The 10 Commandments of the At-Home Dinner Date

by A Manly Guest Contributor on March 18, 2011 · 39 comments

in Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family

 

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Fisher,  a classically trained chef and consummate bachelor.

There’s nothing more romantic than a dinner date a home. Without the distractions of a restaurant, all of the focus can be on you and your date. You’ll find that the conversation will be more comfortable and honest. And of course, women love men who can cook. But when you’re cooking for someone else, it’s like you’re putting on a little show, and the pressure can be a bit nerve-racking. So just follow these “commandments” and recipe suggestions  and you’ll be sure to have a romantic and successful dinner date at home.

Commandment #1: A dinner date at home does not make a good first date.

No matter how excited you are to impress her, it’s kind of creepy to invite her to your house on the first date. She doesn’t yet know whether you’re a serial killer who’s literally planning on having her for dinner. Save it for the third or later date. Also, taking her to a restaurant first will give you an idea of what she likes. Pay attention to what she drinks and eats; it will help you develop your own menu.

Commandment #2: Get as much done in advance as possible.

In trying to impress my date, I’ve made the mistake of preparing overly complicated dishes. But with poor preparation, all of my attention was on cooking and not on her. That completely defeats the purpose. Prep as much as possible so cooking can be effortless, but leave some simple tasks for her so that she can get involved. It will add to the experience and can give you a distraction if the conversation lags. Having her make the salad is perfect for this, that way she will be cooking at the same time you are.

This also means you need to read through your recipes before the date. If you need softened butter, get it out of the fridge before you start cooking. If you need 1 cup of beef stock, measure it out before you start cooking. If you need the oven set at 425 degrees, turn it on before you start cooking. See a trend here?

Commandment #3: Never serve anything messy or difficult to eat.

No spaghetti, no lobster, no French onion soup…etc. Things can get very awkward if you are both concerned with getting pasta sauce on your shirts. Don’t overlook your salad in this respect; make sure your lettuce is chopped small enough to be bite size.

Commandment #4: Offer her something to drink that you know she likes.

If you followed rule #1 then you would know that she likes cocktails, loves beer, or hates red wine. If she’s a teetotaler, don’t just offer her water or soda; whip up something a little more interesting. Mimic what she would order at a restaurant, and she’ll be very impressed that you paid attention.

Commandment #5: Don’t chew with your mouth open.

Mind your table etiquette; you should know better. You’ll feel more comfortable because you’re eating at home, but the basic rules still apply. Put your napkin on your lap, not in your shirt. Don’t shovel your food and keep your mouth closed when you chew. Read this article for a full guide on table manners.

Commandment #6: Don’t get too drunk.

My girlfriend’s grandparents were in town for the weekend, and I decided it would be nice to make dinner for the whole family. Unfortunately, I had a rough day at work and decided to start in early with the tequila. I am not kidding when I say that it contributed to the demise of our three-year relationship.

Commandment #7: Have a backup plan.

Did you absolutely destroy your entrée? It’s okay, have this in your fridge: butter, heavy cream (milk in a pinch), grated parmesan cheese (the stuff in the plastic thing), and garlic.  Boom…you’ve got alfredo sauce.

Melt ½ stick of butter, add 1 cup of heavy cream, and some chopped garlic (one clove or so). Let simmer for a couple minutes then whisk in 1.5 cups grated parmesan. Salt to taste and add a good amount of fresh ground pepper. Serve over pasta with chicken, shrimp, or whatever you have on hand (having a rotisserie chicken in the fridge is always a brilliant move).

Mess up your alfredo? Laugh at yourself and order a pizza. She’ll appreciate your humility.

Commandment #8: Don’t bother with dessert.

Don’t go overboard: after you eat, stay out of the kitchen. Buy some ice cream, some sugar cones, and sprinkles or whatever. It’s impromptu and cute as hell. Who doesn’t like ice cream cones?

Commandment #9: Keep it simple.

The more variables you have the better the chances that things will go wrong. You don’t need candles and a table-scape to make a lasting impression on a woman. Making things as simple as possible will take a lot of pressure off of you and her. The recipes I have included focus on this concept, so stick with it.

