It has been difficult, this past year, to figure out how to date Mr. Magpie while we’re more or less homebound. We managed two al fresco dinners in the late summer, when case counts were very low in NYC and we were feeling mildly encouraged, but this fall’s spike put a quick end to that habit, and we’ve had to get creative. A few fun ideas we’ve enjoyed or I am planning…
+Roll out fresh pasta together. We have a hand-crank pasta roller and there is something delightful antiquarian about it, but you can also buy the attachments for your Cuisinart. We love the (very complex — you’ve been warned) recipes in Flour + Water. (One of our favorites was a tomato farfalle with chicken polpettine that required the purchase of tomato powder and took us basically all day to pull off.). You might also draw recipe/menu inspiration from two of our favorite Italian restaurants in NYC, Misi and I Sodi. (Hone in on a dish that sounds good, then hunt for a similar recipe in a reputable cookbook! This cookbook is The Pasta Bible in our house — almost like an encyclopedia for pasta dishes.). While you’re cooking together, drink a fruity red Italian wine and enjoy a charcuterie plate.
+Elevate delivery. One of my favorite recent meals entailed ordering in the fanciest burgers from Polo Bar and serving it on wedding china with champagne in coupes while dressed to the nines. But you don’t even need a $30 burger to achieve the same effect — Shake Shack works, too! Other thoughts: if you always eat at the dining room table, or at the kitchen table, or in front of the TV, switch up the location for the evening! Set up dinner around the coffee table, with floor cushions and candles, or set the formal dining room table with candles and a tablecloth (<<this one is at the top of my tabletop lust list at the moment, but there are more spring tabletop finds here). One other little hack I love — getting creative with plating! We have a range of solid white, flat ceramic trays, platters, and serving bowls and it’s fun to, for example, re-plate fries in a big heap on a tray with little ramekins for various dipping sauces, or to arrange falafel alongside a stack of pita, pickled vegetables, and mounds of hummus on a long narrow tray. Or even just serving up a range of snacks on a tiered serving dish like this would be fun and dramatic.
+Have a proper movie night. Buy way too much classic movie candy (I’m thinking SnoCaps, Junior Mints, RedVines) and then pop your own popcorn (you can even buy super fancy kernels from Anson Mills — it is delicious), doctoring it to your tastes with, say, truffle oil or parmesan and butter.
+Pull out all the stops on an elaborate dinner. A few of my favorite romantic dinners at home this past year / ideas for future meals:
STEAMED LOBSTER, NEW POTATOES, AND DRAWN BUTTER
STEAKHOUSE: BUY THE MOST BEAUTIFULLY MARBLED RIBEYE (!!!) FROM A REPUTABLE BUTCHER AND SERVE WITH MASHED POTATOES, WEDGE SALAD, CREAMED SPINACH, ONION RINGS, OR ANY OTHER STEAKHOUSE FAVORITES
SEAFOOD PLATEAU: WE KITTED OURSELVES OUT WITH CRAB LEGS, OYSTERS, SHRIMP, ETC FROM LOBSTER PLACE IN CHELSEA MARKET, BUT IF YOU AREN’T LIVING ON A COAST, YOU CAN OVERNIGHT DELICIOUS OYSTERS FROM MOOKS SEA FARM AND SERVE WITH SHRIMP (WHICH ARE FLASH FROZEN ON BOATS SO DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE)
HOMEMADE FAJITAS/TACOS AND MAKE YOUR OWN TORTILLAS! NOT AS HARD AS YOU’D THINK — YOU JUST NEED THE PRESS
+Play a board game like Scrabble, Monopoly, Risk, Chess. Made much more fun drinking a pitcher of cocktails (martinis for the ambitious!) alongside some classic snacks, like homemade French Onion Dip (serve with Ruffles), homemade Chex Mix with your favorite seasoning mixed in (we love Old Bay, but I was just wondering what zaatar would be like in it…yum), and pigs in a blanket. (The Trader Joe’s brand of pigs in a blanket are THE BEST! Sometimes I brush with egg wash and sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning.)
+Dress up. Even if it just means putting on a slick of lipstick (<<my absolute favorite lipstick formula), or switching into a nap dress instead of sweats. A few weeks ago, my sister and her husband dressed up (my sister was in heels and lipstick and everything!) and staged their apartment in different zones — they had cocktails and appetizers in the living room, then sat down to dinner at the dining room table.
+Set an escapist theme. We’ve been on a Toots & The Maytals kick in our house — turn it up, mix up some beachy cocktails (this is a delicious one), wear a summer dress, dream up a menu with ceviche or mango salsa or plaintains, and you can almost hear the waves…
Date Night at Home Outfits.
If you’re looking for something besides a nap dress or loungewear to mark the occasion, a few cute tops to pair with your favorite jeans…
LOVE THE PRINT AND SHAPE OF THIS TOP
THIS CECILIE BAHNSEN (HEART EYES)
If you are looking for a dress that is comfortable but chic, I love this Loretta Caponi, this knit Sezane, this R. Vivimos, this $80 gingham, this gorgeous polka dot (a reader recently wrote that all men love a polka dot and I can’t un-hear it), and this saucy Zimmermann.
P.P.S. Some love letters to my man: on his 37th birthday, on our ten year wedding anniversary, while muscling through many-a sleepless night with our newborn son, and just because.