It took me a while to figure out what, exactly, I wanted to write about Valentine’s Day this year. Last year’s post was pretty epic, essentially my guide to get all the guys laid for Valentine’s Day. Not much has really changed since then – I still hold firm to everything I wrote in there – and my relationship status hasn’t changed, either, so I haven’t much to say on the topic. I still think restaurants are NOT the way to go – and honestly, if you’re reading this right now and don’t already have reservations, you’re pretty much SOL (aside from those going to smaller, local places, for which I commend you… minus a few notes).
So here’s a refreshed, closer look at what I think about Valentine’s Day – the day when everyone looks at me, Ms. Perpetually Single, with such pity — while I look at y’all, Mr./Mrs. In Relationships With People I Don’t Really Love, Mr./Mrs. I’m Not Really Getting Everything I Want, Mr./Mrs. Not Really Happy, and my favorite — with which I have the most experience — Mr./Mrs. I’m Perfectly Happy With My Partner But Don’t Want To Go Out on V-day But Societal Pressure Pities Me If I Don’t Spend Hundreds …with great sadness for you, and relief that I’m not involved with that.
With a minor detour to start: I wrote this as a Facebook status on Valentine’s Day 2013, while I was visiting San Francisco/the chef I was dating at the time:
This Valentine’s Day, as you sit down to a restaurant meal wherever you’ve chosen to celebrate – from White Castle to Daniel and everything in between – please take a moment to think about all those who made your meal possible. From BOH to FOH, from the executive chef to the pastry chef to the dishwasher, the reservationist to the hostess to your server and runner, all play a role in making that meal possible. Forgive them if they’re a bit backed up and behind – this is one of, if not THE busiest nights for restaurants all year. Just enjoy your meal, someone catering to you, and perhaps even be a little extra generous with your tip as you remember that BOH and FOH have significant others/loved ones that don’t get to spend the day with them because they’re there, creating that dining experience, just for YOU. And they do this on a regular basis – missing holidays, birthdays, special occasions, and more.
Be kind, generous, considerate and patient; a little goes a long way.
This hasn’t changed — I stand by that. Be nice to the service staff if you go out — extra nice, because you should always be nice.
In any case, here we go! My latest favorite salmon recipe actually makes for an excellent Valentine’s recipe – it’s super simple, uses one baking dish and goes in the oven — leaving you free to entertain your loved one instead of fussing in the kitchen the whole time, with little clean up afterwards.
Before you go to the store to buy all your fair trade, organic, local, wild caught ingredients… hit up Maison Kayser for the best baguettes you’ll ever eat… for Valentine’s Day you can get them in the shape of hearts. What the what? YES.
How adorable is that? A fantastic little conversation piece, or to go alongside the wonderful meal you prep for your sweetie. Love it.
Locations around the city (UWS, UES, Columbus Circle, Flatiron… check out their website for exact addresses). These will be available starting 2/13 but you should get it the day you plan to serve for freshest taste. While you’re there, pick up pastries for afterwards as well — or, my preference (as I’m always at the Columbus Circle location) — head to Francois Payard and pick up wonderful cakes for a sweet finish. Eric Kayser is an amazing breadmaker, and I could live on his bread with a smear of butter for the rest of my life… but I prefer the pastries at Francois Payard.
Some of the best chocolates you can find in the city, or if you want to spend more, another personal favorite of mine is La Maison du Chocolat. A dear friend of mine loves Neuhaus, but I haven’t had them yet so I can’t say for sure.
Now for the main course: mustard crusted salmon with roasted veggies.
Pictured here with roasted red cabbage and new potatoes, as the original recipe dictates. Since then, I’ve made it without any potatoes – which I’d recommend doing, since you’ve got the awesome heart-shaped baguette from above to served alongside, plus you don’t want to carb-load before gettin’ busy, ya know? lest one or both of you fall into food coma… and the red cabbage can be tricky, too, since some people get gassy from that stuff. I made it last time with red cabbage and added carrots to roast with it, super sweet and tasty, cutting the bitterness of the cabbage nicely (which sweetens from roasting anyway).
As for the mustard crusting, to make it even better, I increase the lemon zest (zest an entire lemon for a smaller amount of salmon), and use Maille old style whole grain mustard… which has these lovely giant mustard grains that just really pop in your mouth. I was recently gifted (by the Maille people) a crock of their whole grain mustard with chardonnay, and can’t wait to use it in this recipe as well – I am sure it will pop even more, with the extra nuance of chardonnay added. Yum!
If you’re worried about being gassy, I recommend switching out the cabbage for roasted carrots, which add a nice sweetness alongside the super flavorful mustard crusted salmon.
Whatever you decide to do this year with your sweetie – or just for yourself, I might cook this for myself or for friends! – have fun with it and be kind if you do go out. Remember, it’s stressful for everyone!! – your partner who may or may not plan something amazing for you, the people who serve you in stores or restaurants, people on the street… you just never know what’s going on in their minds.
And if you really want to go out, check my post from last year to find out which restaurants I recommend.
Full disclosure: I have relationships with the press for Maison Kayser, Francois Payard, and Maille. I was not compensated for this post, nor under any obligation to post about these things – this may surprise some people, but I actually routinely spend my own money at these places and don’t mind in the slightest because their products are pretty damn awesome.