The Surefire Valentine’s Day Menu
We all have the holidays that we’re good at, don’t we? Some people just know how to do Easter, and can produce intricately decorated eggs and beautiful spring decorations seemingly by magic; others can do Christmas like they were born at the North Pole (the one with candy canes and reindeer who play whimsical games instead of protecting their young from Golden Eagles). Tina knocks Hallowe’en out of the park every single year, because I truly believe that she is constantly doing battle with the need to dress in costume every moment of her life.
Personally, I measure myself by the holidays that I do poorly: namely, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Man, I blow those ones every single time. I can put in all the effort in the world, or I can make not even the slightest attempt at trying, and it won’t matter either way — regardless of my efforts, those days have always managed to go haywire for me.
Did I ever tell you about the New Year’s Eve I spent one time with an ex of mine, where I was told not to worry about anything and we would have the time of our lives? And then she spent forty minutes arguing with the guy over the phone while she ordered Chinese food, and we watched the sequel to the Jackass movie on Showcase until she fell asleep in the chair next to me?
Or maybe the Valentine’s Day when I spent an ungodly sum of money that I didn’t actually have on gifts ranging from movies to jewelery, and received in return a dinner of my choice at the local Shoeless Joe’s? As long as I didn’t order anything to drink, because she didn’t like to drive when we went out? Because if she did, then she wouldn’t get to wear her preferred boots?
Have I ever mentioned how grateful I am to have Tina in my life now?
But hey! Just because my celebrations of renewal and the joy of interpersonal affection are always disastrous doesn’t mean yours have to be! That wouldn’t be fair at all. So let me help you to put together the perfect Valentine’s Day menu for you and your loved one this weekend, one that will guarantee you’ll be fed, happy and full of energy… for all the genteel holding of hands you’ll be doing, if my own bitter experience is any measure of things.
Anyway, let’s start things off with a lovely cocktail!
It doesn’t necessarily have to be from Southern Ontario, but an authentic Niagara Ice Wine Martini is really the proper way to go. As the world’s largest ice wine (Canadians formally call it “icewine”, but I can’t bring myself to do that) producer, you’ll have the edge of authenticity and the advantage of price over the more high-falutin’ German varieties.
Sweet, bright and punchy, when served with a skewer of frozen grapes it becomes a fun and seasonally-appropriate opening to your Valentine’s evening.
Plus, let’s face it, we could all use a drink by the time the middle of February rolls around, right?
On to the appetizer!
Sure, you could roll out the standard cheese plate, but I’m afraid that doesn’t cut it (the cheese, that is) any more. No, if you really want to make an impression, it’s about showing off a little bit of creativity — so why not take advantage of an easy, quick and delicious way to impress your Valentine with a Drunken Date and Blue Cheese Flatbread?
No, the secret ingredient is not to become the drunken date yourself, but the combination of sweet and savory will whet appetites, and show your commitment to making the evening a special one.
Plus, the next day, you can brag that you served fancy pizza on Valentine’s Day and never got called on it. High fives all around!
And continuing on the theme of simple, fast and elegant, here’s an option that you can pop into the oven even as you’re diving into your drunken date appetizer (the bread, remember — stay focused here).
Veal tenderloin is a tender, beautiful piece of meat to start with, but when it’s crusted with a splendid ras el hanout spice blend and served with a rich honeyed shiraz reduction… ooh, then it’s something else altogether. This is the kind of decadence that says to your sweetie that you are willing to bust your hump to prepare restaurant quality food for them, that you are committed to attend to their richest of appetites, that they deserve nothing but the best from you.
Nobody needs to know it only took you about forty-five minutes.
After a dinner that rich and flavorful, it doesn’t hurt to have something light to follow. A Drunken Strawberry Rhubarb Jelly is just the right mix of fun, grown-up boozy flavor and make-ahead ease required for a meal like this.
Highlighted by a liqueur flavored not only with strawberries, but infused with the lightest touch of roses, this is a dessert that practically cries out to be included in a Valentine’s day meal. It’s chocolate, strawberries, wine and flowers, all in a happy jiggly package.
Hey hey — I’m talking about dessert here! Get a hold of yoursel– NO, not like that!
Best of luck to everyone this holiday weekend, and we wish you all the best of success in wooing your loved ones — or indeed, in just sticking with the cocktail course and wooing your livers while you watch Bridget Jones’ Diary.
And if this menu helped to make sure that things turned out particularly well for you, it’s worth noting that we do offer recipes for the next morning, also.
Just sayin’! Happy Valentine’s Day to all!