A question for ladies... food that makes you get "stimulated"
Earler tonight I was hanging out a simple pub in San Diego. They had no kitchen, so one of the staff made a food run to a nearby eatery. Upon her return, they staff dove in. It was a slow night, so they lingered about, enjoying their meal.
I couldn't help but notice how much they gushed about the fare. Their non-verbal approval was almost orgasmic, and each spoke of their dinner as though it was the most sensual experience ever.
So I had to ask them... what was this dish? Nothing fancy I found. Simple crusty french bread with a spicy pesto and melting cheese. One remarked that if it had chocolate added, she'd be in eternal bliss. I thought that I could learn from this.
So as a simple bachelor, what simple dish would you recommend that guys like me learn to master? I realize some of you are pumped enough if your guy makes anything... but what about when it comes to a dish or two that requires more than a microwave or can opener?
From a taste-bud point of view, the most orgasmic thing I've ever eaten was a green bean and pecorino souffle at a Michelin recommended (not even starred!!) restaurant in Tuscany.
whilst cooking a fancy meal is always impressive, I don't find it particularly romantic. Sure, a guy who cooks is great, but there is such a thing as trying too hard. Also, the chance of failure is quite high if you're trying to make stuffed roulade of veal lovingly laid on a bed of souffled oyster mushrooms and individual heart-shaped molten chocolate puddings with a rum creme anglaise.
If I was a guy, trying to romance a woman (hell, I do it the other way round, but since you're male, here goes), I would pay lots of attention to setting and atmosphere. Think picnic, albeit on your couch in front of a fire, with the lights dimmed, with casual but high quality food. The staff at that restaurant were right on; go for the best bread you can find, things to spread, some good cheese, some nice wine, and a box of good chocolates to follow. Using your fingers, making your own mix-and-match meal with a spread of things to nibble, is both informal, tasty, and less challenging than a plated meal.
If you want to actually 'cook', there is something undeniably appealing about a man making his own pasta sauce, especially when I get to watch. Some chopping, stirring, whilst chatting relaxedly and sipping wine... so good that it's pretty much a cliche. Women often like to help, too.
My most memorable meal with my Sweetheart was him panfrying two filets whilst I made some avocado and tomato salsa, which was then consumed with an entire olive ciabatta loaf.
I have to agree that there's Something About Pasta, especially if you can appear to be whipping something together without a recipe, and the wine sipping is key.
I can't complain when my husband makes something more elaborate, it always tastes good, but coming home to a stressed-out guy and a messy kitchen is less romantic than something that appears relatively simple & effortless, but tastes great. I guess an analogy could be, do you prefer watching a woman spend two hours getting ready for an event, or having her beauty appear effortless?
I agree that one of the most sensual date meals is a cheese board with three or four artesan cheeses, a good, crusty bread or crackers, fresh fruit, crudites, and a fabulous bottle of wine. Chocolate-dipped strawberries make a nice touch for dessert. Dress up your coffee table with luxurious table mats and napkins, lights lots of candles, sit on the floor, and, depending on how friendly you two are, well. . . .
Steak, rare. Sliced thinly and fanned out on the plate, you don't want to make her sleepy with an enormous meal.
Mastering grilling is not a bad idea, either--outdoors, fire, voila. Fish or skewered shrimp in particular is quick and impressive. Lobster tails are fantastic on the grill.
I know you want to make your dates blissfully happy with what you have cooked.
To me, that you take the time to cook is the most imporant thing. It is the feeling of being cared for...that the table is set, that the place is comfy and clean, and that you have a clearly thought-out plan.
High-quality food and drink is wonderful, but the real wonderful thing is knowing that a man is competent and thoughtful.
For me, a man could make almost anything for me that I would find delightful and "stimulating" if you add two elements--good Champagne or sparkling wine and flowers on the table. One of the most memorable gifts my husband gave me while we were dating was a bottle of Dom Ruinart Champagne, wrapped in a lovely backpack I could use while honing my cross country skiing skills. Utilitarian and poetic...I'd be happy as a clam with a burger and those two items!
No suggestions for specific dishes, but some common sense rules of thumb:
1) Avoid starchy, heavy foods. Like mashed potatoes or heavy cream sauces. Light pasta is great, but maybe not lasagna. Keep the food light-medium but flavorful.
2) Something that appeals to all the senses -- including sight, smell, and touch. Finger foods, especially, brings out the sensualist in people and is a great excuse to feed each other. (Try to keep it elegant finger foods, not chicken nuggets, please!)
3) If she is there with you while you cook, something not too difficult that takes all your attention. There's nothing worse than being ignored. The gesture is more important than the perfection of the dish.
Let's face it -- the bar is set pretty low for your gender. Women appreciate almost any effort, as long as it's sincere, so you almost can't go wrong. Try to avoid getting someone sick (either from allergies or tainted food); add candles, flowers and romantic beverage; and present yourself neatly and groomed.
