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How to host a socially distant dinner

The time finally seemed right to have my bestie and her partner over for a socially distanced dinner. Because even a committed introvert likes me eventually craves contact outside the small family bubble. It might just have been the best visit of my life. It was so delightful to sit, and chat, and eat together.

Here’s how I made it work:

I kept it small: there were just four of us—Susan and her partner, the Man of the House (MOTH), and me.

While sipping drinks, we sat the requisite six feet apart, and each person had their own bowl of salty snacks.

Because socializing outside is supposed to be safer than indoors, and the weather was glorious, we ate at the picnic table—couples facing each other at either end.  There were no shared plates or platters. Before setting the table, I washed utensils in hot water, and then dried and polished them with a clean tea towel that came straight off the clothesline, where it had been baking in the sun for hours.

potted plants and cut flowers from the summer garden make a pretty centrepiece for an outdoor or indoor dinner party

Marking out social distance on a tabletop is pretty and practical.

Dinner was entirely pre-prepped.  Earlier in the day, I grilled salmon in a tangerine-chili glaze, and chilled it. For a bed for the fish, I tossed together romaine, shredded beet, slivered celery, green onion, and arugula, and dressed it in a creamy Dijon vinaigrette.

carrot greens, basil parsley, spinach for salads or pesto is a tasty way to reduce food waste.

Adding carrot greens to salads or pesto is a tasty way to reduce food waste.

Alongside, I served pesto made from fresh spinach, carrot green (not too much, it’s a got a bitter bite) flat parsley, basil, pecans (I was out of pine nuts), garlic, Parmesan, and olive oil.

I also served baguette, which I sliced into rounds that went on small individual side plates. To go with the bread, I made butter flavoured with lemon zest, and fresh thyme and tarragon from the garden—also served in ramekins at each end of the table.  I arranged plates in the kitchen, and placed them on the table just before we sat down to eat.

TIP: Pesto can be made from just about any seasonal green, and is a great way to use up veg and herbs. If yours comes out too gloopy, add a spoonful of vegetable or chicken stock to loosen it. For a nice chip or veggie dig, blend it into sour cream.

We washed our salades composée down with a super-chilled Kim Crawford Rosé, and finished the meal with individual bowls of local strawberries.  Throughout it all, we talked about the little things that have touched our lives over the past few months and the big things that are making history, and about how COVID has changed us and the world we live in. And we laughed. A lot.

FResh unsalted buuuter churned with tarragon and thyme and lemon zest for a DIY dinner hack

DIY dinner hack: unsalted butter flavoured with fresh herbs straight from the garden.

Hand sanitizer was out for if and when folks needed it. MOTH carried anything that needed to go out or in the house: this is NOT the time to accept a friend’s offer of help, however gracious.

TIP: Use potted plans and cut flowers from the garden to create a centrepiece that’s also a pretty visual reminder of what six feet looks like.

The only sad part of the evening—we couldn’t exchange the usual rounds of good-bye embraces and kisses. Instead of a great big hug, I sent my dear friends off into the twilight with the rest of the flavoured butter.  Got a text from my pal the next morning to say that it was a delicious reminder of our get-together.

Now that I know the ropes for hosting a socially distanced dinner, I’m so looking forward to the next visit. In the meantime, I hope that my family, my pals— and you, dear reader—stays safe.

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