Make Staying in Special With These Fun At-Home Date Night Ideas

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brunch date
Marie Muir and Caleb Rushing sip on a backyard bloody mary made with Durham Food Hall’s Auctioneer Bar mix and Durham Distillery’s cold-distilled cucumber vodka.

Photography by Beth Mann

Brunch Time

Plan an extravagant daytime rendezvous on Saturday or Sunday. Several local restaurants offer special brunch menus over the weekend – we went with Harvest 18’s brunch menu (Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and ordered the grilled pork belly sandwich topped with a sunny-side up egg and sweet pepper jelly, and the crabcake Benedict with heirloom tomatoes and sprite melon salad. (The restaurant also offers family meals for two or four people for curbside pickup.) For an extra bountiful brunch, grab a few croissants and scones from Guglhupf’s Chapel Hill or Durham location and local jams or jelly. Alley Twenty Six has a wide assortment in its Mixers & Mercantile shop – we chose the blackberry rum jam for this feast.

Start the meal with a 96 oz. Joe Box from Joe Van Gogh – its organic Sumatra Ketiara coffee has notes of dark chocolate and cherry. The shops are open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and offer no-contact pickup and weekend delivery within 4 miles of its Woodcroft cafe. Drink as much as you need on the weekend and save the remainder for iced coffees at the start of the workweek!

When it comes to a boozy brunch, there are plenty of options. You can go simple – try Alley Twenty Six’s peach syrup with orange juice and Cantina di Carpi ‘NotteBianca’ Brut from Durham Food Hall’s Auctioneer Bar for “kind of a cross between a mimosa and a Bellini,” says Alley Twenty Six owner Shannon Healy. Or add ½ ounce of the bar’s cucumber-watermelon syrup to the bubbly for a refreshing sparkler. 

If you want to take your beverage game to the next level, grab some premade mixers from Durham Food Hall as well. Its bloody mary mix is packed with veggies and pairs beautifully with Durham Distillery’s cold-distilled cucumber vodka. Layer on the accompaniments – we went with pickles, blue cheese-stuffed green olives, lemon, lime, celery and even a hard-boiled egg and bacon. But if bloody marys aren’t your style, go with the crowd-pleasing Squeeze the Day blood orange shrub (a drinking vinegar perfect for mixing) and try it with Top of the Hill Distillery’s Organic Piedmont Gin.

After you’ve had your fill and made another round of drinks, challenge your partner to a good-natured tournament – the winner claims the title of Brunch Boss. Triangle Lawn Games offers game rentals for delivery or pickup, and most are $20-$30 a day and $5 per additional day (use the code “FunAtHome25” for 25% off at checkout!). Employees wear masks and disinfect all games before and after each rental. Have a small space to work with? Go with a game like Giant Jenga or Giant Connect Four. Larger yards are perfect for the classics like cornhole and ladder ball. 

“Try something new,” suggests Triangle Lawn Games CEO Gordon Buchanan. “Many folks haven’t heard of less popular games like kubb or rollers, but they are super fun and pretty easy to learn.”

Giant Jenga
Giant Jenga is a great lawn game option if you don’t have a large yard. To create Marie’s Gin & Bear It cocktail, mix 2 oz. TOPO Piedmont gin, 1 ½ oz. Squeeze the Day shrub, and ½ oz. lemon juice in a shaker with ice until well-chilled, and then strain into a Collins glass.

Friday Night Family Meal

After a long week of school projects, work deadlines and endless Zoom calls, use this time to reconnect with your kids before the weekend kicks into full gear. Consider planning your supper around a produce box. Hungry Harvest, which is on a mission to eliminate food waste by rescuing produce that’s perfectly good to eat but that grocery stores won’t sell due to a slightly off size, shape or color, curates variety boxes and delivers to your door. 

For a family of four to six, try a Super Harvest box (you’ll have some extra for meals at the beginning of the week, too!). Box contents vary every week based on what is available to be recovered, and you can customize your box at no additional cost. You can also choose add-on options from Hungry Harvest’s marketplace, like bread, eggs, cooking oils, coffee, kombucha, chocolate and other pantry staples. 

“Many customers like to be ‘surprised’ by their boxes, like an episode of ‘Chopped,’” says Hungry Harvest Senior Markets Manager Bart Creasman. “For those who are looking for less of a surprise but more for options to expand their cooking, I would recommend checking your box contents in our weekly order reminder emails, and you can choose to keep any surprising/exotic items in the box and customize accordingly. We also provide recipes on our website for more unique items, which can definitely help spark the creative process for utilizing new ingredients.”

Most Durham County and Orange County deliveries will be made on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Order by 5 p.m. on Wednesday of that week to ensure a Friday delivery. 

