Takeout for Two: A YQG Date Night
Perfect Pairings for a Cozy Date Night at Home
Original blog by Jen Brignall-Strong of Tailgate Takeout | February 2022
*Original blog was produced for Valentine’s Day, some offering and photos may be different than what is pictured below.*
Date night has always been a big deal for me and my husband. Like, we take it next level. We love planning out the evening far in advance, getting all dolled up, and heading out for a night on the town complete with cocktails, an indulgent dinner, and maybe even some live music.
However, these days, date night looks a little different. Between busy work schedules, young children at home, and pandemic restrictions, it often consists of ordering a meal from our favourite restaurant and catching up on our latest Netflix obsession. I have to say, though, I am very content with eating a delicious meal cozied up on the couch in my jammies.
Just like our “regular” date nights, we do like to mix things up; choosing a variety of different restaurants or cuisines and pairing our food with some local wines and craft beers. It’s been a great way to discover the many amazing options our region has to offer and still have that exciting “what are we doing tonight?” vibe from the comfort of home.
I thought I’d share a few of our favourite “at home” date night ideas for you to enjoy with your favourite cuddle buddy.
THE WINDSOR DATE NIGHT
Pizza and wine…could there be a better date night combo? Especially when you’re talking the quintessential “Windsor” pizza: Antonino’s Original Super: cheese, sausage, bacon, canned mushrooms and green pepper, a pizza so famous it has its own documentary (“The Pizza City You’ve Never Heard Of”…a must watch!)
Antonino’s is one of the pioneers of our beloved Windsor-style pizza and is one of our personal favourites. We don’t live anywhere close to any of their 3 locations, but it’s well worth the drive. The crust. The sauce. Perfection. Oh and the Nutella pizza? Every time I order one I immediately regret not ordering two.
I also love that they offer heart-shaped pizzas during the month of February. Not only are they super cute for Valentine’s Day, they also support local charity. For every heart-shaped pizza, Nutella pizza, or cinnamon sticks sold Antonino’s will donate $1 to the Windsor Regional Hospital Cardiac-Angioplasty Program.
PAIRING: Our drink of choice with this classic Windsor meal? Muscedere Vineyards Cabernet Franc.
I’m not normally a red wine drinker, but their Cab Franc in phenomenal. The well-balanced, medium bodied wine pairs perfectly with pizza too! Fun fact: because of our warmer climate, Windsor-Essex produces some of the best Cabernet Franc wines in Canada. No wonder Muscedere has won multiple awards for theirs. I definitely recommend picking up a bottle (or two) for your next adult pizza party night.
THE FAMILY DATE NIGHT
When the babysitter (aka grandma) isn’t available, date night sometimes has a few extra guests. How do we keep our third (and fourth) wheel happy on a night we want to unwind? Tacos, of course!
The Grand Cantina has been a go-to of ours since it opened in Ford City four years ago. We love their patio in the summer, and their menu is filled with Mexican inspired dishes, unique taco creations, as well as a variety of apps and entrees like a dill pickle chicken sandwich and duck fat fries with banana ketchup (if you know, you know.)
They also now offer great meal deal options, including DIY taco kits and a family meal featuring tortilla chips with your choice of dips, choice of side, mix and match 8 tacos, and an option to add on churros (with a salted caramel dipping sauce OMG.)
While the family meals comes with more than enough food for our crew of four, we always end up adding on a few extras because, well, we’re indecisive and want all the things. After all, it’s date night: why should I have to choose between street corn fritters and duck fat fries? #treatyoself.
PAIRING: While the kids enjoyed their taco and juice pairing, the grownups opted for a few of our top picks from Craft Heads Brewing Co: Feather Hat GuyPA for dad and Next on Stage Amber for mom. He’s a big fan of the hoppy, citrusy type beers, while I tend to go with something a little sweeter and kind of caramel-ish (is that a word?)
