With the projection (and hope) of COVID restrictions slowly lifting in the coming months, this summer is already poised to be one that’s full of celebration. Rescheduled weddings and trips, concerts, and of course one of the season’s simplest pleasures, summer dinner parties. With last year’s stay-at-home orders, even this quintessential activity had to be postponed, and while “getting back to normal” will likely still take some time, by playing it smart and safe with your at-home entertaining, you may finally be able to start planning a chic get-together that’s stress-free.
First of all, it’s always wise to stay abreast of the CDC’s latest info and recommendations for all your social endeavors, as well as the status of your state. As of April, the nation’s health protection agency still advised mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and avoiding large crowds even after you’ve been vaccinated. However, the organization is saying that those who are two weeks or more post-vaccine can visit the homes of other vaccinated friends and family sans-mask (or one household of unvaccinated folks who are not considered to be at risk).
This is great news for those hoping to host a dinner party in the near future, but if you want to be as cautious as possible, there are a few easy practices to put in place to make everyone feels a little more at ease (including yourself). TZR consulted with not only Sabrina Zeile, event planner and owner of Weddings By Sabrina, but also a certified food safety expert to suggest tips for throwing a summer soirée at home that’s stylish, social, and above all safe. See them all ahead.
Summer Dinner Parties: Stick To The Outdoors
“As the pandemic continues to get under control and life returns to normal, the food service method you use during your dinner parties, as well as where you hold them, should become increasingly less important,” shares Janilyn Hutchings, food scientist for State Food Safety. That said, the expert still believes in basic practices like frequent hand washing and hosting your event al fresco. “It's [a good idea] to have dinner parties outdoors as much as possible because the fresh air will help dissipate any COVID particles that might be present, which reduces your chance of getting sick even more,” she adds.
Summer Dinner Parties: Get Creative With Pre-Plating
“As a reminder, over the past 13 months, researchers have found no evidence that COVID can spread through food or food packaging, so you're highly unlikely to contract the virus from food itself,” Hutchings says. “Instead, virus transmission is more likely to be affected by how the food is served because different service methods naturally allow for different levels of social distancing. For example, pre-plating food is the safest service method because it takes away the need for people to gather around a food table to dish up.” And yes, Hutchings says you still need to be cautious serving your guests food even if you’ve been vaccinated. “It's also important to note that it's still possible to get COVID-19 even if you've been vaccinated; the vaccine just makes it less likely that you'll become sick or severely sick,” she continues. “For this reason, it might not be a bad idea to continue being cautious and pre-plating the meal for your party.”
Want to make pre-plating feel a little more festive? Zeile recommends getting creative with your presentation. “To avoid sharing, pre-plate meals in the spirit of summer with individual picnic basket style meals featuring self-contained grazing boards,” she suggests. Your guests can still get the charcuterie experience without having to pick from the same platter.
If you are set on family style offerings, Hutchings says passing dishes is safer than creating a buffet or station where people might congregate. “For instance, you could use water pitchers instead of using a water dispenser, and put meat on serving platters instead of giving it to guests straight off the grill,” she says. And don’t forget the serving utensils to prevent unnecessary handling. “Ideally, you would provide a serving utensil like tongs even for things like bags of chips,” she adds.
Summer Dinner Parties: Set Up Separate Chill Zones
Take advantage of your newly revamped patio space and arrange a few separate areas for your guests to gather in smaller groups. “To give guests some socially distant options while mingling after dinner, set up a few different styled lounges to keep comfortable with space throughout the evening,” Zeile says.
Summer Dinner Parties: Include Activities
Summer dinner parties tend to focus on food, drink, and conversation, but to give yours some more opportunities for fun interactions, consider creating some outdoor activities. “While keeping events entirely outdoors, some special activities could include individual portrait photo booths, a live painter, or even something as simple as stargazing,” offers Zeile.
Summer Dinner Parties: Offer A Practical Takeaway
Top tier hostesses never let their guests go home empty-handed, and Zeile says this takeaway could tie into your safety practices. “Individual fans are a stylish way to keep cool from the summer heat and could also work as a way to shield as needed to keep distance,” she suggests. Other cute options might include mini sanitizer bottles or fabric face masks.
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