Valentine’s Day is one of the most important date nights of the year – but it’s a whole lot of pressure. From trying to get a reservation for dinner to being rushed out to make room for the next seating, it’s not very romantic. And, it’s expensive.
An even better option may be increasing the intimacy by having your romantic date night at home. “I like to keep it simple for Valentine’s Day, so roses and a good bottle of champagne are key and don’t have to break the bank. Valentine’s Day is about sharing with your partner, so I always like to prepare something together with my wife — it can be as simple as a making a whole roasted chicken or a delicious mushroom risotto, just as long as you’re sharing the cooking experience with your partner and enjoying time together,” says David Malbequi, chef and co-owner of David’s Cafe, a newly opened French/American spot in the East Village.
Go with a mix of rose petals on the table and small clusters of candles. “You can make it the length of the table with clusters of flowers—use one type of flower in a low cube but have multiple flowers to add texture. Options could include peonies, roses, hydrangea, freesia, or tulips. Ranunculus and even floating orchids, along with scented greens like mint or even lavender work well, too,” says Anne Sarno, florist on the flower delivery site, BloomNation, and Owner of Crickets Flowers in Lexington, MA.
“The best dinner drink for my money is a nicely paired wine. It is elegant, low maintenance, and the region from where it comes can be a nice topic of conversation that brings up adventure and sparks imagination,” says Spike Spencer, author of “FoodGame: the Ultimate Recipe for Dating Success.”
Chill your Champagne like a pro. “Always chill your bottle before serving. Put it in the fridge for two to three hours, or for a quicker solution we suggest filling an ice bucket with ice, cold water, and a handful of salt. The salt, ice and water create the perfect chilly bath that will cool down your bottle in 20-30 minutes,” says Trisha Antonsen, chief cocktail officer at Drizly. (The ideal temperature for serving champagne or sparkling wine is about 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Don’t plan anything that will need a lot of last minute work or time. “Do what you can ahead of time so that you maximize the time spent sitting, eating, and sharing conversation. Do make something that your date/partner really likes, use good plates, and experiment with presentation and garnishes,” says Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach. Spencer agrees. “If you have a slow cooker, that is date night dinner GOLD! You can make a vast array of things with little fuss. Another big plus is that your place will smell fantastic when she arrives.”
If you want to be very creative (and brave) you could do a dinner with a theme. “Is he a beach lover? Decorate the space like a Caribbean beach with palm trees (cut outs), the sound of water lapping (CD), sand under the table, shells, lobster pots, posters depicting beach scenes, and anything else that helps you to feel like you are there. “Dress in beach clothing and go barefooted,” says Coleman. With a little planning and energy, any scene can be set, depending on what hits the right mood for both of you.
Maine Lobster not only has an impressive history as an aphrodisiac, but its preparation is as simple as it gets. All you need is a boiling pot of salted water, melted butter, lemons, crackers and bibs for serving and—of course—a pair of Maine Lobsters! Plus, lobster cooks up red, the color of love, so it’s even festive in its visual appeal. Pair this dish with an Albarino or Pinot Gris for the perfect finishing touch. If lobster isn’t in the budget, other types of seafood make great romantic dinners, too. “Try a poached salmon or seared scallops for a dinner that’s easy (and pretty quick to make) but will still make a statement,” says Chef Matthew Robinson, who runs the popular food blog The Culinary Exchange.
While you may not want to get takeout for your big at-home dinner date, there’s lots of ways to ease your way to an impressive meal. Omaha Steaks has a great package for the perfect at-home dinner date, aptly called the Romantic Dinner In, which includes Chateaubriand, Maine Lobster Tail Halves, Smashed Red Potatoes and Sea Salt Caramel Brownies for just $84.99. And for a lighter spin, SeaBear Wild Salmon does a Dinner for Two for $59.99 that features two gourmet seafood cakes, award-winning chowder, two Wild Alaskan Salmon dinner fillets and even two mini cheesecakes for dessert. (OK, maybe it’s not all that light, but Valentine’s Day is about indulgence!)
Mandatory for an at-home dinner date! “It’s easy to impress with a selection of pastries, like cream puffs, that are much easier to make than they look. Even better, you can fill them with all types of different fillings – apple compote, whipped cream, chocolate mousse,” says Robinson.