Commandment #10: Relax.

It’s supposed to be fun.

____________________________________

Alright, it’s time to cook.

You need to have some food ready when she gets there so you have something to eat while preparing the salad/entree. Some simple finger food is always the best option — nothing heavy. That way you can eat while you are in the kitchen, and eating with your hands is fun. Bruschetta is a great choice because it’s better if you make it early in the day and pretty much everyone likes it. Skip the onions if you have a very picky eater on your hands.

Bruschetta

  • 1/2 baguette, sliced on a bias ½-inch thick
  • 2 large cloves garlic skinned and cut in half
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 roma tomatoes, seeded
  • ½ red onion
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Chop seeded tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Pile basil leaves on top of one another and roll like a cigar. Thinly slice your basil cigar, tip to tip. Chop the basil a bit so that you don’t have large hunks. Peel and chop the red onion into a small dice. Put the tomatoes, onion, and basil in a bowl. Add a quick drizzle of oil, a pinch of kosher salt, and some balsamic. (When adding kosher salt, rub your fingers together to crush the large crystals.)

Toss it all together and put it in the fridge for a few hours before the date.

Preheat broiler to high. Place bread slices on a sheet pan. Drizzle or brush a little olive oil on each side of the bread. Broil the bread on each side, but leave the door open. The broiler gets really hot so keep an eye on the bread. When the edges start to brown, flip them. Rub the toast with the halved garlic while they are still hot.

Done.

The salad should be prepared while you are making the entrée. Get her involved. Below is a very basic salad that involves some simple prep work for her.

Go buy a prepackaged bag of mixed greens/mesclun mix. Add to it the sorts of things you like in your salad. Chop up the other half of your red onion, slice some cucumber, chop some carrots, or add some cherry tomatoes. It is up to you what you want in your salad, but have her do the chopping.

Skip the bottled dressings and make this easy balsamic vinaigrette. If you made the bruschetta then you will already have all of these ingredients on hand:

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper to the balsamic in a mixing bowl and stir until the salt dissolves. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the balsamic mixture while whisking briskly. The dressing should emulsify nicely but pour it into a jar or bottle anyway. Give it a rigorous shake before serving and garnish with blue cheese and walnuts if you desire.

Entrée: Choose carefully.

I once made a purple crab cake stuffed swordfish for a date. It wasn’t until halfway through dinner that she told me that she doesn’t like seafood. She struggled through a very fishy dish just to be polite. It was an awful feeling. I didn’t pay attention to what she ordered when we went out to dinner, and I was paying the price.

Hopefully by now you know some of her favorite foods, so find a recipe on the internet that involves them; if you don’t know any yet, then play it safe. Choose an entrée that doesn’t require more than 20 minutes of prep and a total of 45 minutes of cook time. Stick with flavor “neutral” proteins (chicken or pork), some simple vegetables, and a basic starch. Here is a great example:

Molasses Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel Potatoes and Dried Fruit/Cognac Sauce

The night before:

  • Pork tenderloin, packaged from any grocery store, get a small one
  • ¾ cup molasses
  • 1.5 cup kosher salt
  • ½ gallon distilled water

This recipe is for a simple brine. The brine is going to add a lot of flavor to the pork. Put the molasses, salt, and water in a 1-gallon ziplock and give a good shake (feel free to use anything that will hold the pork and brine, just so long as the tenderloin is fully submerged). Put your pork in the bag and the bag in the fridge. Let it sit overnight.

Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 small fennel bulbs — remove the stalks and slice the white bulb about ½” thick
  • 1 yellow onion sliced thick
  • 5 small potatoes, quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Meat thermometer

When chopping the vegetables try and get them to a uniform size.

Now get out your pork loin. Pat the pork dry and try to remove excess salt (it should be a dark brown color). Let the pork sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Preheat grill to as hot as possible. No grill? You can use a regular sauté pan.

Toss the vegetables in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in roasting pan and in the heated oven.

