Forget politics and religion for party talk. If you really want to get your get your guests involved in intense conversation and passionate debate, getting them to talk about food is a sure winner.
Everyone thinks they know what they like. So everyone has an opinion about food preferences. However, when presented with an array of side-by-side samplings, you’ll find participants admitting that they surprised themselves with the discovery of what they didn’t know about the nuances of tasting and their own taste preferences.
So, give your guests something to really talk about: Throw a tasting party that gives them a unique dining experience and a sampling of scrumptious meats.
Our favorite meat-tasting menu ideas include:
• Featuring several different cuts of the same type of meat. You could serve a variety of USDA Prime steaks, such as rib, filet, and strip. Or offer a selection of Wagyu steaks or a variety of lamb cuts. You’ll find that each cut has its own unique characteristics in texture and flavor. For example, filet mignon’s delicate beefiness and ultimate tenderness contrast remarkably when sampling the beefy flavor and hearty chew of a strip steak, or the intense beefiness and supple texture of skirt or hanger steak. Add in flat iron steak to the mix, which is unique in its tenderness and hearty beefy flavor.
• Showcasing a single cut in different types of meat. Did you know that the same cuts that are called steaks in beef are called chops in lamb, veal, and pork? A bone-in rib steak in beef is a bone-in rib chop in pork, lamb, and veal. The same tasting menu strategy could be done with loin chops, also known as Porterhouse steaks, with the characteristic T-shaped bone and portions of the filet and strip in one cut.
• Comparing different types of beef, such as USDA Prime, Natural Prime, and Wagyu. In this case, you can choose the same cut in each variety or different cuts in each type using the three main quality criteria for tasting meat: flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.
Tasting Party Checklist
Here are a few ideas to help you get this type of party off the ground.
Keep the tasting to a reasonable number—at least three and no more than five cuts. Much more than that becomes a production and timing issue. Also, palate fatigue will set in with too many samples. Yes, you can overload your tastebuds. After a certain point, the excitement of tasting something new begins to dwindle and taste distinctions begin to blur.
Estimate 2-ounce samples of each meat per person. This is another reason to keep the number of samples small. You should be looking at a total of no more than 8 to 10 ounces per person. More than that will wind up as waste, not leftovers.
Pair each meat course with a side dish. Here’s where you can get really creative to provide guests with a balance to the amount of protein being consumed: vegetable side dishes, potatoes, rice, or pasta. This way, it’s as if an entire meal is being served in courses with a different entrée as each course.
If you go with a smaller number of meat courses, you can plan one or two non-meat courses, an appetizer or salad, for example. And in all cases, don’t forget a dessert course!
To be sure you don’t get a lot of “I like it” or “it’s good” type of limited opinions, give your guests the criteria for judging the quality of any meat: flavor, tenderness, and juiciness—and encourage them to expound.
And if you want to get formal with your tasting menu, create some evaluation sheets and include one with a pencil at each place setting. Set up a grid with each of the cuts listed from top to bottom on the left and use the three tasting criteria vertically in columns going across. Have your guests score each cut by the criteria on a grade of 1 through 10.