From communal toasts to technology at the table, these tips from a local caterer will help you have a successful (virtual) Turkey Day gathering.
With cautions to avoid large gatherings due to the potential spread of COVID-19, Thanksgiving may not look the same this year. That being said, you can still get together with family and friends and count your blessings in a virtual way. Denise Vu, director of marketing and innovation for Occasions Caterers, gives her tips for making a very socially-distanced holiday feel special.
Create shared moments
“Take some of the rituals from your previous Thanksgivings and recreate them in this new format,” she says. Plan a Zoom call in advance to select must-have family recipes and let everyone contribute, or select an overarching theme for each house’s table. If guests are local, consider ordering to-go meals from the same restaurant or caterer. If everyone is spread out, serving a few of the same dishes–whether pre-made or prepared at home–will lend a feeling of conviviality.
Make a schedule
“When we gather in person and common rituals are established, a natural format to dinners takes place,” Vu believes. Think about the purpose of your virtual gathering and what rituals everyone wants to create, then create a little program to set expectations. “It doesn’t have to be hard and fast, but structure is good when there can be a lot of distractions when you’re tuning in remotely.”
Rethink the turkey
“Gatherings will be smaller, so a whole turkey can be a commitment,” Vu admits. “For other ‘centerpiece’ options, try other roasts like whole duck or pheasant.” With the right preparation, presentation and garnishes, even a whole roasted chicken can feel special. Occasions Caterers’ executive chef Adam How is planning seared bobwhite quail with roasted fingerling sweet potatoes over a marshmallow flambe; roasted cornish hens are an easier-to-find substitute.
Ready your home as if you were expecting a house full of company
Clear the dinner table-turned home office and put away the toys. Set the table with candles, flowers or fall foliage, and pull out the “special occasion” dishes, stemware and flatware. “These little touches can transform the evening.”
Make setting up technology part of the prep
Whether you use Zoom, Facebook Messenger Video, Google Hangouts or something else, use your laptop to cast to your television, or set up a larger monitor near where everyone is eating “Think about lighting,” she says. “Natural light is best, but with this likely being an early evening meal, test your lighting in advance and make sure everyone can see you clearly.
Plan a communal toast
Create a shared Google doc of cocktail recipes or go-to wines for everyone who is attending; guests may end up trying something new and finding a new favorite. Make sure everyone knows the time of the toast (taking into consideration time zones), and consider making and sipping a cocktail all at the same time (or mix a batch of sangria or punch in advance.)
Personalize the celebration
Send out a set of questions in advance that everyone can answer during the meal, like “what’s been your personal highlight this year?” or “what’s been the most interesting or helpful thing you’ve learned this past year?” “Carve out a section of the evening, go around video frame to video frame and let everyone share,” suggests Vu.
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