The Perfect Romantic Dinner

Source: Samanta Celera, CC 2.0

You’ve had the coffee date and the movie date. Now you think it’s time to invite sweetie to your place for dinner and perhaps dessert.

This may be over-prescriptive, so feel free to use and not use these ideas as you see fit.

When and what

Choose an evening when both of you are likely to be fresh. Yes, typically that’s Saturday night, but there’s no law against a weekday night or even Sunday brunch if that feels wiser.

Choose a menu that will feel romantic but not require you to slave in the kitchen while s/he’s there  Sample:

Prawns with cocktail sauce

Champagne/sparking wine.

A salad: My favorite is baby lettuce plus tomatoes, blue cheese, and croutons or candied pecans. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Hint (Don’t use cherry tomatoes. Too great a risk of squirting.)

Main course should be:

  • Makeable in advance.
  • Baked rather than boiled or fried. That avoids having to monitor the dish when you should be focused on your, well, other dish.
  • Easy and fast to prepare, ideally a one-dish main course.
  • Not messy to eat. It’s not the time for ribs, lobster, or enchiladas.
  • Not too filling. Forgo cheesy sauces and carb fests. You don’t want to induce food coma.

Examples of main courses that meet all those requirements:

Dessert. Store-bought is fine as long as it makes a good appearance. Again, choose something that requires no kitchen time when GuestyPoo is there. Examples: Trader Joe’s Chocolate Ganache Torte or vanilla ice cream topped with fresh berries.

The countdown

Set the table in advance. Cloth napkins and tablecloth are impressive although nice placemats and paper napkins are fine.

Flowers and/or candles may be perfect or too much. Trust your gut. If you don’t have champagne glasses, dollar stores usually have them for, yes, a dollar.

An hour or more before your partner’s arrival, put the champagne in the refrigerator or, for chilling in a half hour: the freezer.

A half hour before, make the salad and cover with plastic wrap.

Put out the prawns (which of course have been refrigerated before) and cocktail sauce (store-bought is fine) on a serving plate. Place it where you’d like the stand-up first part of the conversation to take place. Typically, that’s on the kitchen counter or bar.

Adjust the lighting so it’s not too bright but not so dim that you look like you’re trying to get to dessert too quickly.

Five minutes before arrival, put on soft music. If it’s a CD, put it on replay, so you don’t have to keep alert to it ending.

When s/he rings the bell, take a deep breath. You’re prepared so now your job is to be fully present for Snookums. It’s natural to be nervous and thus perhaps run off at the mouth. Just prepare to make good eye contact, and listen well.

Give babykins a welcoming hug: not too much, not too little. Don’t rush things.

If SnickerDoodles has a coat, wrap, or umbrella, ask, “May I take that?”

Give Tweetie-Pie the space to initiate conversation. Listen well. At the first lull, ask “Champagne?”

In another minute or two, walk Ducky Wucky to the prawn plate or bring it to him/her.

Continue the conversation. Remember, you should be talking 30 to 50% of the time. Really listen with your ears and body language.

After 15 to 30 minutes, at a lull, ask, “Ready for salad?” If you wish, offer more champagne.

Allow a little time between the salad course, main course, and dessert. You don’t want to rush.

Do that and perhaps during or soon after dessert, the time may be right for that second “dessert.”

Dr. Nemko’ nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at


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