The fine art of dating and dining

I recently started dating again, and it occurred to me the other day how important restaurants are to me in this process. I love food – cooking it, sharing it with others, finding new restaurants, reading bento blogs, learning about nutrition, and admiring other people’s (more successful than mine) vegetable gardens. So it’s no surprise that it would matter in this part of my life too. I’ve noticed that I use choosing a restaurant as a sort of test, well, not exactly a test, but a way of learning about someone. What’s important to them, what they enjoy, what ambiance they’re most comfortable in.

For example, I have a college friend that visits every couple of months, and we always go out to dinner. He routinely chooses small but excellent ethnic restaurants of every variety tucked into little corners of the city. I have no idea how he finds these places, but it’s perfectly indicative of his creative, quirky, and independent mind. Another dinner date was mainly concerned that the food be fresh, healthy, and free of additives. That tells me a lot about what matters to him right there. Fortunately, there is no shortage of such restaurants in Olympia.

Another friend recently proposed to show up quite inappropriately dressed for a particular restaurant (not really realizing it). His comment was, “it’s the person I’m with that matters more than the restaurant.” So I was trying to figure out why the restaurant DOES matter so much to me. It may be because I’ve spent the last 6 years going out to restaurants by myself, for the most part. I’ve never wanted to deny myself the pleasure of a really good home-cooked meal or a fine dining experience, just because I’m single. If I’m going by myself, the restaurant really has to shine – whether it’s the hole-in-the-wall but very authentic Thai place or the finest Northwest fusion-Continental cuisine. The food should be excellent, and something I can’t make myself. The ambiance should be relaxing and enjoyable, with knowledgeable, friendly waiters, and in the best places, a chance to talk with the owner about the food.

I have a couple of favorite restaurants like this that never fail to leave me feeling relaxed and glowing with good food, wine, and attentive, friendly wait staff. Maybe my thing is, if I take a man to one of “my” places, I want him to enhance the experience, not detract from it through inappropriate appearance or behavior. Show up in shorts and a T-shirt, or talk loudly on your cell phone in a quiet restaurant, and you can bet you’ll never get another invitation from me. Know what to wear, be comfortable in your surroundings, love the food as much as I do, and appreciate the experience the restaurant is working to create for you, and that will earn my respect. Of course, intelligence, good conversation, ecofriendly social consciousness, and just plain sexiness will help too :D

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