Get the pork on the grill and leave the lid off (or put in a sauté pan over mid-high heat). What you want is a nice crust on the outside of the pork — the molasses is going to caramelize, but it will burn if cooked too long (if it burns, just cut it off before serving). The pork should only take a few minutes per side to crust.

Put the pork on your vegetables in the oven (stir your veg) and set your timer for 15 minutes. Check the temp of the pork every 15 minutes until your meat thermometer says 140 degrees.

When your pork hits the right temp pull it out of the oven and let it sit on your cutting board for 15 minutes (very important). Let the vegetables cook during this time

Cognac Sauce

  • ½ cup Cognac
  • 1 cup reduced sodium beef broth
  • Handful dried apricots
  • Handful dried cranberries
  • 2 tbl white sugar
  • 2 tbl softened unsalted butter
  • Pinch of kosher salt

While resting your pork, simmer the cognac with the sugar until it fumes. Put your dried fruit in a bowl and pour the warm cognac over it. In the same pot, heat your broth until reduced by about half. Add the fruit and cognac mixture to the beef broth and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and salt to taste.

That’s it. Slice your pork on a bias lengthwise and plate over the roasted vegetables. Finish with the fruit/cognac sauce across the top.

You made it. If everything goes as planned then the two of you are watching a movie on the couch and eating an ice cream cone. What you do now is for another article, but follow these rules and you’ll have a flawless dinner every time.

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian March 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

That sounds great. Now I’m hungry.

I cooked for my wife last night. If any of you are married and think the wife may be feeling a little unappreciated (deservedly so or not) whip up dinner. All I have to do is volunteer to make grilled cheese and soup and I get treated like a hero.

Last night was a two bone rib roast thawed from the freezer (Left off a 6 bone roast from Christmas, after we found that all of our family was not going to be making it for the holiday we had to cut it down before cooking so it wouldn’t be wasted) that I cut into Ribeye steaks (no time to roast it whole) marinated in some balsamic vinaigrette and grilled, mashed potatoes, baby lima beans and a salad. Took me all of 40 minutes to prepare and now I have earned enough points to go fishing this weekend.

2 Dauvit Balfour March 18, 2011 at 11:28 am

Haven’t read the article yet, but had to say love the picture at the top. Great album. Let’s just hope old pigweed’s not one of the ingredients in a dinner date recipe.

3 Strong Man March 18, 2011 at 11:46 am

Good ideas! I’ve done some fun at-home dinner dates. For prom or other formal dances, young people can even get together at a person’s house on a group date, have some awesome food–steak, halibut, shrimp, etc., and volunteer waiters, and save a ton of money and get better food at the same time. Often, parents are happy to help for the opportunity to know what they’re kids are up to.

Why not also let adults do the something similar–only more private?

4 creesto March 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Another really nice, simple and inexpensive touch is to have a pair of simple placemats and matching/complimentary cloth napkins. Nothing can kill the presentation of a well prepared dinner than paper napkins or folded paper towels. Cotton is best for absorption and washing, and if you use them only for occasions like this, they should stay in good shape. That plus any old candle, preferably non-scented, pretty much finishes your table without going all Martha Stewart on it.

5 Mark Petersen March 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Good thing this showed up today, I’m having a lady over tonight. It looks like I may have violated some of these but I’m still in the plus side.

6 jjyork March 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm

If you followed rule #1, you should know if you have a meat eater or vegetarian over for dinner. If a meat eater, pay attention to what she orders in the restaurant. I would stay away from pork, unless you know for sure she has no cultural or religious objections to it. If meat is a go, chicken or beef, and chicken is easier.
I would also shy away from outdoor grilling for the first meal at your place. Requires a bit more supervision, is weather dependent, and takes your focus off of her.

7 Andrew March 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Random note from an America’s Test Kitchen email that hit my inbox recently: plan three dishes, and make sure one of them can be finished ahead of time – just whipped out of the fridge or off the counter and set at table.

8 Mike Fisher March 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm

@Mark Peterson: Focus on #6 @ #9 and it’ll be just fine

9 Mike March 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

For the married couple this same guide applies when having friends over for dinner.

