Back when I was still a columnist for a daily broadsheet in Manila, I wrote this piece about dinner date ideas one can do at home. Since they’ve folded the section where my column was filed under, I can no longer find the article online, so I’m posting an entirely new one here. Photos from this article were shot by Toto Labrador.
I absolutely love having dinners with my husband, and enjoy trying out different cuisines with him. But the really bad traffic and sometimes the crowds that we encounter when we’re out often dissuade us from doing dinner dates lately.
So one thing I’ve tried is to recreate the fancy, dinner date feels on our own dining table. All you need to do is to rummage through your home for stuff you already have or may be keeping in storage, and repurposing them in a dinner table setup reminiscent of your favorite fine-dining restaurant.
Materials you'll need for your dinner setup
If you keep certain dinnerware, decor, and accessories in storage, this is a great time to bring them out. Using plates and silver that you don’t normally use on a regular day helps elevate the experience, akin to bringing out your mother’s best china when you’re having guests over.
And why wouldn’t you bring out your best china for your best person?
- Your special-occasion place mats
- Stemware (preferably a separate water and wine glass)
- At the very least, a dinner spoon, dinner fork, dinner knife, and dessert spoon or fork
- Dinner plate, salad plate, and/or dessert plate
- Saucer and cup for your coffee or tea, teapot optional
- Potted plants or flowers (faux works just as well)
- A platform or cake stand where you can place your table centerpiece
- Cloth napkins, or if you don’t have them, get those special folded paper napkins you can buy from the supermarket, in an elegant design or color palette that you like
- Printed menu on card-stock paper
Dinner date idea #1: Pick your dishes from the takeout menu
“Plan” your menu by taking your pick from your favorite restaurant, or any new restaurant you’d like to try. Go for a few selections that you and your partner can choose from, and if budget allows, make it at least a three-course meal.
So that means you’ll have your:
- Salad or soup
- Main entree
For this particular dinner, I picked items from Conti’s Restaurant. I appreciated that their online menu has detailed descriptions of each dish, so I was able to copy those to create a menu place card for my home-dining idea.
What’s a fancy dinner without the “spirit”? I’m a sauv-blanc kind of gal and normally have a bottle on reserve for moments like these, but your choice of wine or drink will depend on what dishes you’re having. For a quick tutorial on how to pair your dishes with your wine, check this out.
Dinner date idea #2: Create your own dinner menu place cards.
I use Canva a lot for both personal and business uses, but for this (old 2017) story, I created menu cards on Adobe InDesign.
I laid out the menu to fit into half of an A4-sized, card-stock board, printed them out, and placed them on top of each plate.
To top it off with a bit of flair, I put a sprig of faux lavenders from my bunch of faux flowers. I’ve seen various table settings where real stem cuttings were placed as decorative menu toppers.
Traditionally, intricately folded cloth napkins are placed on top of the plate. But one idea I suggested in this story is placing a small gift box on top, as a dinner surprise for your date.
Dinner date idea #3: Create a raised vignette as your table centerpiece.
Raising your table centerpiece gives it a bit of “importance” on your table setting. A wood block, tray, or a low cake stand all can serve as platforms for your centerpiece vignette.
Don’t elevate it too high though that it will block your date’s line of sight; you’d want to be able to talk to them through dinner instead of having to peer at them from the side of your flower arrangement, don’t you?
For more tips on creating great table centerpieces, check this article out from Homes & Gardens.
Dinner date idea #4: Use special-occasion serving plates for plating your courses.
Having a dinner date at home means you’re trying to make the experience less of a regular dinner in. So bring out your beautiful serving plates and arrange your takeout food on them.
Plating adds that wow factor, and impressing your date, even when he’s seen you (and your plates) before, adds to the magic of the night.
Dinner date idea #5: Elevate the ambience with soft, dinner music.
I love having meals with music in the background (and I am guilty of singing along while eating—sorry mom).
But for dinner dates like this one, romantic background music helps establish that lovely, charming ambience you want to go for.
Some of my go-to tunes for dinner dates at home include anything from:
- Frank Sinatra Nat King Cole
- Glenn Miller
- Billie Holiday
- Astrud Gilberto
- Etta James
- John Coltrane
- Serge Gainsbourg
- Eartha Kitt
Dinner date idea #6: Have your dessert and coffee or tea in a different corner
“How about let’s have coffee and dessert somewhere else?” Yep, you can totally say that even when you’re dining in at home.
Set up your coffee or tea and dessert plates of your third course for the evening at a different corner—say, on your balcony or garden, if you have one, or even just in front of the TV, so you can have your nightcap in front of your chosen movie for the evening.
In the hustle and bustle of daily life, finding time for a romantic dinner date can be challenging. But with these creative dinner date ideas at home, you can elevate your dining experience without the need to venture out. From setting a romantic table to adding personal touches, make every moment with your loved one special.
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All photos by Toto Labrador, except vinyl record on turntable photo by Lisa Fotios/Pexels. Article written by Camyl Besinga.