In the days when I was a banker and head of marketing research I spent time with my outside survey research firms. One of them had a beer client. A standard taste test for beer was to start the test subjects off with their favorite beer. The subjects would then be given a subsequent series of different beers. All double blind with no visible evidence of what the beer was. Dark beers and light beers were all in dark bottles.
The results were always that the ability to distinguish beers stopped after the second beer usually after the first. For the third beer nobody could tell their own favorite light Coors from Guinness Stout.
So I wondered if the same was true for tasting food. Most people have a cocktail or a few glasses of wine before an expensive dinner. Could people tell an elegant chef prepared plate from a Wendy’s?
So I got a dozen friends to come to my house for a taste testing evening. The wine drinkers got a glass of either high alcohol content wine and the test group got low alcohol content. The same with the beer drinkers.
The tasting was applied to three dishes. Double blind with three tastes in each segment. One was cold mashed potatoes, with mashed cauliflower and mashed plantain all next to each other labeled A,B,C on the same plate. The next dish had three levels of chocolate from high milk content to low milk. I forget what third test was.
I never got the test done. Everyone kept drinking their wine and beer having such a good time they never came to the testing table.
My conclusion is that alcohol before a meal is what determines that it is a fancy meal. The taste doesn’t matter.
I still ask my friends during dinner, after wine or cocktails, " What do you think that ingredient is"? No one, except the late Sarah Seiter, has ever guessed right.