This one’s for the guys – and is completely different from anything I’ve posted here in the past. Super Bowl’s come and gone (congratulations to the Seahawks! what a horrifically boring game), and you just realized – either because of all the commercials on TV or because the lady in your life has hinted enough times that it finally registered – HOLY BADOODIES, VALENTINE’S DAY IS 11 DAYS AWAY.
And if you ever want to get “lucky” again, you better start planning. Valentine’s Day is on a Friday this year, which makes it doubly hard.
Oh snap… your favorite restaurant is all booked up.
I’m not surprised, but I’m here to help.
First of all – skip all of the places with “special Valentine’s menus” – the prices are jacked up because suckers will pay those prices, and for the same freakin’ food that’s usually served. What a rip off. Personally, I try to avoid restaurants on Valentine’s Day because proposals make me cry like a baby. Plus, the prix fixe menus offend me, and on top of all that – have you ever dated anyone in the industry? I think Valentine’s Day is only 2nd to Restaurant Week in terms of days they wish they could yell at customers. I feel bad for the servers and for the kitchen. Although I’ll never again date someone in the industry, I still feel for them and don’t want to add to their pain.
In fact, skip going to a restaurant entirely and show your lady you really care by cooking for her. This also eliminates the need to find a cab after dinner to take her back to your place – she’s already at your place, making the path to gettin’ down and dirty even quicker.
Foolproof tips for making that happen? Glad you asked.
1- Keep the menu light – you have full control here to make sure your lady doesn’t load up on carbs or fatty foods. Heavy foods = food coma = no funny business = everybody loses. Seafood is my suggestion – and yes, start with raw oysters if you must, it isn’t quite as difficult as you think. Baked clams – just a few each! – are also a good starter, if raw seafood makes you cringe.
(Menus from past Valentine’s Days of mine… 2006, 2007, 2009)
2- Avoid asparagus. Some people can’t process it properly which leads to funky smelling pee – and as a friend once pointed out “if it makes my pee smell funny, what else will smell funny?” NOT SEXY.
(Menu from 2012 included asparagus. I wasn’t the chef!)
3- Keep the drink options simple. If you both like a particular wine, stick with that. I love bubbles for any occasion – OK, I drink sparkling wine on a daily basis – so I would personally switch it up and drink rosé. I’m a big fan of well-made cocktails, so if I might even whip up a pitcher of cocktails beforehand, and just serve from that. It’s all about presentation, though, so consider special-ordering some pretty sugars to hang from the rim of the glasses. I’m a huge fan of Chambre de Sucre.
(What, you need a cocktail recipe? French 75 is a favorite of mine and is really pretty – gin, lemon juice, champagne, and sugar. I actually prefer my own riff on it and use prosecco for a slightly sweeter finish, and my go-to gin, Bombay Sapphire, for the floral qualities. If you’re lazy, use a high quality lemonade/lemon soda (San Pellegrino limonata, for example) as it’s pre-sweetened, but that might be too sweet. For an extra touch of class, try hanging one of the aforementioned specialty sugars from the rim of a champagne flute and have your girl drop it in… fizzy, pretty, adorable, WIN! – I’m a fan of the Angel Wings sugar or even Neko the cat because it’s cute, but there’s also an elephant. Play with the proportions and keep your lady’s preferences in mind – if she’s into girly sweet drinks, make it a little sweeter, or if she’s a bourbon drinker, you may want to propose. I mean, you may want to try a different cocktail – I’m really into bourbon and root beer, but I don’t know that would go with many seafood-forward menus…)
4- Most girls will want dessert. Most girls will expect chocolate. Don’t be so cliche. If you KNOW your girl is a chocoholic, buy her a box of chocolates for another time, but keep dessert light – I’m a fan of citrus desserts. Lemon custard feels luxurious because it’s rich and thick, but still tastes light – just don’t serve huge portions, or you may sugar crash.
(Godiva is always a safe bet. If your girl is a connoisseur though, you may want to go with these awesome offerings by Francois Payard. Any girl should be happy to eat those! Or if you want a recipe for a great dessert – well, I’m making this lemon custard cake this year, but a really foolproof recipe that anyone who can heat milk can make is my panna cotta…)
5- If all goes well and she stays over, have a brunch plan in place so lounging around in the morning isn’t ruined by “What should we eat?” Hey, if you want to pre-arrange a delivery of the necessary items for a bagel and a schmear because you’re near an excellent bagel place, do it. But you can also WOW her further by whipping up a quick couple of brunchy type items while she lays in bed wondering how the hell did SHE get so lucky.
(Personally – I was recently playing around with Giovanni Rana gnocchi and discovered that you can sautee them in a bit of butter – watch them though, you have to move them a lot or they burn – and they make something like the best home fries EVER. Top it with a quickly fried egg and some crumbled bacon – but not too much, or she’ll feel a little food-coma-y and not want to go for another round, wink wink nudge nudge – and you’ve got the greatest quick brunch in bed EVER.)
Now go get some, you dog.
… I focused on food, but you want to know about the extras? Well, I like flowers just fine, but specifically if he remembers what kind I like. I already covered chocolate – it IS food, right? …and jewelry… well, I like jewelry, but I guess that depends on where you are in your relationship. I’m currently obsessed with Alex + Ani bracelets, though, and they are fun, inexpensive, and there are so many that surely you can find one that has meaning for you and your girl.
… you insist on going to a restaurant? Fine, here are some suggestions. Make sure you tip your server extra well – even better than normal – see above for why.
Please not that I received no monetary compensation to post about any of these places, recipes, or ideas. I did receive press releases about the rosé, Francois Payard, Giovanni Rana, and have previously attended press events for both Chambre de Sucre and Godiva, but was under no obligation to post any of this. The restaurants listed are all restaurants that I personally adore but have no press relationship or otherwise with whatsoever. Honestly, this is just my idea of the best Valentine’s Day ever… f’reals. And if you’re my mom or sister reading this, ummm, getting down and dirty means doing the dishes. Yeah, that’s it.