Women have a physical reaction to chocoloate: the hormone oxytoxin. It's the same chemical released when we fall in love or have an orgasm or give birth or nurse. It is supposed that this hormone is what makes us want to stay with one man. This happens on a lesser level for men (and in some men not at all - I'm not being facetious, it's true!).
My favorite meal to have with my husband is very simple and it's the most romantic: fruit, cheese, bread, chunks of meat, spreads, chocolate for dessert. It's laid back and easy and sweet. We light candles, open a bottle of wine and voila.
Pay attention to the details: The candles, a drizzle of sauce on her plate of chocolatey goodness, a sprig of mint, the elegant forks and knives you use to nibble, the cloth napkins, the flowers, the music. THAT'S what turns us on.
If you are an extraordinary cook, then at some point in seeing a woman, break out the heavy hitters but stay at your skill level so as not to get stressed out. Most women are going to appreciate any effort - we're sentimental enough to care that you tried and find it to be the most adorable thing in the world.
Otherwise the food choices really depend on the woman. I adore garlic. LOVE garlic. And if someone was cooking for me I would want garlic (kissing later doesn't matter as long as you've both eaten it!!). I hate rare meat, however and would find that to be a big turn off. I also find layers of flavors very sensual and erotic - especially savories. It's why I love Todd English - he layers flavors within an inch of their life and it's almost too much. I'd guess the woman you say was having the same reaction to the layers of flavors in pesto. Think about it - garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan, olive oil - strong flavors in an amazing mix heaped on bread and covered with cheese....it's luscious and making my mouth water just thinking about it.
So, I'd say go simple and then when you know her better - have wined and dined her a bit at restaurants and done a few simple things at home - THEN you can break out the big guns and cater to her epicurean needs and desires.
I'm impressed that you asked.
i'll go with the majority opinion and say that it's not so much what you cook, it's the thought and the effort that count. that is, if the person is worth pursuing.
in the early days before we were married, my now-husband surprised me one evening with his "spaghetti bolognese." it was remarkably bad. he overcooked the pasta and the sauce was ground beef warmed up with a can of peeled tomatoes. no seasoning. but he put a candle on the table and got some nice wine (thank god for the wine), and i absolutely adored him for his effort. it was one of the best dinners i can remember for that reason alone.
I agree with the previous posters' comments about finger food, nice presentation, nothing too starchy, etc., and I also think that you need to have something to make the meal special. The best thing would be to find out what kind of foods she really considers to be a treat. I'd be really touched by someone who went to great effort and expensive to get me things I particularly like. For me, it would be some really good imported prosciutto or jamon serrano to put on the bread, or maybe some really good smoked salmon. For her it might be a particular type of chocolate cake, or some exotic fruit (passion fruit? that yellow bumpy custardy fruit that cost $4 each that someone else will undoubtedly remind me of the name of?) or a fruit salad made of all her favorites, etc. Try to find out something about her tastes beforehand, though. You don't want to be surprised to find that she is allergic to or repulsed by whatever you've prepared.
Well, you can't generalize really. Most women love chocolate - except those that don't. Most love cheese, especially melted cheese - except those that don't. Generally, I would say something simple, a little decadent (cheese, pate). Not salad, because it tends to send the message "you're a girl, you probably only eat salad." For me, a steak and a martini would woo, or shellfish. Champagne. Good chocolates. Ice cream. Fresh fruit. Did I mention not to skip dessert? Because I hate it when a guy plans dinner and skips the dessert. Simple is good there too - figs, honey and excellent yogurt, for example. (Slice the figs in half and torch the open sides, the caramelization ups the ante on the figgy flavor and the use of the torch is very impressive.)
When my husband and I were in the "courting" stage, he had a few standby dishes that he'd cook for me. Honestly, he's never been a great cook and kind of stumbles back and forth in the kitchen when faced w/ a multi-course meal, but I loved knowing that he was planning something and obviously exerting effort that didn't come naturally. So, this further underscores that it's all about the thought and effort...
An example of his most typical meal which is actually fairly easy for anyone to master:
Shrimp cocktail: he'd buy a pre-cooked shrimp ring and cocktail sauce from the store
Chicken piccata: pounded thin patties of chicken breast, dusted in flour and S&P, pan-fried in EVOO, finished w/ white wine, capers, lemon juice, S&P, and butter.
Linguine w/ melted bleu cheese sauce and herbs
Sauteed zucchini w/ garlic
Dessert: store-bought ice cream or sorbet
He also mastered these Chinese dishes well: beef and broccoli, 3-cup chicken, and ma po tofu. He could whip these up on any weeknight if I didn't feel like cooking. I also loved when he would grill (you know, the man and fire thing). His charcoal-grilled chicken satay w/ homemade peanut sauce is amazing actually!!
