Picnic in the Park
When you want to get out of the house but don't want to be surrounded by people in a noisy restaurant, a relaxing evening in the park is the perfect getaway. If you have time to plan an elaborate alfresco feast, fill your picnic basket with homemade treats. If you're pressed for time, stop at an upscale grocery store. Start with a light fresh appetizer such as bruschetta. Serve wraps or paninis for an easy-to-manage alternative to the traditional sandwich as your main course. Include a crusty baguette, a hunk of gourmet cheese and an assortment of fruit for simple sides. Pack a bottle of wine or champagne, if alcohol is allowed in the park you're visiting. If not, opt for sparkling water. Finish your meal with chocolate-covered fruit and a bit of stargazing.
Depart from your traditional fare, and embark on a romantic journey together by turning your dinner date into a trip to a foreign country. Select a place you would love to visit, and let this serve as the inspiration for your meal. Browse internationally themed cookbooks for a homemade feast, or scour your city for an authentic restaurant. Pick up a translation dictionary and guide book for the country in question to peruse during your meal. Toss Italian phrases into your conversation as you dine on a rich spaghetti dinner. Pick out Parisian museums you'd love to visit while dining on French cuisine. Put some salsa music on the stereo while preparing a spicy Mexican meal. At the end of the meal, give your date a postcard of the locale of your choice to commemorate the journey.
An Evening of Favorites
Make a list of your date's favorite dishes, and put together a meal featuring every one of them. Though it may be a bit incongruous, the thoughtful attention to detail will outshine any strange culinary pairings. If you're up for a bit of restaurant hopping, start early and go to the spot with the best appetizer first. Head to another location for the best entree and another for dessert. For an evening at home, prepare your date's favorite appetizer, salad, main course, side dish, dessert and drink. Print out a special menu card for the meal, and name the dishes for the way you first enjoyed them, such as "Drive-In Burgers," "Prom Night Shrimp Cocktail" and "First Date Brownies."
Making dinner can be just as fun as enjoying it if you set the mood right. Choose dishes that you can prepare together so you spend the evening side by side in the kitchen. Have your date chop salad vegetables while you prepare the pasta. Make drinks to enjoy while you work. Feed each other bites of your dishes for periodic taste tests. Enjoy your appetizers at the counter while the entree simmers on the stove. Working together at an ambitious recipe and savoring the results together can be a wonderfully memorable experience. And, if your creations fail, you can always enjoy a laugh and a slice of pizza together later.