Everyone self-isolating knows the phenomenon that occurs: the days quickly start to merge and despite having all the time in the world at home – unwashed hair and pizza-stained sweatpants become de riguer. While times may be changing, the team at Carbone believes that standards must remain! It is good for the soul to make the occasional mealtime special, even if it is just for yourself. So while she was self-isolating, we asked Carbone manager Claire Stenhouse for her tips on how to create a special dinner at home.
Set the scene
Atmosphere is everything. And in most Hong Kong apartments, making use of your space is really important. Can anything be moved around to create a better dining area? Rearranging furniture can give the room you have been self-isolating in for a week feel new and exciting, it is like the adult version of building a sofa-cushion fort. Then, clean! No one wants a dusty dinner table. Make sure to wipe down all surfaces and get rid of any clutter.
Moving onto lighting – from candles to fairy lights and lamps, you want your mood to be inviting and full of charm, not glaring at you. An easy at-home trick? Throw a napkin or scarf over your lamp to dim the brightness (just be careful if you are using the old-style bulbs that get hot – this can be a fire risk!). And speaking of candles, try not to overpower the scent of the room with pinecone-pumpkin-spice-lavender candles. Keep those for the bathroom. For mealtimes, unscented is preferable.
Then, of course, there is your playlist. Log out of Netflix and choose a soundtrack that matches the kind of dinner party you want: smooth jazz, chilled house music or 90s classics if you want to turn the living room into a post-dessert-dancefloor.
What’s that saying? If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Think about what could make the difference between just dinner and a special evening at home – maybe recreate a fancy cocktail you have been eyeing out on Instagram or turn dinner into games night with a quiz, board games or cards.
Of course, your guests will forgive any cooking faux-pas or technical mistakes if there is a good vibe with good company. What you want to avoid is spending all night in the kitchen chained to the stove. If cooking is going to stress you out, just order in, pretty much everyone is delivering right now (including Carbone). Replating something nicely totally counts in my book, as long as you aren’t eating out of a takeaway box. Just remember to preheat the plates.
If you can, pair your meal with a nice wine that you have lying around, or order something in (did you know that Stazione Novella delivers wine?).
Details maketh the dinner
This is where small gestures go a long way. When setting the table, why not create a little centrepiece with candles or flowers? Pinterest is full of easy centrepiece ideas. As you have lots of time on your hands, hop onto YouTube for some fancy napkin folding tutorials. Make sure every course has its own cutlery, with its own position.
- Knife (and spoon should your meal call for one) on the right, always facing inwards.
- Fork on the left.
- Chopsticks can either go alongside the spoon or above the plate.
- Your water glass lives directly above your knife.
- Wine glass should go about 11 o’clock to where the water glass is.
Host With The Most
Finally, there is you. Be a charming host, try not to drink all of the cooking wine while getting ready and use this time to take a break from everything and enjoy the moment. Whether this is something you are doing for yourself, your partner, roommate or family, a little extra effort goes a long way in making this more than just a meal at the table. Dress up, brush your hair, engage in meaningful conversation and reconnect. Self-isolating? Make it a virtual date and jump on a call with friends and family doing the same thing.
Prefer to clink glasses than set the table? Sign up for Taqueria Super Macho’s Virtual Happy Hour to enjoy cocktails delivered to your door or have a pizza making party at home, with Motorino’s Virtual Pizza Making Party.