If you’re looking for something a bit quicker than preparing a meal from scratch, but just as fun, try Pompieri Pizza’s Build-Your-Own-Kid-Pizza pack. You’ll get the dough, sauce, cheese and your kid’s selected toppings for them to build at home. The pack includes a drink and a cookie for dessert, and kids can follow along to an instructional video on Pompieri’s website. Parents can supervise while enjoying a brew from Pompieri’s sister restaurant, Bull City Burger & Brewery, or a bottle of wine, which is currently 20% off with curbside takeout.

date night tips

Of course, there’s also always the option of ordering a fully cooked family meal. Beau Catering Marketplace in Hillsborough posts a new menu of family meals (for two, four or six people) on Saturdays for curbside pickup and delivery to Orange County and parts of Durham on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Recent courses included Cajun New York strip steaks, crabcakes and summer vegetable spaghetti.

Have some evening entertainment on hand, too. Lawn games might be a good idea for the remainder of the weekend but pull out some games from Ali Cat Toys in Carrboro or puzzles from Flyleaf Books. Folks with older kids might enjoy the virtual cinema program hosted by The Carolina Theatre. (Or enjoy after the kids go to bed!) A variety of first-run films are available through the venue’s website, and a portion of proceeds from virtual cinema tickets purchased will benefit Carolina Theatre of Durham Inc., the nonprofit that operates the historic downtown venue. Ticket prices vary per film, which are added and removed week to week. Don’t forget the concessions either! Popcorn, candy, drinks (including beer and wine) and Carolina Theatre merchandise are all available to purchase online every Friday for pickup from 4-8 p.m. 

Home Cooking

We know there are a lot of home chefs looking to step up their dinner game. Make a night of it with your partner by setting the table, complete with local flowers from Bowerbird Flowers & Apothecary, which offers contact-free pickup at both its flagship studio in Chapel Hill and its newest location in the Durham Food Hall, as well as delivery. Or set the table with a colorful arrangement from Mighty Tendril Farm in Cedar Grove, operated by UNC grads Emily Madara and Adam Sherwood. Order by noon on Friday for $5 delivery or free Saturday pickup at Two Chicks Farm in Hillsborough, the Carrboro Farmers Market or on West Chapel Hill Street in Durham. 

The restrictions from COVID-19 put a stop to the renowned pop-up dinners by Snap Pea Catering. Now, executive chef and owner Jacob Boehm hosts live, interactive cookalongs on Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. Order to get a South Wind Produce box delivered for free (within a specific delivery zone) on Saturday along with recipes and a list of equipment and other ingredients needed. The box contains enough ingredients for four servings of the meal, plus some bonus produce. Spend the evening watching Jacob create a meal from scratch, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! The class will be recorded, so you can always rewatch it if you need a refresher.

On Sundays, cook with Indulge Catering’s Executive Chef Queen Precious-Jewel Earth Zabriskie and Sous Chef Jacqueline “Jay” White on Facebook Live at 6 p.m. Each week features a different dish to master, and these culinary wizards share all their tips and tricks in real time, which makes it easy to get all your burning questions answered. They recently did a date night cookalong with honey-citrus-glazed duck breasts and honeycomb candy, utilizing local honey found at Perkins Orchard

Picnic Perfect

Skip the cooking and grab a few specialty items for an alfresco lunch or dinner. Start with wings from Heavenly Buffaloes, the messiest but oh-so-delicious food that was made for picnics. Pay a visit to Weaver Street Market, Bulldega Urban Market or Durham Co-op Market for grab-and-go accompaniments such as dips or chicken salad. Or get potato salad and pasta sides from Mama Dip’s, which also offers complete picnic meals featuring courses like Southern fried chicken, deviled eggs and yeast rolls that serve two to eight people. And you can’t go wrong with pita and eight different kinds of hummus from Mediterranean Deli. Or, for $7.99 a pound, get a few sides like tabbouleh salad, Israeli red cabbage and broccoli salad. 

Don’t forget to stock up on some refreshments. The Oak House Wine Club allows you to try out three themed bottles each month, and each bottle comes with digital tasting notes. Acme’s to-go menu regularly features cocktail kits with names like Juicy Fruit or The Weekender. Just add your own booze at home. We also love Annexe sangria, in rotating flavors like Mango Mule and Piña Colada, served in picnic-friendly plastic pouches that will remind you of Capri Sun but more fun. Boricua Soul has similar to-go pouches with offerings like Peach Passion Fruit Frose. 

Pick up some kid-friendly-yet-cool paper products from Parker and Otis; their selection ranges from galactic party cups to large paper plates featuring a quaint farm scene. Or find some reusable Melamine plates and glassware at Bungalow. Lay out your impressive spread – on a versatile throw from Indio or show your Tar Heel pride with a UNC throw blanket from Johnny T-shirt – and dig in!

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Amanda MacLaren

Amanda MacLaren

Amanda MacLaren is the executive editor of Durham Magazine. Born in Mesa, Arizona, she grew up in Charlotte and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, majoring in journalism. She’s lived in Durham for eight years. When she’s not at work, you can usually find her with a beer in hand at Fullsteam, Dain’s Place or Bull City Burger or getting takeout from Guasaca.

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