Word on the street is we can get back to socializing here in Vermont as long as we keep distance between us and follow some easy precautions. Catching up on missed celebrations has proven to be my top priority (shocking, I know).
If you're looking to roll up on some friends with a mini shin-dig in tow and aiming to slay it in the social distancing department, stick around. I put in some extra planning to ensure safety and took notes so I could share the deets with you.
1. Keep it small & smart
We kept it to basically 3 households. We all had masks, wore them indoors, and maintained a good distance when outside, which is where we spent most of our time. I recommend setting up a few blankets or tables to keep households separate during dining. This was totally manageable and it all felt safe for everyone.
Each parent was responsible for feeding their own kids and I did the 'party food' just for the adults. Social distanced or not this is a great way to ease the stress of hosting a group of friends when children are involved.
In fact, I'll go the distance and say that letting your 'dinner hosting friends' know you've got the kids covered is likely to increase your dinner invitations, but just a thought.
2. Mise en place (fancy for get your shit ready)
I went with burgers because they're the birthday girls fave (plus with homemade buns they're extra special). I sanitized my kitchen and then prepped, sliced and cut everything ahead of time, packing into containers as I worked ( delis are a prep savior) and securing the lids until I was ready to use them at my friends home. Never under estimate the convenience of tongs and of course, I committed to washing my hands frequently.
When I say prep everything, I'm talking everything. Patty and season the burgers, cook the bacon, cut the buns, unwrap the cheese. Any task you can do ahead of time to make it quicker, easier, and cleaner - you'll thank yourself (and your friends will be very into the clean kitchen, I promise).
I packed up all of my supplies into a large picnic basket:
homemade burger buns, burgers (in a container with a ice pack)
toppings (bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, American cheese [ick])
salad ingredients, dressing, bowl, and tongs
grilling tools, a knife
towels, linen napkins
and of course, hand sanitizer
a cooler with desserts
* I like to go catering style and pack the cooler in the order I'll need, putting the stuff I'll need last (burger toppings)in the bottom and the stuff I need first up top(burgers and buns). I put everything in closed containers to keep it safe - from being damaged/contaminated.
3. Plan for the dirty stuff
To make things easy and reduce the possible spread of germs I brought a bin to toss my dirty prep containers and such into. Then when I got home I quickly loaded them into our dishwasher, and ran it. Super easy stuff!
If you know me, you know that I despise paper plates and napkins and use them never. Each guest loaded their own plates into the dishwasher. And our used cloth napkins went straight to the wash. Effortless cleanup and zero cross contamination.
4. Plate em up
I cooked and plated everything. Zero chaos and keeping it to one person again, reduces chance for contamination. For simplicity, I gave everyone the same toppings, but made it easy for them to be left off if preferred.
5. Separate Desserts
I'm in no way the go-to cake maker of our friend group. But when our go-to cake maker had a rare fiasco and the dessert prospect dropped out the morning-of, my OCD wouldn't have it. So I thought 'yeah sure, I baked a cake once a few years ago, let's do it.'
I have no business baking cakes and I was lucky this worked out. At random, I snagged a recipe for a quick chocolate cake and in the name of safety, I opted to go with a few smaller cakes instead of one big cake.
Much to my surprise it all worked out. These ramekins were great for the job. I just filled them to the line and baked em til a toothpick came out clean. The separate desserts were a hit and this way the birthday girl could still blow out a candle.
The ramekins could be a repeat player in the distanced dining game. I'm imagining individual sized...
lasagnas and pasta bakes
loaded twice baked potatoes
chicken pot pies
Want to be treated but still not feeling public spaces? Ask a friend to "host" you restaurant style. They can whip up little coursed dinner for you and yours. Plus then you can byob. Then maybe reverse the favor? Or not. A super easy way to celebrate without having to do all the work. Plus, if you have an industry friend (that means restaurant industry) they'd probably be down for the gig if you throw them some cash for their services. (Ps. I would do this for you)
I get it, we're all spent on safety precautions and protocols but taking a few extra steps also helps you to stay organized and feel less chaotic (can't we all use a lil of that).
I hope this was helpful. Have more socially distanced dining tips? Or see somewhere in my process where I can improve (always trying to learn). Come talk with me on Social Media and let me know!