Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market.
Nobody comes to the leafy Connecticut suburbs for our heart-shaped hot tubs. Not only is their resale value questionable, but surely P&Z has a longstanding regulation against Atlantic City chic. All the same, New Canaan can be the perfect spot for a dreamy date, even when your date is the person with whom you’ve been filing taxes jointly for decades. You can find romance here in a cozy, candlelit meal, a meandering drive down a country road, or playing footsie while you read the parking ticket appeals.
But this year, I’m seeking romantic excursions with an expansive twist. After 100 pandemic-tempered weeks, our routines could use a shakeup. “Netflix and chill” is no longer winky and suggestive; it actually just means “come glare at your phone next to me while I watch season seven of my Danish detective series.” So, in honor of Valentine’s Day this coming Monday, and in hopes of inspiring new activities for couples at loose ends, here are some ideas for dates, experiences, and gifts you can only find in New Canaan.
For Cheese Lovers:
Of the Five Love Languages (words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch) identified by Gary Chapman in his 1992 bestseller, mine is cheese. And Plum Plums, Gayle Martin and Michael Riahi’s Cherry Street cheese, gift, and gourmet shop speaks that language fluently. Love is present here in abundance. The love of food for certain, with farmstead cheeses sourced from cheesemakers around the world, but also the love of sharing extraordinary finds and helping would-be gourmands find their new favorite snack. The owners are always ready with suggestions for the novice, and happy to share samples with the unconvinced. I’ve met many a lifetime cheese in Plum Plums, which is to say nothing of the handmade Loire Valley butter they stock. Buy yourself some Beurre de Baratte, spread it thickly on a warm slice of the best bread you can find, and share it with someone you like like. That’s a date in and of itself.
But Plum Plums is also a labor of love in the literal sense. Because they might as well be characters in a Nancy Meyers movie, Gayle and Michael are married, and they get to go to work together and run a business about which they’re both passionate and super-knowledgeable. As far as #couplegoals go, that life is hard to beat.
To kick off Valentine’s Day weekend (spoiler alert for my husband), I bought him tickets to tonight’s cheese class, Around the World with Cheese. Participants pick up a box of cheese at the shop, some wine with which to pair it, and jump on Zoom at 7 PM for some armchair travel to Alpine hillsides and medieval French abbeys. That beats the Metro-North to Manhattan for me, any day of the week.
For Fun Lovers:
When it comes to board games, every relationship has a genial, easygoing player and a hypercompetitive monster who will Google divorce lawyers over a bad Uno hand. Knowing the risks of playing with me, I’m always surprised when my sweet-natured sweetheart is up for a board game. But trivia became our favorite pastime during those Tiger King-fueled days of the early pandemic, thanks to Rachel Lampen and Kristen Mitrakis’s rollicking nightly Rock Paper Scissors trivia games. We loved the opportunity to mine our brains for arcane knowledge, and we wanted more of it. Where other people went nuts for puzzles, we chose Trivial Pursuit. And our favorite low-key date night of late is one we fondly call Trivial Pursush. We pair takeout rolls from Hashi (get the peanut & avocado roll; just trust me) with an hourlong round of Trivial Pursuit.
You can easily make this tradition your own. Our favorite in-town joy resource, New Canaan Toy Store, has a wall of board games both wonderfully nostalgic (Monopoly, Life, Taboo) and intriguingly newfangled. I picked up Catan, a settlement-building game about strategically hoarding resources (also early COVID vibes) to play this weekend. Of course, there’s Twister, should you wish to be more full-contact with your game night date, you minx. Either way, an at-home dinner date where you get to laugh, look into each others’ eyes, and discover that the third Jonas brother’s name is Kevin, is a winning combination. Provided I win.
For Art Lovers:
As a grown woman who still draws the sun as a yellow ball wearing sunglasses, I get a little shy around art classes. But if we all went about doing only what we’re comfortable doing, none of us would be very interesting. So, inspired by a friend taking a series of painting classes, I bought my husband a one-day painting class for Christmas at the Silvermine Art Center and figured I’d tag along, too.
Our real estate agent pointed Silvermine out to us when we looked at houses in New Canaan eight years ago, and we loved that it was here. “We’ll go there all the time!” “We’ll become notable sculptors!” gave way, over eight years, to “oh yeah, we should definitely check that place out.” I regret our delay. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of a century-old resource dedicated to art education–for children, for skilled adults, and, yes, for dilettantes. The Silvermine course catalog is incredibly dense with deep dives into whole artistic disciplines, like printmaking, drawing, the jubilantly-named (and super-intriguing) “A Day to Weld!” and ceramics. I must assume the ceramics teachers have a ban on couples reenacting the pottery wheel scene from Ghost in their classes, much the way you can’t play “Stairway to Heaven” in a Guitar Center, but there’s only one way to find out, cowboy.
When our Fluid Acrylic Pours class met Saturday, a dozen of us learned an interesting abstract painting technique we didn’t know before. You overturn a cup with of thinned acrylic paint onto a canvas to let gravity and fluid dynamics do the rest. Turns out, my husband has an excellent eye for color and composition. Am I an expert? Absolutely not. But was it fun, and more than a little romantic, to spend a Saturday learning something about someone about whom I thought I knew everything?