As we go into day 60+ of lockdown here in Madrid, Spain I've become quite an expert in quarantine activities. Not only have I kept my own family entertained, but I've also been in charge of planning an array of food and drink online experiences for Devour Tours.
In my research, I've come across plenty of excellent quarantine activities for food lovers that range in price, length, and complexity. So whether you prefer a relaxing virtual dinner party with longtime friends or the excitement of a culinary competition among co-workers, there is a lockdown activity for every taste.
Here are my favorites:
11 Quarantine Activities for Food & Drink Lovers
1. Virtual cooking classes
From the secrets of the perfect paella to a Roman pasta class live from the cucina of a local cook, now is the best time in history to join a virtual cooking class.
Both professional chefs and home cooks are offering a variety of fun and informative lessons online, and there is truly something for everyone. Classes range from totally free (often offered on Facebook or Instagram live and not usually interactive experiences) to one-on-one private lessons at $100+/per person.
A great middle ground is a small group, interactive online cooking class. These allow guests to cook along with the local chef, get feedback, ask questions, and meet fellow foodies from around the world.
We are adding new classes weekly at Devour Tours, and they're currently priced at €19 per screen -- so you can tune in and learn with the whole family!
- Perfect your paella skills with a Spanish paella class
- Cook a medieval Spanish recipe
- Make the most famous Roman pastas
- Prepare tapas with a Barcelona chef
2. Online happy hours
Being at home all day is difficult for many of us. Something I really enjoy doing when not on lockdown is grabbing an after-work drink with friends or coworkers. Luckily, happy hours have gone virtual, and connecting with friends, colleagues, and co-workers is as easy as opening Zoom.
Some tips and ideas for making the most of online happy hours:
- Organize the event: a friend wrote a great article on how to host a fun and festive virtual birthday party and I think a lot of her advice can be applied to almost any online experience. A lack of organization for virtual experiences means people are bored and screen fatigue sets in quickly.
- Join happy hour with a local business: Take a look at the bars, restaurants, and other local businesses around you and join a happy hour with fellow foodies from your community.
- Choose a theme: I've seen friends host a roaring 20's happy hour with costumes required, while others went for a cocktail theme such as margaritas or the now-famous quarantini.
3. Mixology class
Continuing with the drinks theme, another fun quarantine activity is perfecting your own mixology skills. With bars closed in much of the world right now, there's never been a better time to learn the basics of a good cocktail.
There are plenty of options to practice your skills, such as free Facebook and Instagram Live events with your favorite liquor brands and cocktail bloggers, mixology YouTube channels like this one, or paid courses through services like Udemy and Teachable.
4. Virtual dinner party
The best thing about a virtual dinner party? Your guest list can include friends and family from all around the world! So send your invites, choose a theme (suggestions below), and set the mood with music and decor. You might not be able to try each other's food and wine, but laughter and great conversation are worth the trade-off.
Tips for a virtual dinner party:
- Send invites (try Canva for cute templates)
- Keep the group small (3-8 people is recommended)
- Introduce everyone by email prior to the event
- Set a theme (you could go for a country/region, ask people to make their favorite comfort food or a dish from their dream destination, or have everyone cook a different dish with the same ingredients...etc.)
- Have discussion topics ready (depending on the group this might be informal "catch up on the last few months" or something more formal such as book or film recommendations, travel tips, cooking advice, etc.
5. Surprise bake along
Quite a few pastry chefs are hosting bake alongs where you buy the ingredients ahead of time but you don't actually know what you'll be making. This sounds like a lot of fun and I'd love to try one soon!
Check out Versaille based pastry chef Molly who offers these bake along activities a couple of times a month.
6. Virtual wine tastings
One of my favorite quarantine activities has been tasting new wines from around the world. Since we can't go out these days I've been using my restaurant budget to get some interesting bottles that I've paired with home-cooked meals. While many of my tastings have been self-led, I've also done quite a few virtual wine tastings.
- I traveled to Bordeaux with Luxe Adventure Traveler's tastings that highlight a local Bordeaux chateaux
- I refreshed my knowledge of Spanish wines with Nika, who leads a Spanish Wine Crash Course
- I ordered a tasting box from my local Madrid wine shop and joined their virtual tasting of the wines inside (check with your local wineries and wine shops for similar offers!)
7. A local food box
Small businesses have been hit incredibly hard by Coronavirus. So local food boxes are a perfect way to keep supporting local businesses in your community.
Here in Madrid, I have been ordering cheese, wine, market produce, and bread from different small producers who put them together in themed boxes.
In other cities, I've also seen innovative food tour boxes that combine the best of a handful of small businesses. You can see:
8. Cookbook club
Are you cookbook obsessed like I am? Why not join (or create) a cookbook club? The way it usually works is participants cook their way through one cookbook per month. You can set up a Facebook page (or similar space) to share your questions, advice, photos, and results! You could even combine this idea with a dinner party and have everyone make something from the book.
The hardest part of this one is choosing which cookbook to start with. If you love food from Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, and the UK try my digital cookbook,
. Proceeds support the company during Coronavirus. Recipes from the Devour Tours Kitchen
9. Host a lunch & learn
Get a group of friends or colleagues together and choose your topic. That's the premise of a "Lunch & Learn" a fantastic opportunity to eat lunch together while diving into a topic that is presented and led by a trained facilitator. There are many companies currently offering Lunch & Learns, and at Devour Tours ours are food-themed (of course!).
You can choose from subjects like:
- Tapas culture & top recipes
- Spanish ham 101
- Olive oil 101
- Roman food culture
- English history through 10 dishes
- Italian pasta masterclass
- Secrets of Portuguese cuisine
- French wine & cheese pairing class
10. The mystery box challenge
If you like to gamify your social interactions these days, a good old mystery box challenge is in order. Here's how it works:
- Put together a list of seemingly random ingredients (ideally someone who is not participating would do this for you). They should be a mix of pantry staples and specific ingredients people would have to buy.
- Give everyone the list in advance to be able to shop for the ingredients.
- On the day of the challenge, everyone follows the same rules to create their dish:
- You can only use the ingredients from the list plus ONE secret ingredient from your own pantry
- You have one hour to create your dish (you can shift the time depending on how difficult the challenge should be)
- To make it extra difficult you could give the dish a theme (Italian food, comfort food, etc.)
- Choose categories the dishes will be judged on, such as:
- Story (if you want each person to present their dish)
- Pitch (if you want each person to sell their dish)
- Taste (you can do this by recruiting the family or roommates of the participants - they have to give a taste score)
- You can eat together and turn it into a virtual dinner party
11. Ultimate foodie trivia
Gather a team together and get ready to prove who the biggest foodie is with fun trivia. You can have a look around for local companies and pubs already offering trivia events, or create your own. This website has some suggested questions for food and drink categories -- it's a great place to start!
You can make your trivia night even more fun by charging a small fee to participate and using it to provide prizes to the winners. Ideas include local product food baskets or tickets for a food tour in the future!
What do you think? Have any of these quarantine activities caught your eye?