Sanity in the Time of Coronavirus

Well, we’re a few weeks in and you’re probably beginning to feel like Jack Torrance well into his “novel” at the Overlook Hotel (and if you’ve never seen “The Shining,” you truly have no excuses now). But ol’ Jack might not have gone so stir crazy if he’d just taken a few quarantining tips from yours truly. 

The first thing to remember is that we’re gonna get through this. In the meantime, if you’re searching, grasping for some semblance of normality, and are feeling queasy about another quarantini (recipe: any liquor in the house mixed with some other liquid, shaken and served in a martini glass), here are a few sanity-saving ideas. 

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One thing to keep in mind is that it’s critical to keep our chefs and bartenders afloat, so they don’t split town. Avital Tours is helping in this regard by offering them a platform to share their expertise with the public, virtually, of course. The virtual culinary experience features webinars with local chefs and bartenders. 

 Virtual Chefinar allows you to interact with an expert over video chat as you cook a recipe with them from your own kitchen. Virtual Mixologist will teach you about how to make balanced cocktails while you learn skills and techniques from an expert bartender. Both experiences include an optional ingredient boxthe box shows up at your door with everything you’ll need to cook the dish or make the cocktail alongside the experts.

 “Our restaurant partners have become our friends and family. This is a perfect opportunity to keep chefs and bartenders working and a great option for remote team building, birthday parties, and group activities with friends,” says Avital Ungar, founder, and owner of Avital Tours. 

“Right now thousands of people are out of jobs. And until our lives go back to normal, we need to come together to support our favorite neighborhood pubs, date night bistros, and family cafes. These virtual experiences give chefs and bartenders the opportunity to share their love of food and drink, just like they’ve done night after night,” Ungar says. 

Chefs and bartenders interested in being featured can contact If you’re interested in booking a group activity, contact

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Meanwhile, Sunday is Easter. And if you’re as religious about the culinary arts as I am, you may be of the opinion that Easter dinner is no place for the laity. If you’re all cooked out and ready for the pros to take the spatula, consider the deal going on at Boxwood restaurant at  The  London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills.  

Tell me this isn’t a deal worth coming back from the dead for: 

  • Baked ham with brown sugar, mustard glaze
  • Locally farmed baby beets
  • Rainbow carrots
  • Scalloped potato gratin
  • Buttered green asparagus
  • Tender lettuce greens, lemon-mustard vinaigrette
  • Carrot cake cupcakes
  • Hot cross buns

It serves 2-4 people for $80! But there’s a catch, right? Yes. You can’t enjoy it with friends on the rooftop patio. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to eat it in front of the TV while binge-watching Netflix. You have a table, right? See if you can guess where I’m going with this…

Or, here’s another Easter dinner idea, courtesy of SLAB barbecue. It feeds 4, for $130 and includes: 

  • 2 lbs. of brisket and 1 whole chicken
  • 2 choices of sides (family size: coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, Collard greens, mac n’ cheese) 
  • Dessert:  carrot cake (feeds 4) 
  • Additional included Easter sides:  white bread, SLAB bbq sauce, pickles

Curbside pickup available April 11 & 12 starting at 11. The full menu is available for pickup and delivery, including beer and wine. 

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And one more idea to help you escape those same four walls. How about a trip to Machu Picchu. Yes, please tell me more! Certainly. Without booking a flight to Lima, without braving the dangerous outdoors, without leaving the comfort of your own sofa, you can experience a 360-degree virtual tour of the famed Inca ruins. Just go to for a fully immersive foreign staycation. 

Peru recently launched a massive reforestation program at Machu Picchu to deal with the overtourism at the site (not that it’s much of a problem at the moment). The “One Million Trees for Machu Picchu” initiative kicked off earlier this year, with the planting of 100,000 seedlings in the Salkantay River basin – half of which were handled by a squad of 250 volunteers. 

Created and managed by SERNANP (Servicio Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas) and sponsored by REI Adventures, Mountain Lodges of Peru, and its NGO Yanapana Perú, the project aims to minimize the carbon footprint left by visitors to the region and restore the forests of the Andean highlands in Cuzco

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Speaking of exotic locales, you can now transform your home office or breakfast nook or whatever spot in your home you conduct your Zoom on-camera calls (please don’t say the bathroom). The app now features free settings that allow users to disguise their dull space with gorgeous resort backdrops. 

Picture it: You throw on a white linen shirt and muss your hair a bit, and when you turn on the camera, your co-workers see you’re doing your TPS reports from Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. You sip your coffee in front of the saltwater lagoon and ask Janice if she can repeat that, you’re sorry, you couldn’t hear her over the dolphins. Or ask Phil to wrap it up, it’s margarita time around the fire pit. Check out some of the backdrops here.

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Other resorts include: 

  • BLUEFISH VACATION RENTALS (Harbor Country, Michigan) CAYO ESPANTO (Belize)
  • COCO BODU HITHI (Maldives)
  • FAIRMONT MAYAKOBA (Mayakoba, Mexico)
  • GRENADA (Grenada, W.I.)
  • LA PAZ (Baja California Sur, Mexico)
  • SKYDECK CHICAGO (Chicago, Illinois)






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