Connecting During the Holidays

November 19, 2020

video chat christmasThis holiday season is definitely going to be different to what we’re used to. For those of us restricted by distancing measures or who are taking extra care to protect those we love, it can seem very strange not to be together during the holidays. Luckily, technology is here to help us through this difficult time! The video chatting app Zoom has been a great tool for many families and friends who haven’t been able to be together physically. 

You may already be familiar with Zoom after many months already spent in lockdown. If so, you’re probably looking for some new ways to get together virtually with friends and family. If not, we’ve got some handy tips at the end of this piece for how to get started with Zoom. 

Zoom Gathering Tips 
So, how can we make our virtual gatherings seem less “video conference” and more cozy and familial? First things first, it helps to make sure you’ve got all the comforts sorted out on each end. Prepare to snuggle up on the couch with blankets and pillows and make sure you have a side table or a chair to place your laptop or tablet at a good height. Make sure your connection is good and the volume/mic is working on your speakers so you can all hear each other loud and clear.  

Since you’re making a night of it, you may as well hunker down with some drinks and snacks. For adults, a nice full-bodied red wine will do the trick, or even a warming winter cocktail such as hot toddy or mulled wine. For the kids, whip up a nice hot chocolate with all the trimmings - whipped cream, marshmallows, and chocolate shavings.

meat board festive 45A charcuterie board is the perfect accompaniment for your virtual hang-out. Low key, delicious and totally snackable, you can graze on meats and cheeses easily while you chat. 

How to Build a Charcuterie Board 
The best thing about a grazing board is that it’s 100% customizable. There are no rules to creating a charcuterie board, but we’ve got some general guidelines to help you put together a sumptuous selection. You can use a wooden cutting board, a metal tray or a plastic board - just make sure it’s nice and clean before you start. 

Experiment with Flavours
When it comes to meat and cheese, it’s hard to go wrong so don’t be afraid to try some bold flavour combinations. Try delicate Italian mortadella with a punchy blue cheese such as Roquefort or Gorgonzola. The zingy heat of chorizo goes fantastically with a smooth hit of mascarpone and a strong, aged Parmesan sits divinely alongside a slightly sweet summer sausage or a bolder German salami. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations at the Calgary Co-op Deli counter.

Play with Textures
Cured meats have delicate, velvety textures and, naturally, go very well with the equally irresistible smoothness of soft cheeses, such as brie. You can also mix in a crumbly feta or a more robust Manchego. Texture really comes into play when it comes to breads and crackers: crunchy grissini works marvelously as well as a pillowy slice of focaccia or ciabatta bread from Co-op’s bakery. You can even make your own toasts using slices of stale bread and a sprinkle of seasoning.  

Get Creative with Your Add-ons
Now that you’re a master of the basics of charcuterie board making, it’s time to have some fun. Jams and chutneys are an amazing addition to the saltiness of meat and cheese. Try a slightly sour quince jelly, an onion chutney or a smear of black fig jam, or look for for local condiments like Hellish Relish. 

Salty, slightly sharp sheep cheeses are heavenly alongside a spoonful of sweet black cherry jam and a delicate local honey like Drizzle Honey will make a decadent partner for a wedge of Camembert. The sky really is the limit, so add some crunch with a ramekin of mixed nuts—walnuts go particularly well on a charcuterie board— or a bowl of juicy, briney olives from the Co-op olive bar. You can add in some fresh fruit, too. Grapes, of course, are a classic but you can also try blackberries and raspberries for a pop of colour and crisp slices of apples and pears for a sharp, sweet crunch. 

kids board festive 45Get the Kids Involved in Charcuterie Fun!
Kids can also join in the fun by creating their own charcuterie boards. Let them choose and lay out their own selection of meats and cheeses. Or they can add crunchy raw vegetables with a range of dips such as ranch and guacamole. You can even let them indulge with a sweet board incorporating fresh fruit, melted chocolate and some cookies and candies on the side. 

Zoom Tips for Beginners
Now it’s time to take those snacks and settle in. If you’re new to Zoom, don’t worry: it’s an easy and hassle free way to connect with loved ones. 

You need a computer, laptop, phone or tablet with a microphone and camera. Typically, the Zoom host will send you a link via email and clicking on this will lead you directly to the call. You can either download the Zoom application or simply access the call online. You don’t need to make an account and Zoom will ask your permission to access the camera and the microphone so you and your loved ones can see and hear each other. It couldn’t be simpler! 

This festive season, we can feel less distanced from our loved ones by organizing fun virtual events with friends and family. Try this wine and cheese Zoom gathering for a festive night in you won’t forget.

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