Also on the desert front, ice cream cones are cute but you could also do a trifle. It’s interactive and fun plus you can let her build it to her taste. Never had a trifle? All you do is get several desert items and layer, layer, layer. last time we did it we had dark chocolate chunks, chopped angelfood, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate sauce, caramel, crushed graham crackers and a few other things. Everyone had a different desert and everyone went back for more!

10 Phelps March 18, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Macerated berries for dessert. The day before, take some berries — fresh if they are in season, frozen and thawed if not — and put about two cups in a ziplock bag, along with a tablespoon of sugar and a shot (1.5 oz) of congac, brandy, or dark rum. Push out as much of the air as you can, seal it up, mix it all together with your hands, and toss it in the fridge. (Fresh strawberries take a little bit of prep — cut the stem and white part away from the top, and cut into halves or quarters.)

On date night, get something fancy to put about a half a cup in (small stemmed glasses are great, but it can be tough to get them out of big crystal) and top with a little bit of canned whipped cream. Done. If you have mint growing in the yard, garnish with a couple of leaves of that.

And you’ve got about a cup of berries to left over to feed to each other if things get really fun.

11 Cucch March 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I couldn’t agree with #2 more. Prep everything you can ahead of time. Nothing will bring the mood of a nice dinner date down more than you being grumpy in the kitchen. Don’t ask me how I know. I also love the implication of Commandment #6. The subtext is “Do get a little drunk or at least mildly buzzed.” Very funny!
Now for those awesome sounding recipes. As for the marinated pork, you had me at molasses. Sounds amazing. Also, I have three vegetarians at home so the fennel roasted vegetables will be finding their way to my table this week.
Another great article AoM! Thanks.

12 Arthur March 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Good article – now I’m hungry for both food and romance. Remember to credit the photographer of that wonderful image though! It’s by Elliott Erwitt.

13 Charlotte K March 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I gotta tell you, I’m a bitter old woman with a long trail of broken dreams behind me, but if a fella made me an ice cream cone on the first dinner date at his house, I would MELT right then & there (I hope the ice cream wouldn’t). That is the most adorable, darling, wonderful, sweet, cute, special date idea I have ever heard of in my whole life. It’s so much better than BUYING me an ice cream cone, I don’t even know what to say.

14 Liisa L March 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Cheers to this!!
EXCEPT: My darling TAOM gents, why are you serving a lady garlic on a date menu?
Bruschetta is very garlicky – I’d steer far from that on a potential date that can lead to kissing by the fire etc…..

I’d say a simple crudite’ – a veggie platter, which is easier to make and doesn’t need any garlic. OR : Mix some fresh grated parm (can be store bought), salt, pepper, red pepper flakes in some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and serve with a fresh baguette for dipping.
It’s less messy, less garlicky, still feels a bit decadent and tastes great without having garlic breath with your ….ice cream……..

yer welcome. <3

15 Eric Granata March 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Wonderful! Sage advise about skipping the dessert. Getting back into the kitchen kind of kills things.

Recently my wife and I have been setting up our new, electric fondu pot after the kids are in bed. We’ll do a simple cheese fondu with some dippers I pick up on the way home from the office. It’s a lot of fun. AND we found another eletric fondu pot at the thrift store so now I can prep the chocolate fondu and have it ready to go once the cheese is done without killing the mood.

Also, Lisa has the right idea above with a veggie platter or bread and olive oil. Sometimes a plate of olives, lebneh (mild yogurt cheese) and pita bread are all you need.

16 Drew W. March 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Great article, I would add one thing. CLEAN UP the kitchen ( as much as you can before she comes over) She should notice your cooking, not the disaster area it took to make it. Plus if it’s too messy, she may think the food isn’t sanitary. Just a thought. Otherwise, cook away.

Here’s a good easy starter, get 2 packs of softened cream cheese and mix it with a package of Ranch dressing mix (I use Hidden Valley, found right above salad dressings at the grocery store). Form it into a ball, sprinkle seasoned pepper all over it and surround it with Ritz. Easy, delicious starter.

17 Gentleman's Black Book March 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

“Mess up your alfredo? Laugh at yourself and order a pizza. She’ll appreciate your humility.”

