CHANDELIER.  Martha hung glittery hearts from her gold leaf dining room chandelier. 

CLOSE UP CHAMPAGNE INCOGNITO.  One of the goals of the party is to sample a variety of champagnes and discover a new favorite.  It isn't always the expensive bottles that people end up loving so Martha encourages folks to bring something different for the tasting party.   This party works well because people' tend to buy champagne for Valentine's Day.  Why not have people bring their champagne over and get to sample other bottles as well?  Plus, restaurants are crazy hard to get into on Valentine's.  Martha had red, black and pink plastic containers for the bottles and I wondered where she found them.  She found $6 plastic bathroom trash bins at Wal-Mart and used them as champagne buckets.  Clever, right?  Martha has a great philosophy - it isn't where you shop, it is what you buy.  These great trash bins/champagne buckets are just one example.
SCORE BOOKLET.  Each guest is given a booklet to write down their reviews of the champagnes they taste. There were too many bottles for everyone to taste all of them (responsibly, at least) so Martha pre-assigned numbers to the cards in the booklets so guests would end up drinking from certain bottles at each station, but there was a mix.  For example at Station #1, I tasted from #'s 3 and 6 while my husband tasted from #1 and 7.  Inside our booklet, Martha had made scorecards for each bottle and a survey to score the champagne's color, bubble-consistency, aroma and taste on a scale of 1-5 and to leave some notes.  The comments were anonymous and we each left the note cards beside each bottle we sampled so they could be ready later. 

EXTRAS ON ICE.  Our wonderful hosts, also provided extra bottles of champagne for the guests when they arrived (and in case there was a shortage for some reason).  Above, you can see a couple of bottles of bubbly were put on ice in the bar's sink. 

DRINK RINGS.  Martha placed rings on the bases of the different champagne flutes to help the guests keep track of their flutes throughout the party.

RED TULIPS.  Martha placed red tulips on the tables.  Above, you can see she also placed one in a white urn in her bar area.  The flower is flanked by 2 tall red candles in hurricane lamps.  A lot of hostesses would have used traditional red roses for the tables, but Martha likes to go for the unexpected choice.

CHEESE, PATE, FRUIT AND CRACKERS.  Each table had an assortment of appetizers for guests to enjoy along with the champagne.   Notice the heart shaped crackers?  I thought they were darling.  I lent her my red heart shaped ramekins to hold crackers at the different tables.

BLUE CHEESE FILLED DATES.  These were a big hit.  People were talking about them in each room and going back for more. Someone did quibble that the blue cheese affected one's palette, but most people didn't let that stop them from enjoying a few of these blue cheese filled dates.





STATION #2.  Martha set up another large station in her kitchen area.   Again, unexpected red tulips instead of red roses. White doilies under each champagne bottle set them of from the red table.  As for the food, I have mentioned before that Martha is a great cook and although she made some of the food, she also got a caterer to do the big bulk of the food preparation.  All the food was FANTASTIC so I am going to plug the man in case you or someone you know needs a caterer in the Austin, Texas area. The caterer was Derek Gillespie whose email address is: 
CLOSE UP. Herb Roasted Vegetables in red heart bowl.  Beside each dish, Martha placed a place card framed in red hearts describing the dish.  All the roasted veggies were great, but the brussels sprouts were especially incredible. 


OLIVE AND CREAM CHEESE FINGER SANDWICHES IN THE SHAPE OF HEARTS.  This is one of my favorite foods that Martha makes.  One time, I asked her to share her recipe to make them for a playdate and mine did not turn out nearly as good.   I will try to post the recipe.  They are basically filled iwth olives, walnut pieces and cream cheese, but I think Martha's spices make hers so good.  I will see if Martha will share her recipe with the blog. 


DESSERT STATION. In addition to the tasting stations, Martha set up a fondue/dessert table. Martha used a plastic Valentine tablecloth and laid out an avalanche of strawberries and pastries directly on top.


FONDUE FIXINGS.  Strawberries, pieces of cake, marshmellows, and skewers combine for a help yourself fondue bar. 
OUTDOOR FIREPLACE.  Martha has a lovely deck and outdoor fireplace which she was going to use as an extra station if the party got too large, but her house held the party group perfectly so this space was not really used.  It was very pretty though with the red lantern lights hung up and guests enjoyed the view from inside. 

