How David Burtka Spends His Perfect Night In

published Apr 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Photo: Courtesy of David Burtka; Design: Apartment Therapy)

You may know David Burtka through a number of accomplishments. It might be his theatrical performance in productions like “The Play About the Baby,” or his appearances in episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” or his current profession of being a successful celebrity chef. (And yes, of course we know he’s married to the wonderful Neil Patrick Harris.)

A graduate of Cordon Bleu, Burtka now runs his own catering company, Gourmet M. D. He also just came out with his first cookbook titled “Life is a Party: Delicious Doable Recipes to Make Every Day a Celebration” which is exactly what it sounds like. The book is organized by the four seasons that each have four different “parties” filled with seasonal recipes. In other words, Burtka has every occasion planned for you throughout the year. You’re welcome!

But what does Burtka whip up with his husband and two kids when it’s not work-related? And what about how he truly unwinds with NPH? See below for all the dets you’ve ever want to know.

(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

Set the Scene

Your perfect homebody scene in 5 words: Family, cooking, games, movie, cuddles.

Are you alone or with someone else? I’m with my kids in the beginning, I put them to bed, and then I’m with Neil for the rest of the night.

Night-in uniform: I like to wear all comfort. There’s this French company called Sweet Pants and they make the most amazing sweatpants. You can get all different kinds of styles, but they’re so comfortable. I would wear that on the bottom and Aviator Nation has really great comfortable sweatshirts, so I’d wear one of theirs.

What two people, dead or alive, would you let crash your night? Julia Child to be there to help with the dinner, and then I’d probably want the Dali Lama there to put me to sleep. I’m really into transcendental meditation so I think it would be really great to drift off to sleep while he talks, sort of tucking me in.

Ideal added touches: Have someone do the dishes. If I had my way, not that I don’t like doing the dishes, but it does take the time. A reflexologist to come and rub my feet.

(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

Now Playing

TV or a movie? It really depends on the night!

What are you watching? I love watching movies with my kids, then when the kids go to bed, Neil and I would watch this new show that no one’s really heard of called “Game of Thrones.” We are like the only people are just starting, but we are so into it. It’s beyond amazing.

eBooks or the real deal? Real deal, all the way. There’s something about picking up a book, being able to turn the page, and the smell of the book and putting a bookmark in there…it’s just great, I love it.

Currently reading? I read a book called “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and it’s a true love story about two people who met in the concentration camps. It’s pure gold within something horrible. It’s a great, beautiful book.

Silence or music? It starts with music when we’re cooking. We’re big fans of 1920s to ’40s big bands like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra—we love a throwback. When I’m reading a book, I want some complete silence.

Board games, yay or nay? Totally! I just bought Neil a whole “Game of Thrones” Risk game that I’m dying to open up. A really great game for the kids now that they’re reading is called Apples to Apples. It’s great for kids, too, because—yes, there is a lot of pop culture—but there are a lot of words that they are learning about, and it’s fun.

(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

What’s cooking

Order in or cook for yourself? With the kids, they love cooking, and Neil usually does the dishes. But it’s a group effort—they love being in the kitchen, helping me prep, coming up with stuff…they love being part of it. If it was just Neil and I, I think we wouldn’t cook for ourselves because of the cleanup and the mess. Cooking for two is always more difficult than cooking for four or a big group, so I think we would order in and then watch a TV show.

What are you eating? If it was Neil and I, we would order in something: there’s great Indian in New York City, and the Thai food is fantastic. With the kids, it really depends. I’m fortunate enough to be able to say “hey, what do you want for dinner?” and today they said steak, spinach, and potato latkes.

What drink are you pouring? Neil works with Bubbly and they do really great sparkling waters, I think a better version of La Croix. There’s no calories, it’s all natural, and it’s quite good.

What’s for dessert? The kids love making desserts, Rice Krispies treats is a staple in our family. A quick buttermilk cake is really fun, too, because they get into the decorating and come up with the frosting.

Late night snack? I really love homemade popcorn, in fact there’s a really great recipe in my book. You take the oil from the bacon grease, you pop popcorn kernels in it. And then for sweet, I would say a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Neil is kind of addicted to it, he literally has a problem. He needs to go to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Anonymous, he’ll eat like six a night. Not quarter cups, like the big ones.

(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

Take care

Do you have a self-care ritual? I use a night oil which is really great called Midnight Recovery concentrate. After I wash my face, I put that on. One thing that I do like to do before I go to bed, I just say thank you for the day and that I’m grateful for the day that I have. I start the day with a please, and I end the day with a thank you. It’s something that I add to my ritual, to have gratitude and be appreciative of what life gives you.

What do you try to avoid at all costs? I really like to unplug. When we’re out to dinner with the kids, no ones allowed to be on their cell phones and I think it’s just time to spend giving the people I’m around and family my complete affection. I think it’s really annoying when you’re on your phone or your having to think of something and you’re watching a TV show and someone’s typing on their phone and it’s like come on.

Candles, yay or nay? Yay. I’m really into this Jo Loves created by Jo Malone. She sold it and opened up her new line and she has this really great one called Wildfires and it smells like you’re in a lodge, like a wood-burning fire. But I love all types of candles. For springtime, I really love the fresh sake candle, that’s fantastic.

Face masks, yay or nay? Nay! If I have something the next day, I would do a face mask, but I don’t do it regularly like in a night in. Once in a while, but it’s not something that I do all the time.

Bubble bath, yay or nay? Nay, salt. I’m into salts.

Chores, yay or nay? Of course, you have to do chores. It’s like that book by Shel Silverstein, and there’s that Silvia Stout that never took the garbage out. It’s like the same thing, if you’re not going to do your chores they’re going to all add up. I’m a very neat and tidy person, I don’t like clutter and I like things to be in their place, so I think instilling chores in kids is great and I think for an adult I think living in a messy environment is not necessarily good for your brain.

Ideal bedtime? Since I wake up with the kids every morning to take them to school, I like to get to bed by 10. But if it’s a night in and we know it’s a weekend, I would say 12 o’clock.