I realize that this may be late, considering today is Valentine’s Day, but I thought I would offer some of my personal suggestions on dining on Valentine’s Day.
My number one suggestion: Don’t go out on Valentine’s Day. Working in a restaurant, I, along with others who work with me, look forward to Valentine’s Day as much as I look forward to a root canal. For some reason, people who never dine out decide that on February 14 they should go to the nicest restaurant they can afford. Chefs know this so they cater their menu accordingly. Or they offer a set menu that while may not be completely uninspired, is definitely not the food they would love to cook.
Not to mention that if you do decide to go out, you are going to be putting up with large crowds and noisy restaurants. Because my ideal Valentine’s Day is to celebrate it with 200 other people crammed into a restaurant being served by people who may not be in the greatest mood.
The one caveat I will throw out there is this: If you and your significant other have a great hole in the wall place where you just love to eat, go there. Chances are those types of restaurants are doing nothing different, and you will probably not have to face large crowds.
The other side to my number one suggestion is: Dine in on Valentine’s Day.
You do not have to make an extravagant feast for you and your other, rather simply enjoy the food you both love with the mindful intention of just being together (Two years ago I wrote a blog post on the simple and Valentine’s Day). If you are both adventurous and want to create something new, by all means do it, especially if you do it together. But, say in my case, where I am most likely to cook for Claire, I would purposefully choose a dinner that would not require me to spend all day in the kitchen by myself. For instance our first Valentine’s Day together, when we were dating, Claire came up to my little cabin in Forest Falls. I made a citrus salad (all of which can be prepped beforehand and assembled right before eating) and then short ribs with mashed potatoes. As the short ribs were braising in the oven for a couple of hours, we were able to go out and play in the snow.
This year, Claire and I are going to enjoy an even simpler dinner: cheese and wine. I went down to Trader Joe’s in Salt Lake City and picked up three different types of cheese, some salami and some dried fruit. It is one of our absolute favorite things to do. There is little prep and little clean up. We usually clear off the coffee table, put in a movie and relax.
One of the other major perks of staying in on Valentine’s Day is that you do not have to worry about drinking too much. I am by no means advocating getting drunk, but if Claire and I open a bottle of wine, if we finish it, neither of us is in a good place to be driving.
Claire and I don’t have children at the present, so it is a lot easier to plan an evening. But if you do have children, make Valentine’s Day special for your children, but do not forget about each other. Maybe wait to celebrate Valentine’s Day until the weekend, like a Friday or Saturday night, where the two of you can stay up later. Once you put your kids down for the night, maybe try and be intentional about doing something special, whether it is cheese and wine or even having a separate dinner for the two of you.
As I was thinking about this post, I remembered one of my favorite quotes from M.F.K. Fisher, the celebrated food writer. She writes:
“And above all, friends should possess the rare gift of sitting. They should be able, no, eager, to sit for hours—three, four, six—over a meal of soup and wine and cheese, as well as one of twenty fabulous courses. Then, with good friends of such attributes, and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask, ‘When shall we live if not now?’” (The Art of Eating, p. 44)
And isn’t this what Valentine’s Day is all about?