Food and Drink

How to Make Meals at Home Feel Like Fabulous Dinner Parties

Let’s face it—you’re probably spending a lot more time at home these days. Whether you’re subject to a government-mandated lockdown, shelter-in-place order, or are voluntarily quarantining yourself, chances are you’re eating all your meals at home. But just because you can’t go out to your favorite restaurants, doesn’t mean you should be reduced to eating sad frozen dinners on the couch. Instead, take this time to develop your cooking skills, decorate your dining area, and make meals a part of the day you look forward to. We sourced tips from a handful of designers, chefs, and tastemakers around the globe on how to do just that.

Break out the nice dishes

“Now is the time to dust off special dishes, grandma’s crystal, or the wedding china you never use, perhaps polish silver, or iron linen napkins,” says Shannon Wehsener of Paul Allen Design, half of the team behind the gorgeous Hotel Château du Grand Lucé, which opened last year in France’s Loire Valley. “The simplest of meals or appetizers can be presented in a way that is special and avoids the mundane,” she adds. “By doing even the simplest of things with a degree of intentionality in our homes, perhaps we can bring stability and beauty to a turbulent time.”

Will Cooper, chief creative officer of ASH NYC, echoes that sentiment. “I would say now is as good a time as any to dust off and bust out your sterling flatware, fine china, and crystal. Transport yourself to a fantasyland to keep your spirits high.”

Designer Martin Brudnizki, meanwhile, is of a similar mindset. “Make every meal an occasion: Introduce a pre-dinner aperitif hour and dress for the occasion,” says the creative star, whose latest projects include Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. and The Bloomsbury in London. “Lay your table with beautiful linen, colorful napkins, candles, and a mixture of tableware. Always have flowers.”

Don’t have nice dishes? You may not be able to visit a store, but you can still shop online and support small businesses that are doing their best to stay afloat and help their communities in these trying times. Cult favorite concept shop Chez Dede in Rome is donating 10% of earnings from their in-house collections to the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, now through April 15. Their plates illustrated by co-owner and fashion illustrator Andrea Ferolla would add a beautiful touch to any table.

Adjust the lighting in your home 

“Often, houses are too illuminated,” says Daria Reina, who runs Chez Dede with Ferolla, her husband. “Illumination is something that hotels and restaurants curate. Now that we’re always at home, it’s important to study the lighting as if you were an architect.” According to Reina, you don’t need to add anything, but rather take it away. Dim the lights or use candles. You could even cover lamps with scarves or other pieces of fabric to soften their harsh glow.

Patrick Curran, the executive chef at Café Riggs inside the new Riggs Washington DC, suggests using floating candles or putting long taper candles in wine bottles.

Change your dining venue

“Most families eat at the kitchen table. Why not change venues for fun?” muses Rebecca Gardner, a Savannah-based wedding and event planner. If you usually eat in the kitchen, serve dinners in the dining room instead. Now that spring is arriving, it’s time to take advantage of any outdoor space you have. If you have a balcony or terrace, set up a table there, as Reina and Ferolla do in Rome.

“After a difficult day of uncertainties this week, I searched the pantry for a jar of preserves from Paris, artfully arranged some charcuterie on a lovely platter with various treats from the refrigerator, opened a bottle of French wine, and we sat outside, enjoyed the sunset and each other’s company, and reminisced about France,” Wehsener, who is based in San Diego, says.

Get creative about cooking

“The art of inventing things in the kitchen is a very Italian thing,” says Reina. “We have hundreds, thousands of ways of making pasta. With whatever’s in the fridge, there’s a possibility of making pasta, from leftover meat to vegetables. Every night we never eat the same thing.”

Of course, now that our movements are limited, meal planning is more important than ever. “Plan meals and use ingredients that can create many different meals,” Chef Curran explains. “If you are clever, a whole roast chicken can go a long way. For example, pulled pork or braised chicken can be used the next day in a taco, fancy grilled cheese, or breakfast burrito.”

Little things you can do include infusing your own olive oil with chilies, pepper, or herbs to add flavor, using leftover fruit to make sangria, and upgrading household staples with leftovers from another meal. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Host a virtual dinner party

“Paperless Post has launched their own solution to encourage celebrations at a responsible distance. I like that these invitations have recipe ideas,” Gardner says. “It would be a hoot to compare cooking skills on FaceTime. I’m going to two virtual parties this weekend, one is a FaceWine another is on Zoom. Zoom lets you upload your own background. I’ll be at Claridge’s in the Fumoir.”

Article originally posted by Architectural Digest