You can probably imagine that after all of the time and energy spent planning other people's celebrations, it's sometimes hard to find the time to plan a personal event... But recently I decided to plan a dinner party for my husband's birthday, and I wanted it to be a memorable experience for all of our friends and family, but also incorporate some of his favorite things. As an accountant for an International company he usually travels to a different country several times a year (a bonus for someone who already loves to travel). And anyone who knows him knows he is quite a wine snob (no offense, sweetie!) So I decided to combine these passions into a wine tasting party that would take our guests 'AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY SIPS' - what could be more fun than that?
I decided to begin by creating my menu, with lots of online research regarding the best wine regions and regional varietals as well as local cuisine. But I had to go one step further and fully understand each wine's flavor profile and what would be a great pairing (for instance, a German Riesling and a Bratwurst would be famed German offerings, but would not be a great pairing). I also needed to create a progressive menu that would follow the wine palette from light and crisp to dark and bold, AND be sure to pair foods that followed the typical course of a meal (what's a good appetizer? main course? dessert?) Yes, it's more complicated than it first seems, but the end result was well worth it!
Once I had the menu decided, I began brainstorming decor and details. If I'm taking everyone around the world, and we're essentially having a 'flight' of wine, then an airplane-theme was perfect!! Cha-ching! I ordered a vintage flight attendant costume for myself online (and even pieced together a super handsome pilot costume for the hubs)! ;-)
To inform everyone of the menu that evening, I printed custom boarding passes (found through a fabulous Etsy vendor!) with each course described, including airport codes and time zones for each destination country. It's all about the details!! I also found an adorable boarding pass envelope design online and printed those to create jackets to hold all the passes. OMG!!
Then I was thinking, how cute would it be to have passports for all the guests? And they could have them stamped for each country we 'visit'?? After finding another fabulous Etsy artist who offered a template, I sleuthed around Facebook for photos of all my guests and customized each one, even down to their birthdates! I printed the covers on adhesive back paper, printed the insides on blue wash paper to resemble the official pages, and sandwiched the two together. Voila!! And my standing shutter was a perfect display for all the travel documents! I created a "Ticket Desk" sign, and also commissioned an Etsy artist to create a custom departure board for me, listing all of the destinations we would visit throughout the night.
It was going to be a lot for me to serve the food and wine AND stamp the passports, so a couple of my sweet friends volunteered to help in any way they could. A few Toy Police Officer kits from the Dollar Tree later (and custom name tags via Sharpie...) and I had two Customs Agents outfitted with badges, name tags, and walkie talkies. As guests arrived, they checked their passports and asked them questions to verify their identities, and as each course progressed through the evening they circulated and stamped their passports. Who says you can't find good help these days? :)
In case anyone needed to hydrate between courses, I custom printed water bottle labels with our own airline logo, and set up a hydration station. And since it's a wine tasting, you'll also need a pitcher of water and a dump bucket for rinsing and discarding unfinished wine from the glasses (in the event that you don't finish your wine, but why would you do such a thing?!)
I decorated foam gliders to suspend from our patio trellis with inflated globes and bistro lights. And to set the mood, I also created a play list with song selections from each country throughout the evening. I wanted our guests to feel like they were truly going on a journey with us, and no detail was overlooked...
It was time for the big event! Here's an outline of the menu we enjoyed, with links to the recipes and wines we purchased (all of which were hand-selected by our favorite wine expert, Yurika, at Total Wine & More in Tampa, Florida).
Course 5 - AUSTRALIA
(instead of homemade ketchup, I created a balsamic ketchup by adding balsamic glaze to store-bought Heinz, omitted the beet relish, and to make it even more authentic to Australia, I used an Australian smoked cheddar cheese)
At the end of the evening, guests collected their parting gifts from "Baggage Claim" area: hand-decorated gift boxes made to resemble suitcases, complete with handles, travel stickers, and luggage tags with each guests' name handwritten (as a keepsake)! They were so stinkin' adorable that people didn't want to open them!! I couldn't blame them, but the best part was inside... What do you give as a party favor for a travel-themed-wine party? A travel wine bag of course! Everyone left with a collapsible wine flask (each holds an entire bottle of wine!) with a message that read "For wherever life takes you!"