Aaron and I haven't been out on a date night yet since having Juliet (almost five months ago!). I just finally got my haircut last weekend so that's a start. I honestly haven’t really felt the desire to get out at night. (Hello, sleep.) Pair that with the fact that we don’t have any family in town, i.e. no babysitters at the ready, and going out to dinner just the two of us isn't happening.
But in the meantime! I stumbled on something that helps make an ordinary night at home feel a bit more special — a souped up cocktail hour. Having a glass of wine or sharing a beer on the couch at the end of the day is nothing new. What makes it feel special is the addition of a small savory nibble to pair with the drink before dinner.
The food culture in France has always really appealed to me and lately I've been reading about how centered it is around gathering up the people you care about and letting delicious food and drinks enhance the experience. This little hack I discovered without looking for it makes me feel almost French in its elegance.
One Friday night I decided to make us a little appetizer to snack on before dinner -- Parmesan zucchini fries from Sarah Britton's cookbook Naturally Nourished. And then I decided we should munch on them while sipping a glass of Malbec and sitting at our bar before eating dinner. Ooh la la, I loved it. So the next night I made us her sour cream & onion roasted chickpeas.
I knew I hit on something last Thursday when Aaron asked: "Is it the weekend?" And realizing it wasn't: "Oh, I was hoping for a goûter tonight." (Goûter, pronounced GOO-tay, is the word the French use for kids' after school snack. The literal translation is "to taste" and we've adopted it to mean a little treat of some kind.)
So the next afternoon I made these salty + sweet roasted pepitas for us to munch on with rosé after putting Juliet to bed. This time I also felt inspired to change my shirt, dab on lip some gloss, and light some candles. All of those tiny things add up to what feels like a real transition into adult time. Again, that elegant feeling. And it sets the tone for dinner to feel a little bit more leisurely. Usually I'm so starving by the time I get done putting Juliet to bed that having some wine before dinner would knock me down. The snack makes the languid pace possible.
Whipping up an amuse-bouche in addition to, you know, dinner might feel a little ambitious. For me it feels manageable that it's weekends only. And the pepitas will last us through a few cocktail hours (on separate nights!) if we try. In a pinch, we could always skip the cooking and open a jar of fancy olives instead.
Even if I didn't have a new baby, I still think this could be a neat trick. For when you're trying to eat at home more to save money. For when you're trying to get the most enjoyment out of a lighter meal. For when you want to have a romantic date night with yourself.
A real date night out is in our near future, but until then, vive l'apéritif!