I’ll always remember the guy who got away. Not because of his doe-brown eyes magnified through round glasses, which were cool even before Harry Potter. Not because he was a graduate of Brown and Columbia Business School and could make beautiful furniture by hand. And not because, as I found out years later reading about his wedding in The New York Times, he was sitting on a $100 million real estate fortune. No, what I’ll always remember about him was the dinner he cooked on our third date.
It was a rainy, blustery March evening. In his perfect way, Jake (some names have been changed) called mid-afternoon to suggest that we skip dinner at the latest hip restaurant and grab something at his place instead. I was smitten. (Had he served me frozen pizza and a Bud I would have thought him a culinary giant.) But since he had spent three months at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the menu was creamy pea soup, sea bass with ginger and miso, perfectly charred asparagus, and a rhubarb-pear crumble for dessert.
We never made it to dessert.
"That’s 'the closer,'" my friend Paul told me not long after the guy who got away got away. "You know, the meal that seals the deal. Every guy has one."
The closer is, indeed, an illustrious tradition: the guy's shot to impress a date within the four walls of his home. Some make just one dish—the dating equivalent of the 1950s housewife's company dinner—that's sure to dazzle. My 40-something friend Nick always closed with a chicken curry studded with green apples and raisins that was oh-so-hip back in the 1980s. Others, usually the ones with cooking experience, tailor the meal to their date: Andrew, 34, remembers making an on-the-fly Thai curry—pulling coconut milk, peanut butter, cayenne pepper, lime, and fish sauce from his cupboards—to make an impression on the "hippie chick who liked creative types." But for the self-styled sophisticates, he made grilled shrimp with lime.