Craft Heads Brewing Co. has dubbed their offerings “Beer for the Adventurous” and we love their more unconventional creations (including a paczki beer!) but we always have a few of their staples on hand in case of an impromptu taco night.
THE VEGAN DATE NIGHT
In an effort to eat more veggies, my husband recently requested we start doing “Meatless Mondays.” With so many amazing vegetarian and vegan options in the city, it’s easy to find a plant-based meal that satisfies any craving.
Healthy Mama is one such spot and is a favourite among vegans and non-vegans alike. They offer a fantastic selection of vegan burgers, bowls, salads, sandwiches, soups, and more; all made-from-scratch and made with love at their cozy storefront on Lesperance Road in Tecumseh.
We really had a hard time deciding on what to order because everything looked and sounded amazing. I love a big, flavourful salad so I went with the grain-free Mediterranean Bowl filled with sumac seasoned chickpeas, pickled turnips, kale, tomatoes, romaine, cucumbers, roasted veggies, and a tahini dressing. I also added some tofu feta cheese. I love that I was soooo full after eating this but I didn’t have that bloated “blah” feeling you get after a big meal. I felt satisfied yet still had the room to steal a few bites of my husband’s spicy sushi bowl. All I have to say is wow. The sriracha mayo and maple tamari sauce that it’s topped with is addictive.
PAIRING: I thought a cider would complement our meal nicely so I broke out my collection of Walkerville Brewery ciders. I love the original, and every time they come out with a new seasonal flavour, I always stock up. I really enjoyed the mulled cider version they released over the holidays; it has a warm cinnamon taste with little hints of orange. The original Argyle Cider is my drink of choice year round and I keep a steady supply in the beer fridge.
THE LAID BACK DATE NIGHT
Burgers and mixed drinks always remind us of our first few dates back in our university days and are still a winning combo because, well, they always hit the spot.
Our area has so many great burger spots to choose from, but Whamburg is one of our new top picks. If you’ve never tried them, you’re missing out on one of the freshest, most flavourful burgers in Essex County. The first time I had it, I’m pretty sure a tear rolled down my cheek and angels started singing (I know it sounds a little over the top, but holy cow is that a tasty burger.) They specialize in smash burgers, but they also offer ultra-juicy chicken sandwiches and even a vegan Portobella Shroomburg, plus double fried French fries, milkshakes, and crispy, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Do yourself a favour and order one of everything off the menu.
PAIRING: Wolfhead Distillery whiskies are all great for sipping on their own, but I love using them in cocktails and mixed drinks. (They always post a ton of great drink recipes on their socials too, so be sure to give them a follow.)
I had a few of their mini caramel apple whisky stocking stuffer bottles from Christmas, so I decided to use them to make my own hard root beer and apple caramel ginger ale. They were a great match for our burger meal and went down very smoothly. (I also realized as I was mixing our drinks that I should probably invest in some fancier cocktail glasses.)
THE VIA ITALIA DATE NIGHT
If you’ve never had a date night at Spago are you really even from Windsor? We have spent many an evening at the Erie Street landmark and if you’ve ever experienced their classic Italian cuisine, you’ll understand why they’re also one of our favourite takeout spots as well.
This is another one of those places where we go back and forth on what to order because we want it all. It’s an unwritten rule that we must order the arancini for an appetizer and the zeppola for dessert (Italian cream filled donut…*drool*) Of course, the pasta is a must too. I LOVE their carbonara, but on this particular date night I went with their Pollo Diplomatico: a chicken breast topped with prosciutto, provolone cheese and a blush sauce. My husband was super excited for his Gamberi Loretta; jumbo shrimp butterflied and served in a white wine garlic sauce. I don’t usually cook a lot of seafood at home, so when we go out or order in, he likes to treat himself.
