Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to have a chocolate party

To begin with, as is only right and proper, there must be a Tour de Dark Chocolate with a range of different cocoa percentages. My limit for still enjoying the taste turned out to be 70%. The selection available went up to 88%, but that was like eating cocoa powder out of the packet.

A chocolate fountain is not optional.

It's also important to have a selection of weird shit, just to show people how lucky they are that the person who chose these didn't have responsibility for the rest of the selection. On this side table (okay, bookshelf), among lesser weirdnesses, was chocolate with "strawberry and black pepper" filling, chocolate flavoured with merlot and pinot noir, and some completely bizarre geranium scented stuff.

These were the dairy-free chocolates for the hosts' housemate who goes into anaphylactic shock if he so much as inhales the scent of whey. Seriously. Last week he walked through the kitchen while his housemates were cooking custard, upon which he had to have a little injection and a visit to the emergency room.

Of course, when you get a critical mass of academics at a party, they get twitchy if they can't make lists, quantify their intuitions, carry out experiments and perform statistical calculations on their data.

Fortunately academics are a creative bunch and will find ways to satisfy these urges no matter what. So apart from the usual accent-related experiments and observations (of the 25 people present, only two were Australian), people came up with the following games:

Rate the different types of chocolate from 1 (worst) to 3 (best) and calculate the most popular.

The blind taste test.

For this there were five plates of milk chocolate from different brands, ranging in price between $10 and $70 a kilo. Everyone listed them in order of preference and the scores (5 points for a listing as #1; 4 for a listing as #2, etc) were added up to get an overall ranking.

The results were:

First place: Lindt (second from the left), at approx. $25 per kilo
Second place: Fair Trade organic chocolate (on the left) at $70 per kilo
Third equal: Cadbury's dairy milk chocolate ($14 a kilo, second from the right) and Whittakers milk chocolate ($16 a kilo, far right)
Last place, universally reviled: Black and Gold cooking compound ($8 a kilo, in the centre)

Moral of the story: when it comes to chocolate, you (mostly) get what you pay for.

Final tip for a chocolate party: have plenty of recovery food available for the stage of the evening when the sight of chocolate starts making your guests want to hurl. The chestnuts made a surpisingly good counterpoint to the rest.


shrinkykitten said...

Super cool! Did guests bring chocolate, or was it all the hosts' contributions? It just looks so expensive (but fun)!

But i have to say, those chocolate fountains always look yucky to me.

turtlebella said...

How *do* you get that chocolate fountain thing to it fondue on top or what?

Was laughing with the academics doing statistics- very funny and very typical. I once when on a Margarita crawl where we tried to do something similar with rankings. But we got too drunk.

StyleyGeek said...

Everyone contributed $5 and the hosts bought all the chocolate. But in retrospect there was so much left over we could have made it $2 each!

The chocolate fountain can "run on" either fondue mixture, or pure Belgian chocolate. Supposedly Belgian chocolate melts to the right consistency without addition. So we started with that, but when it ran out we switched to ordinary plus cream. There's a sort of screw mechanism that twists up the centre, carrying chocolate from the bottom to the top again.

I'm trying (and failing) to see how anyone can find a chocolage fountain icky, Shrinky. What about fondue? Is it melted chocolate in general you don't like, or what?

Katie said...

Hmmmm. Looks so yummy! This gives me ideas to host a chocolate party of my own someday!

The fountain looks incredible! What did you have to go with it? Was it fruit?

StyleyGeek said...

Yes. Grapes, pieces of apple, mandarin, pineapple and marshmallows, which, while not strictly fruit, still count as such for fondues.

grace said...

I was once at a fondue party where we ran out of fruit and resorted to cold, cooked potatoes. They were not nearly so bad with choc fondue as you would think.

Which just proves, chocolate goes with ANYTHING!