I never thought my husband, Ben, and I would be riding scooters through downtown Denver during a thunderstorm on the same night we kneaded hot mozzarella curds behind the bar at a hip restaurant in Jefferson Park. But then again, I never thought I’d let a complete stranger plan a date night for me either.
My uncle Dan and his wife had a standing babysitter every Friday night when their kids were little. I used to be that sitter, and I still remember walking into their house on Friday nights, watching my cousins eat chicken nuggets while their parents hustled to get out the door.
I was curious how it worked having a “standing” babysitter who showed up every week, no matter what. “What if you’re tired?” I’d ask my uncle. “What if you don’t feel like going out?”
“We’re always tired,” he admitted. That’s exactly why he’d found a way to make dating his wife automatic. The strategy was simple yet effective, and I was reminded of it last month, when I tried out Denver Date Nite, Gretchen Bartek’s hassle-free subscription and al la carte date planning service.
Having a regular date night is one of the easiest ways to maintain a strong relationship. The hard part is keeping those dates interesting. That’s where Denver Date Nite comes into play.
“We specialize in unattainable experiences,” Bartek explains.
My off-the-radar itinerary included a two-hour ScooTours rental followed by an “Eat & Learn” burrata-making class at Sarto’s. By the end of the night, Ben and I would try two new activities and explore a neighborhood we’d never visited.
Let Someone Else Do The Planning
It all started on denverdn.com, where I submitted answers to a short questionnaire. After alerting Bartek to our dietary preferences, age, and budget, I relinquished control.
Bartek plans everything for her clients, booking all necessary reservations and emailing couples a detailed itinerary a day before their date. It’s exciting not knowing exactly what you’re going to get — kind of like a blind date. (Only, if you hate Bartek’s date, she re-plans it for you for free, no awkward sidestepping necessary.)
A Taste of Italy in Denver
A ScooTours scooter rental was the last thing I expected to see on my itinerary. I felt a little silly learning to ride a Vespa in downtown Denver, rush-hour commuters watching Ben and me take practice laps around the parking lot next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. But scooters are crazy-fun, and after a tutorial, our ScooTours guide, David Howard, gave us a map highlighting a half-dozen suggested rides. Ben and I decided on a Cheesman Park loop, but we were rained out before we reached our destination. No big deal: The rain, wind, and uptown traffic only added to the thrill of our ride.
ScooTours scooter rentals start at $65 for up to two hours of riding. Howard and his colleagues do guided scooter tours three days a week, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. “Most of our customers prefer to rent and ride,” Howard says, noting that reservations can be booked online.
Gettin’ Cheesy Before Dinner
Post-scooter, Ben and I drove to Sarto’s, a social eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood with approachable-yet-sophisticated Italian fare. Based on the restaurant’s haute aesthetic, I knew good things were coming.
Shortly after being seated at the bar, Chef Garret Meyer appeared with a big bowl of mozzarella curds. He gave us a history lesson on burrata before pulling Ben and me behind the bar, where we kneaded hot cheese curd like bread. Hot mozzarella feels as weird as it sounds, and there was a lot of laughter as we stuffed pouches of the stuff with ricotta.
Making food is fun, but I always prefer eating it. When the learning portion of our “Eat & Learn” class ended, Ben and I were reseated for a 5-course tasting menu that included cicchetti (small snacks), our handmade burrata, watermelon salad, shrimp fettuccine with squid ink noodles, and a perfect portion of grilled king salmon paired with snap peas and these amazing deep fried rice balls.
I sat back, feeling satisfied with both my meal and my husband. A night of unfamiliar experiences had helped deepen our bond.
When you’ve been married for almost a decade, that’s something worth celebrating.