For years we’ve been talking about doing a tasting game with our friends Rockr & Junkii. Modeled after Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen taste challenges where the chef’s palates are evaluated, challenged and sometimes pushed well past the comfort zone.
Watching this kind of thing made each of us wonder exactly how good or bad our palates were. Could we distinguish tuna from chicken? Endive from Radicchio? Soy from Tamari? by taste and mouth feel alone?
We all like games, and are interested in exploring and educating our palates, so this seemed like the perfect game.
However, we had some challenges to overcome to make it work. Top Chef has it easy, they have multiple hosts to administer the flavours, private rooms so each taster isn’t influenced by previous guesses or comments, and most importantly for a group game a whole team of videographers to capture the facial expressions and reactions to the flavours for the others to see and laugh about.
We schemed. We considered. We devised. We shot down. We noodled. We invented. And for round one we finally came up with a fairly basic round robin blind taste test model.
Each of us brought 5 tastes to the table on a covered plate. One by one we served our taste to our blindfolded friends. Then when all visual evidence was covered again, we removed our blindfolds and wrote down our guesses.
The hardest thing for me was the trust exercise sitting blindfolded waiting for some random flavour and texture to be placed in my mouth. Especially when I was last. Once, after both Rockr & Gerry made outrageous noises while tasting, Junkii actually reassured me that I liked this flavour even if those guys didn’t. I guess I was opening and closing my mouth like a guppy and it was the only way he could give me the taste. (He’s a kind man!)
We’d agreed in advance that for our first round we’d keep the flavours pure and not try and stump each other. Of course we agreed this after Gerry had already grabbed a selection of packable and portable tastes from home and brought them to Ottawa. Gerry’s tastes were the hardest to identify for all of us. Rockr was the most generous with his flavours and with us all correctly identifying 5 of his 6 (we added a bonus round at the end).
We were stumped by some of the most common items, turning them over and over in our mouths trying to figure them out analyzing the nuance of flavour, the texture and the shape of the sample. It was a blast!
We’re definitely doing it again.
I’ll leave my photo above as a guessing game for you in identifying my 5 tastes visually. (Matt, Michele, Pat and Anne have all started guessing in Flickr and twitter and have 4/5 identified so far)
You can read Rockr’s post about the experience in his post Blind Tasting.