15 Steps to Mastering the At-Home Dinner Date

How About We’s Lauren Passell shares tips on how to make an a dinner date at home worth her — or anyone’s while
These 15 steps will take a first date to a second one!
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These 15 steps will take a first date to a second one!

OK, so these are actually tips for cooking for me, but most of them will apply even if I’m not your date. (Number 15 might not.)

1. Plan to Make Something You’ve Made Before.
You’ll be more relaxed, which will make me more relaxed. In fact, do a practice run before the big day. I guarantee the meal will be at least 19 percent better than if it were your first try.

2.Tell Me What to Bring.

I’m going to bring something, even if you say I don’t have to. It’s more for me, though: It’ll make me feel less awkward ("Look, I’m holding this!") and less useless ("Look, I brought you this!"), so please tell me what that thing should be. Make it up, if you need to. Or think small. I’ll bring Tabasco sauce or lighter fluid for the lobster flambé you are about to prepare.

3.Do Not Prepare Lobster Flambé.

Or super-spicy anything, sloppy Joes, ramen, asparagus, or any of these other date food no-nos.

4.Why Don’t You Just Ask Me What My 10 Favorite Foods Are?

Once I was planning a meal for a sexy boy (actually, it was Nikki Metzgar, but I think this would work for a date, too) and I asked her what her 10 favorite foods were. She didn’t really know why I was asking or what I was planning, but I think she was intrigued. Then I planned the menu based on her favorites. She was totally surprised and happy, and it was a super random, special meal.

5.Make Sure You Know What I Won’t Eat.

I am a vegetarian, and I’m not polite enough to eat chicken just because you made it, or pick bacon out of whatever you made. Ask about allergies, special diets, etc. If you want some food inspiration, check out 101 Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen, or Matt Bites. (If your date is vegetarian, vegan or eats gluten-free don’t come crying to me, there are tons of ideas out there.)

6.Wine. Open. Stat!

When I am nervous or hungry or… basically any emotion whatsoever, I die to be greeted by a glass of wine. Don’t make me suggest it or ask if I want some or make me wait. (Feeling like an alcoholic makes me sad.) In fact, here’s a tip: open the bottle and start drinking it before I even get there. Then you’re all relaxed, and when I show up, it’s just like, "Oh, do you want some of this wine I already opened?"

7.OK, So I’m Drinking Now. How About Something to Eat?

Trust me: Unless you are looking forward to a night of awkwardly embarrassing stories, my flushed-out face, a little too much sentiment, a total lack of cool, and possible vomit-crying (worst-case scenario), you will feed me. Something small, like olives or cheese. Something that will ensure I won’t black out before dinner is served.

8.Please Give Me Something to Do.

…besides asking you "Is there anything I can help you with?" Let me chop, rinse, set the table, whatever. I am not expecting you to do everything — I want to help. And I’m not just going to swoop in and start seasoning the lobster flambé without a little direction. Make things less awkward by giving me a dumb little task. I’m so awesome at folding napkins it’s crazy.

9.Speaking of Napkins, Can We Go Cloth?

If you are really trying to romance me, you will knock my socks off by using real plates and silverware, and cloth napkins. Wiping my mouth with something other than The Quilted Quicker Picker Upper will signal to me that this is a real-ass date.