‘It’s sweet and sour peasant soup. Why did you tell them it is seafood chowder for’?
Hank Azaria as Agador – The Birdcage Movie (1996)
2020 has undoubtedly revealed how important face to face connection, fellowship and companionship is for the human race. Fortunately, platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Face App, Google Duo, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and other similar apps have fundamentally kept us sane. Isolation from friends and family has been a challenge as we all profoundly struggled for needed nourishment of physical contact and face-to-face dialogue. Yearning to begin 2021 with a tad of normalcy by being in the company of our family and friends will be creative and imaginative.
As our beloved restaurant industry strives to hang on and devise ways to remain open until the worst of the pandemic subsides, the dining public is left to crafting their own solutions. Not to be outdone, even upscale hotels are reinventing their empty hotel suites into private dining rooms for small groups to enjoy an evening of dining outside of the home.
Many diners are not entirely comfortable in eating out in public, so hosting home small dinner parties will increase in popularity as conscientious hosts have control of the sanitation and safety environment within their home. What better way to celebrate relationships and life than inviting loved ones to a private occasion of good food and good conversation?
When planning for a small, intimate group of close family and friends an exceptional dining experience be prepared to go above and beyond with precautions as we are still months away from vaccinations being available to the public. With that being said, first and foremost, prior to sending invitations, check with your State and Local government regarding “stay at home” regulations and group limits recommendations.
What makes a perfect dinner party during a pandemic? The guests are well pampered and want for nothing the entire evening. The event is seamless and all focus is on the needs of every invited guest. Food and drink will always be available throughout; guests are well fed and taste palates are satisfied.
The host will be overly mindful about balancing the health risks versus providing human connection. Every decision made will have to be designed to create a safe environment for guests with regards to cleanliness and minimizing risk of exposure.
Dinner party curated gift bags can contain ‘peace of mind’ items for your attendees:
– A personalized mask with names or initials
– Face mask lanyard
– Individual sanitizer bottles
– Moisturizing lotion
– Chap stick
– Booties if walking in street shoes in your house is a no-no
– BPA free glass water bottle for your guests to have accessible drinking water between drinks
– Include a few hangover patches such as Bytox or Hangover by the Good Patch which are suppose to replenish essential nutrients after a night out to prevent hangovers
Ultimate pampering…arrange for car service for all guests to be picked up and dropped off at home safely.
Along with personalized invitations (digital or stationary), Communicating with guests pre-event on how the virus is spread and that people may have the virus and be contagious but have no symptoms and how you will prepare your home for the dinner arrival including expecting contract tracing forms to be completed and taking temperatures.
Guests will RSVP with dietary requirements whether gluten, vegan, vegetarian, etc. for cuisine preparation. Also, be sure to communicate to your guests your acceptance and location of smoking cigarettes, cigars, vapes, or cannabis.
To prevent your elegant dinner party becoming a Covid spreader news story, Virginia Frishkorn, event planner for Bluebird productions advises these 5 tips:
1. A good host will set clear expectations and be responsive to guests’ concerns (mask wearing etiquette for example) to minimize risk
2. Unless the weather is a hindrance, host your dinner party outside and be prepared to keep guests warm (i.e., tents and heaters)
3. Design spatial seating arrangements
4. Provide plenty of sanitary items
5. Serve individually portioned food and drinks
– Deep clean your rooms that guests will have access to the living room, dining room and powder room and set up mini sanitization stations throughout the public areas.
– Installing contactless products like motion sensored lights for contactless entry, automatic hand soap dispenser and faucet sensors
– Sanitize all contact surfaces in the bathrooms, tables, chairs, door knobs
– Provide high-end disposable paper drying towels for both the bathroom and kitchen.
– Delegate the hired event staff to constant and scheduled checking of the bath for spot cleaning of door knobs, toilet and faucet handles
– A designated individual committed to frequent washing of hands (the hosts, the chef, the caterer) should be the only one to serve all food and drinks to prevent unnecessary touching of serving utensils, wine bottles, etc.
– Avoid kissing, handshakes and hugs which could lead to direct virus exposure. Seat all same households 6 feet apart.