For anyone, male or female, I think it's helpful to master these: roasted chicken, roasted potatoes or veggies, red meat sauce w/ spaghetti, slow-cooked beef (potroast, brisket, or stew), and a couple of salads. Those are the basic crowd-pleasers IMO and are extremely economical. Note that all of these things will make your love den smell amazing, which is def. a turn on for me. Also remember to pay attn. to presentation, but most of all, have fun w/ it!
re: Carb Lover
Mastering a dish is really important. I am currently reading Marcella's "Essentials". I came to the conclusion after making the Tomato w/Onion and Butter Sauce (and exploring the other tomato sauces), that if you know how to prepare a few good dishes well then you will be a hero with whomever your guests are. There are quite a few must "have" books mentioned frequently on this board, I suggest buying or borrowing one and start from there.
I'm thinking MSPD is on the right track with that idea, but I'll add my personal favs just in case it helps.
To me, rich, decadent things that I "shouldn't have" make me swoon. I'm talking creamy, cheesy things, shellfish, ribeye steak, and the like. I'm thinking about a cheese fondue, coquille st. jacques, crab imperial, lobster newburg, cream of crab soup, even macaroni and cheese will do it.
Good champagne and wine wins with me. A good cheese plate alone with said wine is heaven for me -- cheese gets me "stimulated," as you say.
Bacon, mushrooms, peaches and perfect roast chicken are close seconds.
First of all, JonJon, you are so way ahead of the game having just posed the question. Wow. You are incredibly observant, so that's really working in your favor.
My favorite very exciting meal memory has to do with a great champagne (suggestive of frivolity and laughter) and a large platter of lots of finger food - rolled up serrano ham, good olives, great cheese, fresh asparagus, little boiled pink potatoes, hearts of palm, grapes, nice crackers. No plates, no utensils, red cloth napkins, candlelight. Followed by fresh figs, coffee ice cream, and some chocolate. Not very much of any one thing. Just lots of incredible bites. This kind of thing encourages slow grazing, lots of sharing, long, langorous playful conversation. So much fun.
I think we'd love to hear about your progress. Ha!
Another element to "fingerfood" is that it's good to have foods that can be served at room temperature so you can nibble at a leisurely pace -- or interrupt your meal and go back to it. And of course you can prepare them in advance and have them set out and ready, and you don't have to worry about the timing of the evening, which reduces your stress and makes the whole evening more relaxing.
(yes, i am a woman). My ex knew how to shuck oysters. I just loved watching him open them up. Then slurpping them down. He also knew how to shell and devein shrimp. A task I abhor. Those two things may have made the marriage last longer than it should have.
Am in accord with the "setting" thing. We (most of us) love flowers and candles and nice music playing. If you don't have a fire place, go retro and buy a lava lamp.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the pesto-cheese-bread combo did it for the waitresses. Simple carbs, like a baguette, stimuate the release of serotonin, and the creamy mouthfeel of both unctuous pesto and silky cheese (I'd wager it was a soft goat cheese) would be a sensual experience.
I have a male friend who has made risotto his special seduction dish--great because it's carby and creamy and you can put those luxe ingredients in it that people have mentioned as making them swoon, like fresh shellfish, or truffles or saffron. Also, once you've got the technique, you can do a lot of different risottos.
One really sexy and couldn't-be-simpler appetizer that was once made for me was akin to the waitresses' supper: a whole, baby Camembert, placed on an enameled metal plate and baked (plain, NOT from a box from TJs, no pastry wrapper and no fruit coulis), then set on the hearth next to the fireplace. Enjoyed with a baguette, accompanied by a serrated knife so that slices could be cut off as necessary and spread with oozing cheese, and a bottle of cold sauvignon blanc. The finger-food aspect and the textural contrast of crunchy bread and creamy cheese, hot food and cold wine, was delectable--also the retro-70s-decadence of lounging on the carpet and eating what amounts to a reverse fondue--also the just plain icebreaking function of sharing the one bread knife and one cheese knife.
But if it's your first date, don't try to feed it to her yet. Ick.
A generalization: anything chocolate. Jean-Georges Vongerichten's little individual molten chocolate cakes (you can find the recipe at leitesculineria.com) may be considered passe by some, but they are amazing, and very easy to make.
The process is as important as the meal.
Find something that you both love to eat, and prepare it together.
Now I'm not a lady but I did make a meal of seduction for my first date with my now-partner. The biggest thing is to keep it simple and to make sure the ktichen is clean when the person you are wooing is coming over. A good starter is figs and goat cheese or proscuitto. Pasta is the great food of love. I prefer a white wine or scampi type of sauce so people are scared of staining their clothes. What I served was pasta with olives, sundried tomatoes and sauteed onions with white wine. And a good dessert tip is to buy two very different desserts so that you can give each other tastes.
I read this entire list, looking for foods people really enjoy and comparing it to what my partner made for me as our first meal together many years ago. After years of wonderful meals outside, inside, by the fire, alone, with friends, etc., it's nice to see that he posted here right before me. Wow. The meal was delicious and it worked. It was simple, yet tasty and had a variety of textures and flavors. For me the best meal together is a quiet one. No t.v., no music, just a chance to really say hello and connect.