There was zip line fun and dancing after the  midnight hour, but I was not given permission to publish those details (and photos).  Sorry.  This was an incredibly fun party and even though Martha and Walter are supremely generous hosts and offered a very deluxe menu, a group of young couples could easily do a simpler version of this party.   The host could offer cheese, crackers and fruit and invite the other couples to bring not only a bottle of champagne, but an appetizer as well.  Index cards and pens could be left at the tables for the anonymous reviews and at the end of the evening the reviews and reveals could be done.

Thanks to Martha and Walter again for allowing me to share their wonderful party details on the blog. 


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Eldarose's Valentine's Day Table is HERE

Reba's Red & White toile Table is HERE
Romantic Gestures for Valentine's Day under $5 are discussed HERE

Reba's other Valentine Tablescape is HEREn

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  1. I really enjoyed your post thank you. I found you from Seasonal Sunday (My first time on there). Happy Valentine's Day.

    Hugs, LisaKay
    Belles Roses Romantiques

    1. Lisa Kay,

      I'm so glad you dropped by our blog. We love visitors, especially when they leave comments. It's hard not to wonder if folks didn't really like what they saw if they don't say anything so it is awesome to get feedback. I'm glad you liked the post. It was a really fun party. It is a big gift to have someone arrange something for Valentine's Day for you so there is something to look forward to. And, as you can tell from the pictures, Martha and Walter, put in a lot of effort into having a lovely party for their guests.


  2. So glad you got to take pictures. What a fabulous party. She covered it all. Wow I bet you all had the time of your lives. Now this gal knows how to throw a party!!


    1. Nann,

      Yes, it was a super fun party. My husband and I *DANCED*!!! We haven't done that in years. And yes, Martha is definitely a party girl.

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Hope you had a great Valentine's Day. :D


  3. That's a great party and the host seems so nice.

    I am drooling everytime I browse down.

    Absolutely a Heart Day.


    1. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment chie. Yes, it was a great party and Martha is a sweetie. And yes, the food was....sinfully good. I didn't even post pics of all the food. There were deviled eggs with caviar that were so good. I loved the roasted veggies and the baked brie. They were so generous and kind to invite us all to celebrate together. It really took the pressure off the husbands to come up with something special. All we had to do was show up with our champagne, the hosts took care of everything else. We were spoiled really. I am very blessed by my friends. They are all wonderful.

      I hope you had a great Valentine's Day, too. :D


  4. What a wonderful and fun party. Yum, those roasted vegetables look so good. I am a happy new follower from Tasty Tuesday. Would love to have you visit me.

    1. Laura,

      The roasted veggies were A-MAZING. Our friend, Celeste, had a bunch of us and our husbands over a couple of weeks ago for a happy hour on a Friday and served the roasted veggies and they were SO SO GOOD. Martha and I both commented about how much we like the roasted brussels sprouts especially.

      And Laura, we are already following you and I think I visited your blog a couple of weeks ago and left a comment, but I will definitely drop by again. I'm just so busy lately, fixing up my home, working, doing mom stuff and now the blog takes up time, too. I don't get to blog hop as much as I use to, but I will try to do it more.

      Thanks again for visiting and leaving a comment.


  5. My mouth is watering over those appetizers! Sounds like it was such a fun party and what a creative couple the hosts are! Thank you for letting us join in the fun at my Show & Tell party!

    Sharon @ mrs. hines class

    1. Sharon,

      It really was a blast. And yes, Martha and Walter are very fun, creative folks. I am very lucky to have them as friends. Thank you for hosting the link party.


  6. What a fantastic idea - a champagne tasting party and have each guest bring a bottle. I love it! Not only do I like the idea, what wonderful execution. I'm so with her on it's not where you buy it but what you buy and do with it. Awesome post. So happy you'll be linking to Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

    1. The Tablescaper,

      So glad you liked the party idea. It works out really well because the guests contribute to the party, but in a very easy way that adds a lot to the fun and increases their engagement into the main activity.

      Thank you for visiting, leaving a comment and hosting the link party. It is appreciated.