PAIRING: VIN is Windsor-Essex’s newest winery and they’re already making quite the name for themselves. I had heard great things about their Rosé so I ordered a bottle of that and their Pinot Grigio. Both were gone by the end of the evening and I look forward to visiting their location in Essex soon so I can re-stock and explore their beautiful property. A great price point, wonderful light, fruity flavours and just all around fun to drink.
THE FINE DINING DATE NIGHT
GLADSTONE COMMONS & PELEE ISLAND WINERY SPARKLING WINES
On those nights where we miss dressing up and enjoying a fine dining experience, we try to recreate the feeling at home.
We’ve been eager to try Gladstone Commons since they reopened last summer under new ownership. I’ve heard AMAZING things about their chef, Dana Friis, so when we saw they were offering takeout options we broke out the fancy tablecloth at home and placed our order.
My husband chose the dry aged striploin, which came with mashed potatoes, sautéed wild mushrooms and au jus. Being a carb lover, I went with the sweet potato gnocchi with beef short rib ragu. Everything was cooked PERFECTLY and I was blown away by how tender the steak was (because of course I had to sneak a bite or two; date night is about sharing, right?) My gnocchi had a soft, pillowy texture, and the house made sourdough bread was still warm and came with the most delicious balsamic butter.
They also have a pastry chef creating beautiful desserts, like Millie Feuilles with Earl Gray cream which I was about halfway through devouring before I realized I forgot to take a picture (rookie move, Jen.) Their menu changes often, so I look forward to seeing (and eating) what Chef Friis creates next.
PAIRING: For our at-home fine dining experience, we decided to do our own little wine tasting with Pelee Island Winery’s Sparkling Extravaganza 6-Pack. I love their LOLA Blush Sparkling Rosé VQA, so I was excited to try their other sparkling offerings and was not disappointed. It was a fun activity for our date night, but any (or all) of these wines would also be great for an evening out (or in) with your besties.
ON A SWEET NOTE…
On date night, there’s ALWAYS room for dessert. I love all the Valentine’s themed creations from our local bakeries too; everything tastes better shaped like a heart and covered in chocolate and sprinkles, right? Here are a few of my faves from around Windsor-Essex…
While chocolate and strawberry is a popular combo this time of year, we need to talk about the real dynamic duo: chocolate and RASPBERRY.
Plant Joy specializes in vegan doughnut creations and always has amazing specialty creations for the holidays. This year, their Valentine’s Day menu includes this amazing chocolate doughnut covered in their raspberry glaze and topped with vegan raspberry whip. I really did not want to share they were so good. They’ll be available the entire month of February along with other limited time flavours like crème brulee, Black Forest, red velvet, cinnamon hearts and salted caramel brownie.
WINDSOR CAKE EMPORIUM
Want to tell your Valentine, “Galentine,” or BFF how you really feel about them? Say it with a brownie from Windsor Cake Emporium!
Their “Say it With a Brownie” is a 9X9 made from scratch brownie is topped with chocolate ganache icing, festive sprinkles, and can be personalized with any saying (naughty or nice…go ahead and get creative haha.) This ooey gooey creation is for the true chocolate lover.
They’re also offering an array of other Valentine’s menu items including a personal sized chocolate cake topped with chocolate covered strawberries, rose and pearl cupcakes, and a raspberry mousse with chocolate cake dome.
I have loved every cake, macaron, and treat I’ve ever tried from them; you can really tell the quality and attention to detail they put into all they do.
This Town of Essex favourite is known for their decadent cupcakes, but their other desserts are equally addictive.
I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I walk in there, and I basically am! In addition to their cupcakes they also have a selection of classic candy, as well as chocolate covered pretzels, hot cocoa bombs, bars and squares.
For Valentine’s Day, they also have a giant heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie that is perfect for sharing with your sweetie or your little ones. It has a nostalgic flavour and chewy goodness that reminded me of my favourite homemade chocolate chip cookies growing up. PRO TIP: buy a hot cocoa bomb, then cut the cookie cake into wedges and dunk it for an ultra chocolately version of milk and cookies!