Invite the girls to taste chocolates and coffee for a sweet get-together.

Girls' Night In: Coffee-and-Chocolate Tasting
Credit: Lee Harrelson; Styling: Virginia Houston

Every woman deserves delicious chocolate and coffee, two great culinary luxuries. Just a bite of quality chocolate can melt away the stress from a long day, while a few sips of gourmet coffee bring rejuvenation. Indulge in both with friends by hosting an after-dinner coffee-and chocolate-tasting, where you'll sample and appreciate these little luxuries like fine wines.

The Chocolate
A little advance planning is all you need to pull off a great chocolate tasting. First, you'll want to serve a variety of high-quality chocolates with different percentages of cacao. (Many brands list the percentage right on the package.) You can find intriguing gourmet chocolates for sale at upscale markets, like Whole Foods and Fresh Market, and online.

Don't forget place cards to identify each chocolate. For an elegant touch, serve the chocolate blocks on a large granite cutting board. A pretty cheese knife works well to chip off bite-size chunks. Finally, have a platter of crackers on hand to let everyone cleanse their palates in between samples.

While the girls are sampling each chocolate, going from sweet milk chocolate varieties to the more bittersweet ones, encourage them to note their reactions to on tasting cards. Is the chocolate thin or creamy? Can you taste nutty, spicy, or flowery notes? At the end of the tasting, compare notes and see if you have a common favorite.

The Coffee
Like wine, coffee's flavor is a result of where it's grown, how much sun it receives, and other environmental variables. A tasting lets everyone learn a little about different beans and maybe even find a new favorite brand.

Brew the different varieties (at least three) in a row of French press coffee pots. Choose beans from different countries for a well-rounded tasting, placing a card with all the bean details in front of each pot. Serve organic, shade-grown coffees to be eco-friendly. Like with the chocolate, have the girls note their assessments of each coffee's acidity, aroma, body, and overall flavor.

The Bar
Creamy libations make any tasting more fun! Make sure to conduct the coffee tasting in a separate area than the bar so the girls can refill their glasses easily. Offer guests a small glass of Brandy Cream as they arrive. During and after the coffee tasting, you can top off their glasses with Frosty Milk Punch, a grown-up milkshake.

Wondering what to do with leftover coffee? It's easy to turn brewed coffee into tipsy tempations. Have chocolate- and coffee-flavored liqueurs, like Bailey's and Kahlúa, ready to pour, plus whipped cream and chocolate syrup for garnishing.

The Food
Celebrate! Dessert is not optional tonight. This is the most fun sugar high since middle school. Hopefully everyone's had dinner, so there's really no need to cook. Crispy Chai Spice Biscotti pairs perfectly with coffee. For those with a serious sweet tooth, set out the Pear Phyllo Cheesecakes, Brown Sugar Shortcakes, and Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake with Strawberry Topping. If time is short, stop by the local bakery for some ready-made desserts.

The Extras

  • To make party prep easier, we've provided some coffee and chocolate tasting cards that you can print from your home computer. For more information on conducting tastings and judging the quality of coffees and chocolates, check out these websites:
    Guide to Coffee Cupping
    Chocolate Tasting
  • Wondering what to do with leftover chocolate? Put those bits and pieces to a good use with a fun cookie recipe the next day, like these Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies. After all, fine chocolate should never go to waste.

Rebecca Lang is a well-known cooking instructor, author, and food writer. She teaches Girls' Night In classes around the country and lives in Athens, Georgia.