If you have family in town over the holidays - it's a perfect time to leave the kids with a willing brother or mother-in-law and head out to reconnect with your spouse. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend an evening out - on-the-cheap options as well as splurges:
On the cheap
--The sleep date: We have a friend with twin boys who years ago told us the story of how when their babysitter arrived for the evening, she and her husband went into their bedroom, shut the door, and didn't come out until morning. (The babysitter put the kids to bed and showed herself out at the end of the evening.) My husband and I were horrified. Who does that? What a way to spend a night! But now, of course, with three kids including twin babies, we understand and even covet a night like this.
--The lunch date: This year, for our anniversary, we had a lovely lunch at Sultana in Menlo Park. Sultana's lunch menu has Turkish fare like kabob and falafel sandwiches, served on the restaurant's shaded but warm and lovely outdoor patio.
--The literary reading date: Sick of dinner and a movie? Since my husband is a writer and English professor, we often attend literary readings (fiction and poetry). They are almost always free and they are refreshing, thought-provoking, and make for interesting conversation with your spouse and friends if you are grabbing dinner or drinks afterward. Plus, they support writers and reading - two of the best things going if you ask me. Check out events at San Jose State's Center for Literary Arts, Stanford's Creative Writing Program, Kepler's and Books, Inc.
--The speaker series and happy hour dinner date: My husband and I went to the local middle school to hear a family doctor speak to parents about raising resilient children. Afterwards, we found ourselves at Left Bank in Menlo Park ordering off of the Happy Hour menu at 9 pm. Between the two of us, we had 3 glasses of wine, oysters on the half shell, sliders with fries, cheese, and 3 mini desserts - all for $60 (not including tip). And we had plenty to talk about thanks to an engaging talk about parenting beforehand.
--The slow food dinner and open air rock concert date: Hands-down my favorite summer evening out is a trip to Chez Panisse Cafe and the Greek Theatre. If a great band is playing the Greek - Cal's gorgeous, gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre given to the University by William Randolph Hearst, you are in for a treat. Jeff Tweedy, Wilco's singer, said it's his favorite venue to play in the world! The drive to and from Berkeley is long, but once you arrive, you are surrounded by the world of chill. Treat yourself to a dinner of amazing service and impeccable slow food (I once cried while eating a clementine for dessert) and pay homage to Alice Waters' mecca. Be sure to get reservations! If you can't, call on the way to see if they can fit you in - you might get lucky. If you don't, get a pizza across the street at The Cheese Board and eat in the median with the hippies. Then hike up the hill, descend upon the Greek, and inhale?
--The spa date: Watercourse Way is located in downtown Palo Alto where you can reserve a hot tub room (or hot tub, cold plunge, and sauna room) for an hour or 90-minutes for a truly relaxing evening. It's a Japanese-style spa and bath house, and from the moment you enter the premises, your stress melts away and you feel zen. It's immaculately clean and private - and warm (if you are perpetually cold, like I am, in winter).
--The transport yourself to Manhattan date: I can't believe that it took us six years to discover Bistro Elan at Birch Street. It's a little bit of New York City right off of California Avenue in Palo Alto. Everything is so amazing, it's difficult not to break the bank and order three courses a la carte with wine, but if you have restraint (unlike me), you could manage a couple of entrees and glasses of wine for $100.
Do you and your spouse have special haunts for date nights in the area? What are your favorite spots for a night out and why?