As It Happens·Q&A

New York couple takes date night to next level by dining on Brooklyn Bridge

A Brooklyn couple has made a new ritual of romantic "pop-up dinners" set up in iconic locations around their city.

Pair from Brooklyn has made new pandemic ritual of romantic 'pop-up dinners'

Jasmin and Dean Gaskin weren't quite ready to restart date nights in restaurants or on patios as COVID-19 restrictions started to lift, so they begun a tradition of pop-up dinners in iconic locations around New York City, including Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. (Dean Gaskin/Twitter)

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It started with an anniversary plan that was foiled by COVID-19.

Dean and Jasmin Gaskin had planned to travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to celebrate their five-year wedding anniversary, but pandemic travel restrictions put that trip on ice.

Undeterred, the Brooklyn couple set their sights on Coney Island.

"I just told my husband that I wanted my toes in the sand and he took that idea and he upgraded it," Jasmin told Buzzfeed reporter David Mack, who first reported this story.

Since that celebratory dinner on the beach, the pair has taken their pop-up dinner concept to several locations around the city, most notably their dinner Tuesday on the Brooklyn Bridge, which caught the attention of Buzzfeed and, subsequently, other media.

The couple still wanted to support local restaurants, so they get take-out meals from some of their favourite eateries. (Dean Gaskin/Twitter)

Dean Gaskin spoke to As It Happens guest host Peter Armstrong about the new romantic ritual they've started. Here is part of that conversation.

Dean, why did you and your wife choose the Brooklyn Bridge for your candlelit dinner for two on Tuesday night?

Well, we had a few previous dinners on the beach at Coney Island, Brooklyn, a park locally, and we wanted to just go bold. And the Brooklyn Bridge is so iconic. And because of the quarantine and COVID, we just knew that tourism was down. It would be a perfect opportunity to take advantage. We understood that there'll be passersby and joggers along there, but not as many as [there] normally was. So it just felt perfect.

And what was the reaction as you see all these people walking by on the bridge?

Funny enough, the setup is the weirdest part. People start looking at you unfold a table and chairs, then start taking out food. But once we sit down and engage in our dinner, we block everyone out. It's so weird. You know, we take in the sunset. And then again, there's people around us. So we just take in the whole ambiance of New York City. 

The couple dined on take-out tacos and grilled corn while they took in the views from Brooklyn Bridge. (Dean Gaskin/Twitter)

You have the perfect table cloth, and the plates look like they're straight out of the restaurant. I was looking for signs of, like, backpack straps on the underside of the table. How do you get it all there? 

We have a carry-on suitcase that we wheel along with us. It has two compartments; one side holds china and plastic wineglasses, and the other side holds our portable speaker, the battery-lit candles, things of that nature, whatever sort of table decor we bring. And most of that's stuff from my house; we bring little house plants and candles and whatnot.

So walk me through this. Why did you decide to start doing these sort of pop-up dinners instead of just going to some restaurant patio?

My wife and I and our children had been quarantined in the house long enough. And when our city started to open up, we just weren't comfortable yet with going into restaurants or with their outdoor seating situation. So we wanted to support local businesses, some of our favourite spots. Some of our friends are restaurant owners, or work in restaurants. They were laid off or had to close down for a bit. So we just want to get the economy back up, at least in our neighbourhood.

One 'pop-up dinner,' including their two children, Amare, 12, and Maleah, 3, happened in front of a mural in Manhattan. (Dean Gaskin/Twitter)

The idea just opens up a whole world of possibilities, too

Absolutely. You know, we hope that this inspires couples and friends to go out and start their own pop-up lunches and dinners and whatnot, take advantage of whatever scenery and iconic things you have in your neighborhood, your city, and do things that generally can't really be done on a normal basis. I don't know what's normal anymore. So let's let's create our new normal.

It's also incredibly romantic. But it has these very serious Brooklyn and Instagram vibes about it. Is the gesture inspiring maybe any annoyance from people, whether it's online or when they go by?

No. Believe it or not, I know New York City is rough and tough and gritty, but we keep getting a lot more gratitude, and "Oh, my God, why didn't I think of that?" moments than anything else. And to be frank and to be honest, we've gotten a few people who … you know, raised their nose up. But again, like I said, I'm so into my conversation with my wife that it  doesn't matter. It's fine. 

Jasmin is seen at the couple's first such dinner on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York in July. (Dean Gaskin)

What counts as the most romantic, or the best one so far?

I think the most romantic has to be the first one that we did back in July. It was for our fifth wedding anniversary. We were supposed to travel back to Cabo San Lucas where we got married. But because of travel restrictions and COVID, we decided not to. And my wife's only request was she wanted to have dinner and have sand under her feet. So Coney Island is not far from where we live in Brooklyn.

[At] Home Depot one afternoon, I came across this unique folding table chair set. And I said, "Let's just grab that. My son's always playing basketball, we're always in the park, let's just leave it in the car." So I say, let me decorate that little chair combination. I went to a Party City or something and, you know, just ordered some stuff on Amazon and just really, you know, Googled some stuff. What do restaurant tables look like? When I've gone on a vacation, what have I experienced? And boom, I just recreated it.

I have to admit, as a Canadian, where we're technically not legally allowed to drink on the streets, I looked at it and wondered, have the police brushed by at all or said anything?

We've been fortunate enough not to have any run-ins with the law enforcement as of yet. When we get there, we'll take our picture with a wine bottle on top. But as we're eating, we'll hide the bottle. And I'm ready for that conversation. You know, we haven't been out there for longer than 90 minutes per dinner pop-up. It's all in the name of love. So hopefully they'll show us a little grace and gratitude and let us get by. 

Written by Brandie Weikle. Interview produced by Sarah Cooper. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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