Super Simple Wine & Food Parties

Want to host a really great party? A party your friends will enjoy and talk about. A party with lots of great food and more wine than you probably should drink? Sound good? It gets better. You don’t have to know anything about pairing food and wine, you don’t have to cook anything or have it catered, you don’t even have to wash the dishes when it’s over. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. It’s a Cork & Fork Party.

The concept of a cork & fork party is simple, All you have to do is invite several couples to your home. Each couple brings a bottle of wine and an appetizer that they feel works well with their wine. As host, you provide the incidentals like glassware, plates, silverware, etc. That’s it. What you end up with is a gathering of friends, lots of wine and lots of food. Now all you have to do is eat and drink and enjoy the evening. Since I was first introduced to this type of party, I’ve called them Cork & Fork Parties. Here’s all you need to know to host your own Cork & Fork party.

Saying that Cork & Fork Parties are easy to host is an understatement. Each guest or couple bring a bottle of wine and a food that they feel compliments that wine and vice versa. On arrival guests fill out a index card describing their food and wine. This card is placed beside their pairing so that other guests know what they are eating and drinking. To add to the fun, at the end of the evening guests are asked to vote for their favorite food and wine pairing, the winner receiving a simple, wine related gift provided by the host. A variation is to have the winner host the next Cork & Fork Party.

Cork & fork parties work best with about eight food and wine pairings. Eight is about as many as the average person can deal with in one evening. The food should be something easy to serve, easy to eat and that fits on a small plate. “Bite size” portions work the best. You are only going to provide plastic plates and plastic utensils, so instruct your guests to bring anything necessary to serve their food. The wine choice can be unlimited or you can make up some restrictions to make the party more interesting. For instance you might require the wine be from a particular geographic location or that it not be any of the typical varieties like Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay.

As host, you will provide the index cards, note paper, pens, small plastic plates, plastic eating utensils, cocktail napkins and cork screws. You will need ice buckets for those guests who bring white wine. Cheap, plastic paint buckets work well for that purpose or you can splurge on plastic wine buckets at the party store for about $5. You will also need to decide what you’re going to do about glassware. Most of us don’t have enough stemware for 16 people, so your choices are three. You can buy 16 medium size, utility wine glasses for less than $5 apiece (try Target or Bed Bath & Beyond); you can use plastic glasses (yuk); or you can ask your guests to bring their own glass. Brining your own glass sounds a bit strange, but it is very practical for this type of party and its one more thing you won’t have to wash when the party is over.

As host, your work is pretty much done after you send out the invitations. Your role at the party is primarily as master of ceremonies. You might want to provide Champagne and a light appetizer for your guests during arrival and set-up, but that’s optional. It adds significantly to the evening if, after everyone has arrived and their wine and food are set out, you allow each guest to briefly describe their wine and food pairing, telling about the wine and why they feel their pairing works. You will find a host’s guide, sample invitation and other cork & fork materials at Enjoy!