Learn from the Pros: Make Your Date Night Dinner a Hit

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Maggie Niemiec
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Art Credit: Sara Kerens

If “dinner date night at home” sounds more like a kitchen nightmare than a quiet romantic evening, you’re in good company. As someone whose cooking repertoire maxes out at tacos, I decided to get some professional help to make a date night dinner worth remembering.

Enter: Kitchensurfing. The start-up allows you to book a chef for a dinner (or for your holiday party) and they work with you to pick the menu, do the shopping, and help you cook it up. My boyfriend and I got to watch a master at work, expand our skills, and enjoy some fantastic food and wine along the way.

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Our chef Rachel Lauginiger specializes in simple, elegant meals made with plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables, so we got the fresh farmers' market treatment to boot! Even without your own private chef, you too can host a fabulous dinner date night. These seven tips make it easy.

(And if you want to try out Kitchensurfing yourself, a discount offer is at the end!)

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01. Change up your usual ingredients.
Dandelion greens, beluga lentils, French breakfast radishes. Never heard of 'em? I hadn’t either until Rachel came into my home. Each ingredient she used was carefully selected from either the NYC Greenmarket or the organic section at the grocery store. Shopping at your local farmers' market means you’re using the freshest ingredients possible. Another bonus: What’s available changes from season to season, so your meals will reflect that.

02. Set the mood.
You’ll be surprised what a $6 bouquet of Sweet Williams will do for your kitchen table. Use lower lighting and light a few unscented candles. (You don't want the candles to compete with the tantalizing smells coming from your kitchen!) This will add plenty of ambiance to your home for date night.

03. Make a playlist.
Think soft and smooth. You want to be able to talk over the music but still have a fun soundtrack in case you decide to dance around the kitchen impromptu—trust me, it happens. James Taylor and Frank Sinatra fit the bill. When in doubt, put on Ella Fitzgerald’s “Pure Ella” and you’re good to go.

04. Put your phone on “do not disturb” mode.
If you really want to make date night special, then put your phone away for the night. Resist the urge to post a picture of your dinner. (If you must snap pic, make it a #latergram.) Give your date and yourself a few hours of quality couple time with no distracting chimes or buzzes.

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05. Designate roles for each of you.
Decide if either you or your guy will be the sous chef, in charge of prep—cleaning vegetables, cutting, chopping, etc. Rachel had my guy and me both focus on prep work, but if she weren't in the kitchen, one of us would have taken the reins at the stove instead. Not only does this keep the cooking moving along, but it also ensures you both can contribute without stepping on one another's toes.

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06. Plan three courses.
Start with a salad or appetizer, then move on to your main dish, and finish with dessert. Make dinner as interactive as you can so the two of you can work together. As tasty as a date night classic like spaghetti is, it doesn't leave much room for collaboration. Rachel's menu included plenty of fresh ingredients for us to work with but was still simple enough that we novice chefs could handle it. Here's what we made during my Kitchensurfing dinner:

Dandelion greens salad with bacon (the real stuff!), radishes, black lentils, and homemade vinaigrette
Pan-roasted chicken with apricot white wine sauce, lava beans, and shallots
Vanilla cardamom pudding with roasted sweet cherries

It sounds complicated, but I promise it's doable! Click here for easy instructions on the perfect pan-roasted chicken and homemade vanilla pudding.

07. Clean as you go.
It may seem like a pain, but cleaning a little bit as you go means you can relax at the end of your meal. Wash your pots and pans in between cooking different courses. Then when you’ve finished dinner you can both hit the couch without a pile of dishes to deal with—full and happy from the incredible dinner you just whipped up.

For a $50 credit toward your own Kitchensurfing experience, sign up with a free account here.