– Plexiglass should be incorporated to keep guests separated yet fit into the design decor tables that seat 2-4 people with tents and heating.
– That beautiful china that normally is used for your dinner parties, may need to stay stored away to minimize contact with contamination. In staying cautious, plan to serve food on elegant disposable plastic dinnerware from plates, cutlery, napkins, and mini ware for individual servings. Amazon has a large upscale selection or use a direct vendor such as The Closeout Connection offers an array of beautiful dinnerware.
– If you still prefer real china as oppose to plastic ware, the beauty of renting is a prime choice: Linen napkins, rented plateware, rented seating to have separate couple tables, even setting up a temporary kitchen on the property to handle the volume of food the chef may need to cook and keep hot.
– Hire a Chef or Catering Company that produce references and can show evidence of complying with the CDC, state, and local guidelines.
– Unless this event is the chance to show your culinary skills, or a chef is not part of your household staff, this dinner party is perfect for commissioning a celebrity chef who outsources their work for private parties whether known locally or globally. Unsure where to locate a local gourmet chef? Perhaps Cozymeal can assist in determining the perfect chef for your private events.
– Hire an event planner with experience in setting up dinner parties under state guidelines and can handle all arrangements from invites to clean up.
– Provide a Barista Station worked by one individual for Coffee or tea served right after the meal
– Hire photographer, a bartender, a valet to park cars, and a coat checker for winter events.
EATS, DRINKS AND ATMOSPHERE
– Prepare to serve small bites or appetizers on individual small plates or small table, individual charcuterie boards, condiments, and seasonings assigned to one person or table.
– Depending on the season, your perfectly planned dinner party can very well have a theme integrated throughout the decorations, music, conversation, cuisine and drinks. The theme could incorporate the current season, a holiday, a milestone celebration of the host or the guests, even a themed color.
– Provide personalized printed party menu cards for the appetizers, main menu, and dessert with listed pairing to include alcohol and non-alcohol cocktails, wine, and coffee/tea.
– Entertainment – Depending on the planned environment will determine if you hire a band, DJ, or a solo musician (such as an acoustic guitarist, a flutist, or pianist), or an appearance from a virtual performer and/or create a playlist for background music.
– For guests who couldn’t attend in person, include them in live streaming, but still send them a memorable box to be a part of the party, a bottle of sparkling wine, snacks that correspond to the dinner or the dinner itself with preplanned arrangements with your chef.
– In addition to the bar, a Hydration Bar with room temperature or chilled choice of waters with servings of fruit, lemons or limes or ice cubes flavored with fruit available for flavored water creations. Be sure to also provide seasonal non-alcoholic selections of mock cocktails, ice tea, and lemonade.
– After dinner coffee liqueurs seasonal selections could include one or two of the following with a light dessert or pieces of chocolate:
o Espresso Summer Paradise Found,
o Black Russian
o White Russian
o Expresso Martini
o Creamy Boozy Iced Coffee
o Kahlua Coffee Soda
o Kahlua Iced Coffee
Fire Department Coffee https://www.firedeptcoffee.com/collections/spirit-infused-coffee
There are a number of spirit infused coffees that are processed to burn off the alcohol, but leaves the subtle and sweet tastes of spirits (bourbon, whiskey, tequila or rum)
But there are several java infused drinks that have made a footprint in the coffee industry such as Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
The month of December 2020 will be well remembered as we all collectively and cautiously were encouraged at the news of the beginning of the end of Covid-19 with the rollout of the first U.S. vaccinations administered to health care workers who have courageously set aside their fears and put their lives on the line for those who fell ill. To those brave souls, we want to share our appreciation. -AJ
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Thank you to the following sources for providing the blog content:
The Bash planning events while social distancing
AWG Private Chefs – Holiday Wine Pairing
Northside Sun.com – How to Host A Safer Dinner Party
Hat tip to the following photographers
Delo – Bartender
Jmexclusives – chef seasoning
Terri Cnudde – Ready for Champagne
Micahsimpson760 – flowers in a teacup
Terri Cnudde – Table Setting
Stephanie McCabe – Private Grazing
Alev Takil – Tiramisu
Jason Leung – Gheridelli
Pitsch – Garden Party