At times when we are stuck at home, many of us miss the feeling of going out for a nice dinner. Eating around the kitchen table can be great and comfortable but sometimes, there is nothing better than getting dressed up for a delicious meal at a restaurant. For times when this isn’t possible, perhaps due to government restrictions or injury, what can be done? Well, the good news is there are a host of wonderful ways that you can create that dining out experience in the comfort of your own home. In this article we are going to highlight a handful of the options available, helping you to “dine out” at home.
Virtual dining with friends
If you are missing being able to go out for dinner with your friends, why not give virtual dining a go? With a bit of planning and organisation, you and some friends can be dining in front of each other in no time – well, kind of. All you need is a video chat app or programme like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet. Arrange to all cook the same meal, set your webcam at your dining room table and voila. You can be talking and laughing with friends over dinner, seeing their faces and recreating that dining out vibe as best you can. It’s not the same as having a waiter and someone else doing the cooking but it’s a nice option to have nonetheless!
Food blogger Carole Mason has a number of great ideas for dining out at home and this includes utilising Zoom for a pub themed evening: “If you are missing the buzz of the pub and all your friends you can have a pub night by inviting your friends to join you with some burgers and create a meeting on Zoom. Before the meeting, you can all set yourself up with a background photo of a bar and download some pub sounds to play in the background and it’s almost like being there in the good old days of the boozer.”
Treat your spouse with a home menu
Have a birthday coming up? Anniversary? Or just want to surprise your loved one? Why not treat your spouse to a romantic ‘restaurant’ experience at home by creating a menu of options for them to choose from and then serving it up? Think about some of their favourite dishes for a first course, main, and desert, and mock-up a little menu for them. Make sure you have all the ingredients, of course, beforehand. Then, once they have chosen what they would like, cook a three-course meal for the two of you and serve it up. It might not feel like dining out to you, but your will truly appreciate being waited on.
You can also come up with some tasty little pre-dinner snacks for them to munch on while they wait for the main meal. Lifestyle blogger Jupiter Hadley shares her top tip with us: “When it comes to dining out at home, my favourite thing to do is to fill tiny bowls with loads of little things to snack on, like a fancy tapas place. You can purchase lots of pre-made appraisers like olives or stuffed peppers, or small bites to bake in the oven, which are perfect to snack on while waiting for your main meal to come!”
Create a restaurant-like dining space
You can also consider creating a restaurant-like dining area in your home. Eating at the kitchen table around pots and pans or with kid’s toys lying around won’t evoke that feeling of going out. So, take the time to create a special area and go all out. If you have a dining room, that’s perfect, but even a lounge or living room will work. Or you can make a lovely dining space in your garden on a nice evening. Just spend some time making it feel like a restaurant: subtle lighting, fancy tablecloth, candles, music playing softly in the background etc. You will be surprised what can be done with a little creativity.
This is something Sarah from the blog The Penniless Parent has tried and enjoyed recently: “Last weekend I couldn’t face cooking again and was desperate to go out for a meal. With this not a possibility during lockdown, we ordered an Indian takeaway, set the table with a table cloth, candles and places, put some background Bhangra music on and for dinner time at least, we’re fully submersed in our Indian meal.”
Carole Mason also suggests being creative with the décor: “Dining out at home doesn’t have to be boring and creating a fun night in your house has endless possibilities. It’s all about matching the food to the décor and letting your imagination run wild. Make your house wear fancy dress or entertain the family by dressing yourself as a waiter or chef.
“My top tip is to ring the changes by setting up a table in an unexpected place in the house and get a bit silly. Perhaps it is on a landing, but it has a different view and so regardless of it being makeshift it will feel special and memorable.
“Overdress the table in the theme of what you are cooking from things around the house, use ornaments and flowers, put out the flags, light the candles and create a menu. If it’s nice enough to eat outdoors, create a scene – perhaps a seaside theme for a fish supper or go all out and turn the shed into a beach shack.”
Dress up as if you were going out
Another excellent option is to make sure that you dress up as if you were actually going out to dinner. Don’t spend time making a nice meal and turning your home into a romantic dining room if you just turn up with a t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. Agree between the two of you to look your best, put on a nice shirt, wear a favourite dress, whatever you would normally do when going out to a restaurant, make sure to do it here. You will be surprised what a difference it can make to your own mentality.
To go the extra mile and keep up the charade, why not agree to meet your spouse somewhere that isn’t the dining room table. If dining outdoors, meet them at the backdoor. If you have a compact home lift installed, why not meet them there and take their arm as you walk to the table? It’s all about getting in that ‘dining out’ mood and out of your regular home eating habit. It might feel a little silly but can be great fun if both of you commit to the idea.
Food bloggers to follow for inspiration
So, you’ve got some idea for how to create that “dining out” vibe at home but what about the actual meal? It’s certainly a great idea to put together something a little bit special and different from what you would normally cook.
The internet is a bountiful resource for tasty dishes – such as Carole Mason’s blog – which we have already mentioned – she has some fantastic Thai recipes available. You can also check out her Thai cookbook.
For a little more inspiration, take a look at the following food bloggers, be a bit adventurous, and try one of their delicious recipes!
Easy and Delish: This blog is run by professional chef Denise Browning. Denise is an expert in Brazilian cuisine and her website is a treasure trove of traditional dishes and global recipes.
- Recipe to try: ‘One Pot Shrimp in Coconut Sauce’ with blended vegetables to serve over rice or noodles.
Food to Glow: Kellie is an American ex-pat and her blog Food to Glow is replete with feel-good food that is also healthy. From starters and mains to desserts and snacks, it’s all here.
- Recipe to try: ‘Greek salad nachos’, this “crunchy plate of tangy Greek salad vegetables over crispy pitta chips” would be a great shared starter.
Pudding Lane Blog: For an array of delicious pudding and dessert recipes, this yummy food blog from Lucy’s baking blog is a must. Try one of her treats for your dessert option.
- Recipe to try: ‘Chocolate Whiskey Fondant’ – this recipe is a wonderful chocolatey treat for two people.
Amy Cousins Life: Lifestyle blogger Amy Cousins posts about everything from fitness to lifestyle, including her delicious recipes for all sorts of yummy dishes.
- Recipe to try: ‘Chicken Puttanesca’, a saucy Italian dish served with rice and spinach that will impress for any main course.
Top tips for dining out at home
- Virtual dining with friends
- Treat your spouse with a home menu
- Create a restaurant-like dining space
- Dress up as if you were going out
- Follow food bloggers for inspiration
As you can see, “dining out” at home is a very real possibility. With a little creativity, preparation, and imagination, you can really create a restaurant-like vibe and enjoy something special with a loved one or even virtually with friends. So, give a few of the above ago and see how you get on.
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