I agree with that so much. If you screw up then just laugh at yourself. Divert her attention from the situation by suggesting something else, in this case, pizza.

Really great article, thoroughly enjoyed it!

DR

18 HeatherH March 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm

You might also want to learn if she has any food allergies.

I’m going to have to try the fennel and potatoes, I have fennel in my fridge and couldn’t think of what to do with it.

19 Renee March 19, 2011 at 5:31 am

Hey Mike,

I liked this post…once again, it’s nice to see people writing great articles for men that their woman can also benefit from :)

I don’t particularly agree with no.3 but loved the rest of it.

20 Samantha March 19, 2011 at 7:56 am

A great article but keep in mind that many women nowadays are vegetarians or vegans. There’s no better way to guarantee that this will be your last date than putting a meat dish in front of an animal lover, especially cruelty heavy meats like veal. Portabella mushrooms or pasta are great bases for easy veggie friendly meals. Keep in mind that seemingly innocuous ingredients like gelatin, rennet, or even honey are no-gos for many meat-abstaining girls. If your not sure what she can eat, ask her. Some vegetarians eat milk but not eggs, for example.

21 Darren March 19, 2011 at 8:10 am

Charlotte, that was sweet. :-) I also like making home-made ice cream sandwiches. Two big chocolate chip cookies with good vanilla ice cream.

All good advice. Especially the humility thing. I once tried to make Beef Wellington with a piece of chuck roast. No kidding.

22 Brucifer March 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Excellent advice throughout.

However, as Creesto correctly advices, do pay attention to proper place setting settings and yes, CLOTH napkins. I have a set of “good dishes” as opposed to everyday ones that I haul-out for en-casa dinner dates.

Hee-hee, I had a young lovely over for dinner once. We’d had many mutual friends, so had seen each other around, etc. and had gone out dancing together previously. Anyway, I tried to set her up in my living room, browsing my books with a glass of wine in her hand, while I cooked. But she soon wandered into the kitchen and said, “Hope you don’t mind, but I like to talk and watch people while they cook.” I said that would be fine. Then I said, “By the way, you never told me what you do for a living.” She said, ” Oh, I’m the Sous-Chef de Cuisine at (a trendy high-end restaurant in town).”

Valiantly soldiering-on with my preparations was taxing. But, she thoroughly enjoyed the meal and even asked for the recipe for the main course!

23 Margo March 19, 2011 at 1:38 pm

In addition to the point about cleaning the kitchen…don’t forget to clean the bathroom. Make it spotless, and please line the trashcan!!

24 Mikkel Nordvig March 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Great post with good advice galore, however with one flaw: Why on earth would you want to use grated parmesan? That stuff, in my humble opinion, smells and tastes like regurgitation – why not opt for at good block of real parmesan cheese? Its an entirely different product than the pregrated stuff, as it tastes marvellous, besides, its uses are innumerable, it isn´t too pricey, and it has rather long shelflife in your fridge. So my advice is to skip the industrial wasteproduct, and go for the real deal!

25 Kurt March 19, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I agree completely with the two major commandments: Don’t make it a first date. Even suggesting it risks making you a show off. And keep it simple. In the words of Damon Runyon, a story goes with it.
I was young, one year out of college and living in my first own home, a studio rented furnished with rundown furniture and not much of a kitchen. Which didn’t really matter, because I couldn’t cook. Except oatmeal and spaghetti. Otherwise I ate out.
I was madly in love and insistantly courting a girl a few years older, many times more experienced in matters of love, intrigued and infatuated by this volcano kid, but at the same time overwhelmed and slightly suspicious.
I took her to lunch, I took her to dinner — at the local pub, typically — and sometimes even to breakfast. Not out of bed at that stage, but as a suggestion the night before, “Why don’t we meet for breakfast on your way to work?” I wanted to see her as often as I could, and her acceptance was a confirmation. that our relationship was going in the right direction.
Eventually dinners started ending up in her apartment — twice the size of mine — and in her bed. One day I realized that we had to have a date at my place, so she could size me up.
Cooking was out of the question, but this was 40 years ago when pizza was a new item in Sweden, so one evening I suggested that we should order pizzas and eat them at my place, just around the corner. Of course she agreed, wanting to see how I lived.
It was supposed to seem like an ad hoc suggestion, but it wasn’t, and of course she never believed it was. It was well prepared. My apartment was cleaner than it ever had been, before or after I moved in, special care taken to the bathroom — make that a commandment — the dishes done, the bed well made with clean sheets. Chianti, candles and music.
All went according to plan. So a few days later, at her place, she suggested that since my bed was so narrow — we had barely been able to sleep even when we wanted to — and there wasn’t room there for a bigger one, why not move in with her, where there was room for a king size.
I did, six weeks after meeting her. 40 years later we still share bed and board, also three kids, two grandchildren and a third on its way.

