Men, that day is upon us. Valentine’s Day.
You’ve decided to cast aside the idea of making a reservation someplace nice and decided to charge ahead on your own, facing the task of putting together a dinner for the love in your life. Fine. I applaud your choice.
It’s probably a sound idea given the fact that Valentine’s Day is the second busiest day in the fine dining business next to Mother’s Day (let’s not go there) and overworked service staff and kitchen volume can surely sour the fare. But this choice you’ve made is not something to be trifled with, in fact, let me speak plainly. You screw this up and you’re dog meat, pal. Relax. Here are a few tips that can help you.
Tip One: Think simple and elegant. Appetizer, main course, dessert…something that goes together and doesn’t look like a la carte at the UN. Plan on executing things you feel comfortable with making and not something you cannot pronounce. If you can, practice making the dishes at least once. If you select fewer ingredients it will help. She may say she doesn’t mind that you burned the potatoes or overcooked the greens, but trust me, you botch the simple things and it’s going to spell l-o-s-e-r. Failure is not an option.
Tip Two: Make time and buy your ingredients ahead of time. You’re not the only one who’s decided to do this and the other mystified lugs out there in the aisles don’t want to help you. You don’t like that gamey looking filet the kid behind the counter is pushing on you? Be a man. Push back.
Shop around and find the right cut of meat and seasonally appropriate sides items. If you’re stuck or can’t find what you need make sure you have fall back options. Pay the money and get good wine. Think Sun Tzu. Cooking, as any halfway decent chef will tell you, is akin to planning for war.
Tip Three: I know you love charring your meat under the canopy of the great wide open, but give it a rest, will you? She’s probably seen that circus before and Valentine’s Day isn’t a Super Bowl party. Surprise her by showing you took the effort to learn how to make quick pan or wine sauce, that you took the time to blanch the asparagus. Don’t know how? Research, buddy. The Internet, I hear it’s the next big thing.
Tip Four: Get organized. Have a strategy and know how long each dish will take. Prepare. Don’t be peeling carrots when the entrée is ready to plate. If you’re in the kitchen the whole time and she’s waiting for your company see the end of “Tip One”.
Tip Five: Dessert. (see below). I know, you’re not really a dessert guy. I’m not really a dessert guy. Maybe she says she’s not a dessert girl, but I am willing to bet cash money right here and now that she’s lying.
Think chocolate, think light instead of heavy. If you must take a short cut on this and pick up something, don’t lie about making it. But another nugget of advice here: don’t screw it up. This is the final stage to lift off and a shabby finale can sag the sails.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Don’t be an idiot. Buy her flowers and a gift. The rest is up to you. Here's an easy recipe that is sure to impress your sweetheart:
Simple Sexy Chocolate Balsamic Strawberry Dessert (Idiot Proof)
2 pints of good organic strawberries
3 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons of sugar
8 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar (spend the money)
2 whole vanilla bean pods 14 ounces of mascarpone cheese
1 dark bar of chocolate 70-85 percent cocoa (grated for garnish)
METHOD: Wash, de-stem, and halve the strawberries. Whisk together balsamic vinegar, sugar and honey until the sugar and honey is dissolved in the vinegar. In a non-reactive bowl toss strawberries in the balsamic/honey/sugar mix and refrigerate for at least an hour and no more than an hour and a half.
Take a sharp knife and split the vanilla bean pods down the middle lengthwise. Use the edge of the knife to scrape out the vanilla beans inside the pods and reserve. In another bowl mix the mascarpone with the vanilla seeds and maybe add another tablespoon of honey to the mascarpone/vanilla bean mixture to sweeten things up a bit.
To plate, put a small dollop of the jazzed up mascarpone/vanilla bean mixture in a small dish and top with a good portion the now-marinated cut strawberries and drizzle in a few tablespoons of the sweetened balsamic mixture as well.
Using a cheese grater, take the bar of dark chocolate and grate some chocolate shavings on top for garnish. Serve immediately, ya big lug you.
Here are a few ideas on where to buy the ingredients:
on Ritchie Highway, on Benfield Road and on Ritchie Highway. There's also the also on Ritchie Highway, near , where you can stop and have a beer while you ponder the rest of the meal!