Going out and eating a fancy dinner may not always be doable or the most preferred option. Making a reservation, driving to and from the restaurant or calling a cab, waiting for the food to be served, being around others….
The list about why eating out may not always be preferred goes on. Staying at home for dinner may not seem too attractive as well, but here are some ways you can make that meal the most elegant you have ever had.
1. Set good ambiance
The atmosphere of the dining area is what makes or breaks a dining experience. Restaurants know this – why else would most highly-rated restaurants all have great big glass windows open during the day, stay away from harsh LED overhead lighting opting for dimmers during the night, live pianists or soft instrumental music, candles? The environment is what sets up the mood and keeps the appetite alive for the evening.
To recreate this restaurant-esque experience, keep the lights dim. There are a time and place for bright, white, LED lights, but a romantic dinner is not one of them. If you do not have dimmers or a soft yellow lamp, try candles. Stay away from scented candles because they may clash with the food’s aroma. Electronic candles are also a great substitute if safety is a concern.
2. Have good plate presentation
Like many things in life, appearance matters. Have you ever ordered a dish that sounded incredibly appetizing at a restaurant and was suddenly put off by it because it looked like it was haphazardly thrown together by an angry teenager? On the contrary, have you ever ordered a simple dish, such as a Caesar salad or chocolate sundae, but believed it was the best you have ever had just because it was plated elegantly?
If you are the chef, before you serve the food, draw it out in your head or physically on a piece of paper. Look up ways to make the food more inviting, such as limiting the portion sizes and leaving white space on the plate. If you have mashed potatoes, don’t just plop it onto the plate – try putting it into a fancy little dish.
You can also try your hand at plate decorating techniques that the pros use – just practice a little before doing it with the real dish. Some ideas are garnishing with herbs that were used in the dish, sprinkling edible flower petals, sauce smears, and using colorful foods.
3. Bring out the fancy china
Going along with the presentation, the silverware and plates that are used to eat and serve food are also important. Although you may not want to wash dishes, especially after cooking and prepping dinner for a while, an elegant dinner is not one for paper plates and plastic utensils. Try to use fancier plates that are reserved for “fancy” occasions or guests.
4. Get creative and exotic with ingredients
Go all out with your grocery shopping. If you want to elevate your dinner, look up international dishes or try to recreate dishes from top-rated restaurants. It does not have to be perfectly replicated – not all of us can afford $300/ounce caviar or have the time to slowly braize a piece of meat for 48 hours. However, we can all go for the extra fancy cut of beef or spend an extra hour shelling some seafood for one night.
Some of my favorite ways to make this dinner different from other nights are to recreate international dishes. Go shopping for spices that are not commonly found in the cuisine that you and your significant other eats. Buy unconventional vegetables or meats not normally found in your local supermarket. I discovered that I loved salsify and bamboo shoots (when cooked correctly, of course) and that muttonchops are extremely hard to find but so worth it!
5. Bring out the fancy alcohol
No elegant dinner in a restaurant is complete without a glass of wine or champagne. Do your research before you but. Just because a bottle is older or costs more than another bottle does not always mean that it has a better taste.
Make sure the type of alcohol you are drinking also complements your food. Chardonnays usually go great with dessert if that is when you are bringing it out, and Cabernets go great with fatty foods, such as prime-cut steak or foie gras. Salads and lighter, less dense foods go great with Rosé wines.
Those are five ways to elevate your dinner at home into a 5-star restaurant meal. If It does not turn out perfect or how you expected, just remember that it is who you are eating with – not what and where. It is the thought that matters and how much effort you put into making this.
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