Queen’s Eats: Redefining the dinner date

Spice up date night with quality time in the kitchen

If you're looking to save money, cooking with your partner is a great date night option.

The classic dinner date is a cliché for a reason—what better way to woo your crush, or spend intimate time with your significant other, than trying artfully-plated dishes under ambient lighting? And since Kingston offers the most restaurants per capita in Canada, you’ll never be short of options for different cuisines at a range of price points.

While eating your way across the Limestone City can be a romantic adventure within itself, after the expenses of the holiday season, a romantic dinner date at home is a budget-friendly alternative. Not only that, but preparing a meal from start to finish is a refreshing way to spend quality time with your significant other.

The at-home dinner date is a cheaper variation of going out to eat, but totally customizable to your taste and skill level in the kitchen. If you’re a culinary novice, don’t worry. Here are some tips to get inspired:

Pick a recipe that gets your heart racing

Find a new recipe to capture some of the same excitement of trying a new restaurant. This can be as easy as searching Tasty or Bon Appétit online with your partner.

To take it a step further, think about the most memorable dishes you’ve had on previous food-related outings and try to recreate them. If you’re a savant in the kitchen, take a mini-date to a bulk store. Perusing the artisan spices at Tara’s Natural Foods or Bulk Barn is a great way to spark ideas for your flavour creation.

Make the grocery trip part of the date

Once you have a vision, it’s time to shop. Food Basics is ideal for deals on protein and its close proximity to LCBO for a complementing bottle of wine.

Take your time in the aisles. Going to the grocery store with your partner turns an errand into an outing, so don’t limit yourself to your shopping list. I recommend the international section for finding new ingredients to inspire you.

Treating the grocery store like a date in itself is more intimate than you might think. My partner and I frequent Metro looking for snacks, and we always end up spending an hour pointing out cereals we grew up eating, or foods that remind us of trips we took together. More importantly, we make a mental note of ingredients to include in our next cooking endeavor.

Chop, sauté, and chat

Once you have your ingredients, it’s time to cook. Divvy up chopping and sautéing duties so the process goes smoother, and so that you can focus more on each other. Play some music and pour a few drinks. It might take you twice as long to cook your meal, but one of the benefits of staying home for date night is that you can do whatever you want in the comfort of sweatpants. While your masterpiece is simmering away, enjoy the sanctuary of home, trading gossip, watching videos, and dancing around the kitchen.

Take time to make the final product special

When your hard work pays off and your dish is ready to serve, you’re probably starving, but this is the stage to show restraint. Add a little artistry to your plating. Wipe away any stray drip of sauce, pile pasta in a graceful swirl, add a sprig of parsley. You can even make it a competition between you and your partner to see who has the best plating skills. Adding an element of presentation makes dining in feel more like an occasion and less like the average meal.

Even if the meal turns out to be a disaster that sets off the smoke alarm, the time spent discovering and attempting a new dish with your partner is an adventure in quality time.

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