26 Bill G. March 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Excellent advice. I wholeheartedly agree with #1 – Not on a first date, and #6 – Watch how much you drink. A few suggestions: I would go easy on the garlic and onions or just omit them till you are both more comfortable with each other. Just my opinion, but worrying about your breath is just one more thing to worry about. My other suggestion – go vegetarian. The first time I cook for a woman I always prepare a vegetarian meal. You almost can’t go wrong – unless she has a specific food allergy. She may eat meat, but not like pork, or she likes fish but not shellfish, or she won’t eat chicken if it’s still on the bone, or she likes her steak medium-rare and you overcooked it. Too many chances to get it wrong. There are so many elegant easy-to-prepare vegetarian dishes that appeal to meat-eaters and don’t scream “VEGETARIAN”. Also, I always prepare (or have available) a second “main” course – just in case she doesn’t like ingredient X , she has an option.

27 Hutch March 20, 2011 at 4:30 am

The best dinner date I’ve ever put together was one that I assembled in under ten minutes outside of my old girlfriend’s house one summer. I just pulled up, whipped a table out of the back of my truck, set up the food, table cloth, silverware, napkins, candles (candles are sexy, making them an absolute must). She was a vegetarian/health nut, so I brought potato soup with bottles of green tea on ice (drinks sticking out of a bucket of ice are also sexy). Finally, I had some good ol’ Frank Sinatra playing low in the background (yet again, sexy). And just so you know, the table settings looked great. She came outside with her hair still wet, but hey, there’s a reason she’s an old girlfriend now. Even with that said, hold a woman’s hand across a candle lit table under the stars on a summer night, while you enjoy a nice cold drink. Until then you haven’t really lived, haha.

28 jon March 20, 2011 at 10:04 am

Don’t forget to have fixens on hand for an excellent breakfast as well!

29 Mike Fisher March 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I am always a strong proponent of using the best ingredients possible, but I used pre-grated parm for a couple reasons. For one, it is something that a lot of people have in the their fridge right now. Second, and more importantly, the grate is so fine that it melts beautifully into sauces. Achieving this fine a grate is time consuming, but not impossible. In my restaurants we use a food processor with a very fine grate attachment. (Also, you can find decent grated parm in the deli section of a lot of grocery stores these days.)

The recipe is really meant to be conceptual – its the sort of thing I keep in my back pocket for emergencies. With this recipe I can make an alfredo in less than 5 minutes.

I always keep a healthy supply of cheese in my fridge too, try some creamy havarti on a pizza or feta on a BLT… It’ll change your life

30 Eric March 21, 2011 at 3:35 am

A great easy fix is pasta aglio di olio:
Pasta, olive oil, and garlic. Add capers or some carmelized onions/shallots. I buy a good sized hunk of parmesan, and grate it when needed. It lasts for quite a while. And if it gets too dry and yellow, makes a savory addition to a soup stock. BTW, I won my current girlfriend’s heart with fried pork belly and sharp white cheddar quesadillas after our 3rd or 4th date, and some beer drinking.

31 Isaiah March 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great article. Something to live by. Married or single.

32 Carson March 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

@Liisa L.: Given that the only three real *essentials* in any kitchen are garlic, onions, and olive oil (you can fake everything else), any woman you don’t want to serve garlic to isn’t worth having over in the first place.