  7. Hey, Eldarose! Shoot me an email if you can that says when (as in what month) the party is going to be, if your Mom has favorite colors or a particular style she embraces (e.g., super feminine, streamlined, modern), whether it will held during the day or in the evening, how many anticipated attendees, and whether you're going for a sit-down, buffet or reception style. That'll help me to point you in the right direction. Thanks! Meanwhile, Martha & Walter put on one heck of a party! Great decor ideas, and the food was outta this world! That was a LOT of food!!!!!!

    1. Alycia Nichols, thank you!

      I will figure out where to find your email. It is going to be a sit down dinner party at our hometown. We will have at least 200 guests, maybe more. It will be catered. My mom's favorite flower is the yellow rose, so Reba and I agreed that we'd use those for the centerpieces. My mom is not domestic at all. She was a local politician and she is a businesswoman. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, always lived with my mother and she ran our household until she got sick with Alzheimer's so my mother doesn't have a strong sense of decorating. She got an interior decorator to help pick the stuff for her home and until they passed away, her best friends, would do all the Martha Stewart type stuff like picking my mom's holiday tree decor, getting her door mats, finding her sheet sets for my mom. She is just not into those things at all. Now, my sisters and I take care of a lot of that domestic stuff for her. For fashion, my mom likes bright, vivid colors. Reds, Corals, royal blues, greens, etc.

      Reba suggested some colors that I am not feeling for the party (turquoise, yellow, hot pink tablecloths). To me, they are kitschy. We used similar colors for our Mexican fiesta rehearsal parties like 20-25 years ago. Reba thought we could dress up the tables with really nice Mexican clay plates like they have in a upscale Mexican restaurant here in Austin, but I am not feeling that idea at all. I want something more elegant. Yes, we are going to have a mariachi band to play some songs because my mom likes them, but just for a bit. I do not feel that in any way dictates the style of the party.

      My mother loves game shows, so I suggested we play some trivia games with all the guests and we give away prizes. We have adult grandkids who can help out by dressing up like Vanna White and we could get one of the sons-in-law to MC or the daughters could if the sons don't want to play along. Reba liked that idea of giving out prizes to the guests, so I am going to try to work that game show idea in. I was thinking I could use give all the guests pages to fill out with questions on my mom and then have my dad answer them on a stage and whichever guests gets the most right gets a prize. I also had a "This is your life" theme in my mind, with maybe "surprise" guests at the party and a scrapbook souvenir for my mom.

      I saw a few adorable ideas on Pinterest. For invitations, Reba is going to use several pictures of my mom over her lifetime. She used her childhood pics before for her 65th, 70th and 75th bday parties, but those were much smaller. They were only very close friends and family. This is going to be a larger group of at least 200.

      Reba said she might have a local advertising company do a layout of the invitation and print them for us. We agreed on a fold out design, kinda like the dvd inserts that come with boxed sets now?

      I think she and I are on the same page on that.

      Food wise, we're good. We are hiring a local chef that just moved to our home town to open a restaurant. We went for Christmas and her food is outstanding.

      I mostly need help on decorations for the whole party and for the tables especially, and for party entertainment that might go with the theme.

      I saw someone did a wall for their grandparents where they used black and white pictures to make their age/numbers on the wall as decor and placed ribbons above. I thought that was really special.

      I also saw fun cookies decorated all retro for a 50th anniversary party, which made me wonder about favors.

      For Christmas, I organized the photos at my mother's house and put them into different storage boxes. We have a huge collection of pictures which gave me the idea that we could use them for the party somehow.

  8. My mouth is drooling in want of those appetizers. What a great idea to have a champagne tasting party - I would of come! Really a great post - did you dance all night? Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration at Sunday's Best Par.tay! Following you on Linky, please follow back!

    1. Cathy,

      We danced for about an hour, so not all night, but still. To get our husbands to dance with us was HUGE! My husband and I haven't dance in years. It was very fun.

      I will, of course, follow you back on Linky. I will check right now to make sure I am.


  9. Thats a fab party! I'm your new follower on Linky. I'd love if you follow me back :D

    Witha @

    1. Witha,

      It really was a great time. Thank you for visiting, leaving a comment and following on Linky. I just followed you back via your Linky profile, but I don't think it is the same as the address you just posted. I will add that one, too. :D


  10. Great to have you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper