Creating an irresistibly romantic setting for a meal isn’t as simple as lighting a couple of candles—if it were, George Clooney would have us on speed-dial by now (psst, George: call us already). Nevertheless, there are ways to set the stage for romance, following a few low-maintenance tips from Dan Mathieu, one of our favorite Boston foodies, caterer extraordinaire, and the cofounder of MAX Ultimate Food.
Preparation is everything. The afternoon before your date:
1. Pick up some caramelized nuts and some good-quality sirloin or fresh tuna. Cut the meat or fish into bite-size pieces and place three each on several bamboo skewers. Lightly brush the skewers with olive oil and salt, and place on a tray in the fridge.
2. Make or buy a few spicy dipping sauces; a chipotle base is especially good for the sirloin, while a wasabi base is perfect for the tuna. Put the sauces and the caramelized nuts in small bowls.
3. Grab a bottle of sparkling rosé and chill it on ice. Set aside two champagne glasses.
Fire is hot—literally and figuratively. Candles are a nice touch, but we say, “Think big.” Sizzling flames in a fireplace or even a fire pit on the porch or the beach are equally good for the all-important exchange of significant glances. Make sure your fire has plenty of red, burning coals at its base, and place a piece of Himalayan salt block (we here at Fresh American are big fans of HimalaSalt products) directly onto the coals; allow it to heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Keep a pair of sturdy metal tongs and a silicone or other heavy oven mitt nearby.
Start it up. When your date arrives, pour the champagne and serve it with the caramelized nuts. After you’ve finished your first glass, pull out the platter of meat or fish and the sauces. Carefully remove the salt from the fire and place it on a heat-resistant platter next to the skewers. Cook the skewers on the salt block until desired doneness—or let your date do the honors—then enjoy them with the dipping sauces and another glass of champagne.
Sweeten the deal. Once the “hot” part of your evening has concluded, it’s time for a little something sweet. Try Dan’s smooch-inspiring Passion Fruit Panna Cotta—which just happens to go nicely with that last glass of champagne.
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup passion fruit puree
½ cup sugar
.5 oz Knox Gelatine
1. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the passion fruit puree and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Combine the cream and sugar and heat over low to medium until just steaming.
3. Into the cream-sugar mixture, stir in the passion fruit–gelatin mixture, and stir until dissolved.
4. Strain the entire mixture and separate into individual clear glass bowls or champagne flutes.
5. Allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.
Dan Mathieu, the creator and original owner of East Meets West Catering, has pushed the boundaries of the established Boston catering market with new and exciting concepts in menus, presentation, and service. Dan’s fresh approach to entertaining has garnered a strong and devoted following with both private and corporate clients. Teaming up with hospitality expert Neal Balkowitsch, Dan cofounded MAX Ultimate Food, a catering company that has refreshed Boston’s party scene.