Date nights have been a little different this last year. In 2019 a classic date night for me and my significant other was trying a new restaurant, then checking out a bar or one of the hidden cocktail lounges around Helsinki. Sometimes it included going to the movies, occasionally it was bowling or an escape room. For most of 2020, and now into 2021 date nights are a lot more low-key, now we occasionally have a candle-lit dinner at the dining table, or perhaps more often it’s sharing a bottle of wine on the couch under the glow of a new Netflix series. Sure date-nights aren’t as exciting, but for us, it’s been important to still take the time to consciously spend time together. Working from home has meant we spend plenty of time in the same space, but not quality time together. Both of us have full-time jobs and other hobbies that also keep us busy in the evenings, so while we are on the couch together most nights, we can sometimes go for several days without really doing something together. Enter the weekly date-night. No phones, no work, no emails – good old-fashioned family time. And so that we can really enjoy the time together we almost always opt for ordering take-out, that way there’s no cooking or cleaning up to worry about, and as a bonus, we get to support some local businesses too.
2020 was a tough year for restaurants, particularly for those opening their doors for the first time during a pandemic. The new Helsinki Morton container restaurant for example, opened just in November. Their menu is simple but uses great local produce, speciality cheeses, and homemade pickles and chutneys with seasonal vegetables to elevate their dishes. I’m looking forward to summer when I can visit their terrace and try their breakfast menus but, in the meantime, we decided to give it a go for date night.
Their evening menu is centered around their famous burgers, and according to my partner, the Delaware burger hits the spot. I, on the other hand, have a controversial opinion on burgers, that being that they just aren’t that great (not Morton’s, just burgers in general). What I like is that while burgers are their specialty, they have salads and sides on the menu that aren’t just there for show. I tried the Elisabeth salad, and it was packed with delicious ingredients including blue cheese, rhubarb, and pickles. We also tried their cauliflower wings and while they aren’t mind-blowing on their own, given the flavourful meals we had they were the perfect side, and the horseradish aioli added the perfect amount of heat.
The date nights also help to give a sense of adventure to the week, we can try a new restaurant Morton, or a cuisine we don’t have often – and during the pandemic, this is about as close as we get to travel. Sometimes we even order something just to reminisce about holidays past – Bali Brunch for example. When we were in Bali in 2017 I had Gado Gado nearly every day, I loved it so much! It became a bit of a joke for my partner because I would look at a menu umming and ahhing for 10 minutes saying I was going to try something different, and then I would order the Gado Gado again (I have no regrets).
But I am also proud to announce that I have now enjoyed something other than the Gado Gado at Bali Brunch and I have to say that their Vegan Wok Plate is almost better… almost. I also love that their food comes in bio packaging and is presented beautifully even for take away. Bali Brunch is now in Kamppi and Redi, and matches perfectly a Friday night movie date with a destination rom-com and a fun cocktail.
The weather of late has been a far cry from that of our holidays in South East Asia though, and some of those snowy days have called for a warming soup-based dinner. And there’s soup, and then there’s ramen… And then there’s Fat Ramen!
Filled with handmade noodles and quality local produce it is hands down the best ramen I have ever tasted. The broth is so incredibly flavourful, whether you go for the traditional pork or the vegan version, you can’t go wrong. Between my partner and I, we have tried all of their ramens at least once, and while the other half is pretty set on the signature Fat Ramen with pork belly I love their vegan options and the Mushroom Ramen most of all. Keep an eye on their menu for seasonal specials too. The best bit is the noodles though, you can really taste, and feel, the difference in their handmade noodles. If you want to take the credit for yourself you can even get their make-at-home kits – (or skip the extra work and dishes and just enjoy).
While I am certainly excited for when we can enjoy a meal on a table that’s not in my apartment, the buzz of a restaurant, the anticipation of when that plate moving around is coming to me, and also just being around people – for now, you will find me looking at takeaway menus at least once a week. Ordering out isn’t just about convenience right now, it’s also a way to support a local business, an act of self-care (hello not cooking or cleaning up after a long working-from-home day), a way of showing up in a relationship, and to help keep each other healthy and safe. So get involved, make a night of it!