Where?

Once you figure out what and when to eat and with whom you're dining, the next major question is where will this meal take place? Of course, there's always restaurants, your place, your date's place, outdoors, or places that are special to you. Each location offers great possibilities for making a night into something pleasant, sensuous, or memorable.

Restaurants

Dining out can take several forms. Let's start with something simple, like fast food in your car. How is that romantic? It depends. If you're looking for stuff to just slam down and keep moving, not so much. On the other hand, we've developed a long-standing dating tradition of hitting a fast-food joint for an ice-cream cone. It's light, simple, and you can catch up on the day's events or other topics while taking a relaxing drive. More than a few of those have led us back to the days of heavy-duty smooching. It's a good way to act younger as you're getting older. Besides, you can make a real show out of the sensuous consumption of an ice-cream cone, which does, after all, involve lots of licking.

The great part about dinner dates is that every night you're hungry again, so they're always an option for an evening of romance. Just take the time to go. If you're on a tighter budget, choose less expensive places.

Beyond fast food, trips to restaurants as a couple tend to take two forms. The first is going there to make the meal the evening's only or main event. The whole point is to take your time and indulge yourselves in a sumptuous menu. The second form occurs when dinner is a precursor to another activity such as a movie, play, or musical performance. Many couples dine after, rather than before, the show. Either way, food is only part of the evening's story.

When the meal is the whole point of the outing, the pace is usually a little slower. Taking the time to savor and share your food makes for a wonderful evening. As the meal progresses, you can talk, flirt, touch, taste, and gaze into your lover's eyes. Feed appetizers to your partner, try each other's entrées, and pay special attention to sharing your desserts. Love can blossom anywhere, whether it's at an inexpensive buffet or a fancy candlelit restaurant.

Things to Consider When Dining Out

  • Try a new type of cuisine with your partner. Sharing a culinary adventure is romantic!

  • Try to go during quieter periods, unless you like crowds and waiting.

  • Don't stuff yourselves until you just want to go home and take a nap.

  • For dating purposes, split the tab and “treat” each other regularly.

  • If you're on a budget, keep the cost down by choosing a more moderately priced place or by skipping a few of the extras such as appetizers and drinks.

  • After the waiter takes your order, whisper to your partner that you aren't wearing underwear. Then see which is hotter, the food or your partner.

There is another way to incorporate the restaurant experience into an evening. Just go for dessert. We already mentioned our drive-around ice-cream cone dates. You can take the concept further by getting dressed up and going to a nice place just for coffee and a slice of pie, or whatever the house features. Couples with money worries can use the approach to get out, circulate, and still not spend a fortune. Besides, many desserts have those sexy components in them: whipped cream, sauces, and chocolate.

Fixing Food for Your Partner

Do you remember the first time you prepared a meal for your partner? You probably do, since it's always a little nerve-racking and exciting. Cooking dinner to be shared by candlelight somehow represents the “next step” in many relationships. For one, the person is now coming into your home, which may be a first. At the least, the context of the date becomes the living room and dining room rather than some neutral site like a restaurant or movie theater. That adds worries about the appearance of your place, from how clean it is to whether he or she will like your taste in furniture and wall ornaments. In other words, your partner is going to learn something about you.

To create a softly lit, romantic scene, drape a colored scarf or handkerchief over a lamp. Just don't leave the lamp unattended in case the scarf ignites. Starting a fire of passion is one thing, starting a fire in your home is quite another.

Then, there's the food itself. The smart approach here, of course, is to ask your partner what he or she likes. You can also make suggestions, such as, “I make a pretty mean pot roast.” When you receive a dinner invitation, be diplomatic but honest when asked about your food preferences. For example, “Well, I really like the idea of having dinner with you, but I'm a vegetarian, so maybe we could try something other than pot roast?”

There is also that dreaded moment when you try someone's cooking and it's awful. It's tough to not spoil the whole evening. Once again, diplomacy must come into play. Do your best to eat a little bit. The goal is to avoid hurting the cook's feelings; remember the effort he or she has made on your behalf.

To help avoid a bad-meal disaster date, teach your kids how to cook (even those males who are totally resistant). Point out that many of the world's great chefs are men. Also, remind them that some day Mom or Dad won't be around to fix stuff. Besides, men who cook for women are probably in the same category as men who can dance and men who can sing. They seem to fare pretty well when it comes to enchanting potential partners.

Fixing food for someone you are dating is one of those ventures in which you'll almost always get an A for effort, regardless of the actual quality of the meal. The great part is that as the cook, you have so much control over the setting. You can make it dimly lit and intimate, or bright and festive. The music you choose can be soft and seductive or energetic. In other words, you can reveal a great deal about yourself and how you want the night to go simply by how you set up the situation.

Make sure you have everything you need for the meal, including all of the utensils and cooking equipment. It never hurts to invite a friend over for a dress rehearsal before you try a new recipe out on a date.

Key Items to Have on Hand When Cooking for a Date

  • Candles

  • Cloth napkins

  • Corkscrew for wine or champagne

  • Entertainment for the time when you're in the kitchen and your date is waiting

  • Favorite beverage (ask in advance)

  • Flowers

  • Lots of food (don't make your date go hungry)

  • Mood music

  • Prearranged menu (make sure you know what he or she likes!)

  • Tablecloth

  • Table decorations (make them creative and special)

Picnics

The picnic tradition goes way back in our culture. It's another way to be alone and intimate without going to a restaurant and without inviting someone to your home. Many of us grew up with family picnics. They also make nice dates. All you need is a cooler, a basket, a blanket, and some free time. You can sit in the shade or venture out into the sunshine on a cooler day. Sometimes you can use a picnic table and sometimes you can just find a spot.

Eating Outdoors: Love It or Leave It?

Is it true that everything tastes better outdoors? It depends on your perspective. Many couples love to fix light foods, grab a bottle of wine or soda, some chips or cheese chunks, and head to a park or beach. How many movies have featured romantic picnic scenes, with the man's head in his lady's lap, being fed grapes while they talk about love? On the other hand, some people don't believe that there is a great advantage to dining outside. You have to deal with the wind, temperatures that are too hot or too cold, insects, and all the messing around with carrying stuff out.

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