33 Dawn March 22, 2011 at 8:49 am

Kosher salt? On pork?

It most definitely would creep me out to have a guy try to get me over to his place on the 1st, 2nd, or even the 3rd date. Maybe the fith would be OK.

I think most girls understand that when you enter his place, he is thinking you’re going to be his bunkmate for the night. Whether he is going to get lucky is another matter. On a first visit, I’d insist that I drive over myself. At least this allows me an escape option.

As to his menu, I like simple, but great. A world-class salad dinner (Cobb or Chef’s) beats Chicken Cordone Bleu everytime.

34 jeff March 28, 2011 at 4:01 am

I am a scratch cook having learned the craft from my mother, aunts, sister and every woman I have known for 54 years. Here are ten basic rules that I use, and have suggested to friends.

1. If you don’t cook for yourself regularly, from scratch, don’t bother to cook for her The stress from cooking and not knowing what you are doing will ruin the evening. You can get some great takeout and serve that without any embarrassment.

2. Rather than a dinner at home cook up a picnic for a public concert out on the grass. Simple fried chicken, potato or macaroni salad, good bread and a nice cheese with wine or beer eaten over an evening of Shakespeare in the park can be unforgettable.

3. If you’re going to serve a wine, be sure to decant it. A good wine should be treated as a good wine and not just something you pop open to wash down the food. If she doesn’t care for wine, but she drinks beer, get a few micro-brews to go with both cooking the meal and having it with the meal. A light beer drinker might really find it an experience to have their first Porter or ales.

4. If you’re going to cook for her at home, let her help in the kitchen as you prep the meal. The time in the kitchen is better than the time at the table, especially if she likes to cook too.

5. Don’t clean the house in one taxing chore, but take about fifteen minutes a day for a week or so. Really, there is no excuse for a cluttered or dirty house.

6. The first meal in your home is better if you have other guests along with the date, so she can relax. It is as easy to cook for five as two, easier in fact, and the lady will have an out to leave without any embarrassment when the other guest go, or stay without seeming to be pressured.

7. If she likes meat make a good steak dinner, Rib Eye, potatoes, greens, light salad. One well prepared steak will beat anything that you are going through a dozen cook books to find. Grill it if you have a grill, but don’t make a big production out of it.

8. Have her bring something to add to the meal, a dessert, appetizers that you can share while making the main dishes, or let her cook with you, as you handle the main course.

9. A good bowl of chili or a hearty soup with bread and salad is fine, as long as you have made the soup or chili several times. If you haven’t made it until you can taste it and know what it needs to be just right, don’t even bother with it.

10. Like the picnic, you can make her lunch too, don’t just think you have to have dinner; a Sunday brunch works well too. A meal in the dark of night can be intimidating as well as claustrophobic, so lighten the moment with a little sunlight.

Not a rule but an idea, if you have a dog or cat don’t make them part of the party unless they can be trusted not to act like animals. Same goes with kids too. And for God’s sake turn off the damned phones.

35 Mike M March 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm

The night I proposed to my wife, I baked lasagna (from scratch, including the sauce). All was done ahead of time and just baking in the oven when I went to pick her up. I don’t remember what else we ate, but it was perfect. 27 years later, she still loves it when I make the time to bake her some lasagna.

36 BullCalf April 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm

After dinner, after dessert, after a brief chat, then you say, I am going to do the dishes now. She will insist on helping. Let her, matter of factly. During the washing, while you are both at the sink, keep joking around (you should always be having fun when she’s around). Splash her. Once the water fight starts in earnest, you may grab her as part of the fight, and then while you are both laughing, kiss her once you have playfully overpowered her. If she is not up for this level of play she’s a poor prospect.

37 Nathan November 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm

What if it’s a first date at her place?

38 Jennifer February 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

Make sure she isn’t lactose intolerant.

39 Karim February 5, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Some of these comments are laugh-out-loud hilarious. There are a few sad, delusional men here who are making a poor impression of that already terrible Mel Gibson movie ‘What Women Want.’

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