How to host a girls' night in 'pairing party'

(ARA) – You can always find a good reason to organize a girls’ night in with your best friends. But why not spice up the theme of the gathering this time and host a “pairing party” featuring everyone’s favorite ingredient: dark chocolate?

Pairing parties are great social events designed around the education and sampling of two ingredient themes. A pairing party combining the delicious varieties of dark chocolate with food and drinks will be a huge hit with your friends. Imagine the girls laughing over the different combinations of dark chocolate with drinks and food, making notes of their favorites and discussing the intricacies of all the flavor combinations.

As you begin planning your party, follow these guidelines to make it both educational and fun.

Tip 1. Invite your friends.

Invitations are very important for pairing parties, because you need to know exactly how many people to prepare for. A gathering of 10 to 20 is ideal. Give your party a fun name. Send invites out early, explain the purpose of the party – including the main ingredients – and request an RSVP. Invite each guest to bring a specific item.

Tip 2. Create your pairing list.

Plan the pairings that you will all sample during the party. Dark chocolate is a complex ingredient and blends well with many different flavors. For example, candied ginger and apricots taste delicious with Ghirardelli’s Evening Dream 60 percent cacao Intense Dark chocolate, according to Leslie Sbrocco, author, television host and wine consultant. For drinks to compare with this treat, line up some smooth green tea, or white dessert wines like Sauternes from the Bordeaux region of France.

Tip 3. Develop an ingredient sheet.

Organize a tasting sheet, listing all the dark chocolate flavors and all food and drink ingredients that will be served during the party. On your sheet you can showcase recommended pairings – for example Sbrocco highlights framboise (a raspberry liquor) and red zinfandel with Ghirardelli’s Twilight Delight 72 percent cacao Intense Dark chocolate. But also leave room on your sheet for your guests to make their own pairing preferences.

Tip 4. Determine serving ware and supplies.

Make sure you have the correct serving pieces and accessories on hand, including plenty of wine glasses and serving trays. If you decide to feature a red wine like malbec, which Sbrocco says pairs well with a savory and bold dark chocolate like Ghirardelli’s Midnight Reverie 86 percent cacao, you’ll want to serve the malbec slightly chilled in deep-bottomed wine glasses for best flavor. Small platters for nuts, dried fruits and even cheese varieties will also be very handy for your party. Make sure you also have plenty of corkscrews around, and provide your guests with wine glass charms so they can easily identify which glass is theirs.

Tip 5. Research everything.

Research your products and brands so you can share interesting facts about both. For example, Ghirardelli is partnering with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) to promote the importance of early breast cancer detection. Specially marked pink ribbon packages of Intense Dark chocolates will have a code inside the package redeemable for a $1 donation to the NBCF. Enter the code at for your donation to be counted. As you’re serving different pairings, also educate your guests about proper serving practices for the foods and drinks.

Tip 6. Get conversations started.

Make a note of interesting conversation topics you can bring up to get discussions started, if needed. Since you’ll already be chatting about breast cancer awareness, also encourage your guests to discuss the importance of early detection efforts and doing both monthly self examinations and yearly mammograms.

Hosting a pairing party is perfect for girls’ night in and your party will be a hit with your friends. Before you know it, pairing parties will become a common theme for your group’s gatherings.