“Home is where the heart is,” as the saying goes. Valentine’s Day at home can be as romantic as your imagination allows. Here are nine romantic dinner tips to consider:
1. Plan a dinner menu according to the taste of your “significant other”
Choose a menu favored by your partner. Whether dinner is formal or casual, it’s possible to select a menu that is romantic, delicious and memorable. Valentine’s Day is all about making romantic memories.
Dinner at home can dazzle or just be a quiet interlude for two. The emphasis for the day is the word “two.” Make each dinner course an announcement for this special day made just for you two. It can begin by exchanging little surprise gifts that lead to other gifts when dinner ends. Each moment of the dinner should be romantic.
2. Select a theme for your dinner at home
Valentine cards and gifts, romance, hearts, flowers, and chocolates are part of the theme. Don’t be afraid to stray slightly from the theme to make dinner even more impressive. For example, choose a famous romantic couple, a special event that marked previous Valentine’s Days or a personal Valentine’s Day celebration.
For instance, the sub-theme could focus on the style of Valentine’s Day of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor for an elegant dinner. Re-create a romantic cruise or vacation as a casual sub-theme. A little mystery is also a romantic way to create dinner at home for this special day. This might include little heart-shaped “clues” for after-dinner romance. Play the sub-theme out in the menu and table settings and decorations.
3. Valentine’s Day dinner with an International flair
Whole dinner menus can be created for Valentine’s Day that includes international symbols of love. The Romans held their “love fests” around the fourteenth of February. The French-based many of their paintings, music, and ballets on romance.
Create a touch of international elegance with a dinner menu that reflects this theme. In Scotland, tarts, called “pasties” for two are a special treat that can be replicated for a casual Valentine’s Day dinner at home. These are easy to do entrees that can be served with a simple salad. Italians savor specially coated pink and white almonds to give to their special someone. Look for international traditions that will help you create a romantic setting for Valentine’s Day dinner at home.
4. Valentine’s Day dinner at home in reverse
Another way to spice up Valentine’s Day dinner at home is to serve dinner in reverse order. This simply means that the menu could be an elegant full English breakfast or a bistro brunch, continental style. This depends on the appetites of the couple involved.
Spend the earlier part of the evening sipping champagne and eating chocolate dipped strawberries by the fire. Exchange gifts. Then, sit down to enjoy lighter fare with brunch or breakfast menus in the wee hours after midnight. The hours between midnight and dawn are left to the couple’s imagination. With Valentine’s Day dinner in play in reverse, it’s a break from predictable celebrations. Look for menus for brunch and breakfast that stray from a usual fare.
5. Wine, romance, and song
Music is an important part of setting the scene for Valentine’s Day Dinner at home. For formal dinners, choose softer music. Choose menus that don’t require being in the kitchen. Choose recipes that go from refrigerator to oven to table. These save time and allow cooks to enjoy the evening.
Select wines compatible with appetizers, side dishes and meat, fish or poultry as main courses. Make spectacular dessert presentations with Flambé, Cherries Jubilee, petit fours, and Pavlova. Wines should compliment the dessert. For a romantic dessert, combine after-dinner liqueurs with a sweet treat. Alternate scoops of strawberry or cherry vanilla ice cream in crystal flutes. Swirl crème de cassis or blackberry brandy between scoops. Top with whipped cream and cherries.
6. Valentine’s Day menu tips
Valentine’s Day menus depend on whether the couple prefers “comfort” foods, haute cuisine or likes to venture into the world of untried foods. Oysters are said to be aphrodisiacs when eaten raw. Yet, oysters served in a light cream soup or as Oysters Rockefeller are every bit as appetizing to the senses.
Decide in advance how many courses Valentine’s Day dinner will serve. A formal dinner would include an appetizer, soup or salad, side dishes and the main entree. The entree could include fish, poultry or meat. Make appetizers petite. For formal dinners, this might be Melba crackers with a foi gras pate. For casual dinners, serve an assortment of cheeses, crackers, dips and crudités on a silver platter.
7. Salads can also be turned into a romantic soiree
A blend of radicchio, baby spinach, chicory, and endive can be served with a delicate champagne/strawberry dressing. If serving soup, choose light broths laced with Madeira wine and threads of chives. Side dishes add the finishing touch to entrees.
For Valentine’s Day dinners at home, choose side dishes that are simple and easy to prepare and serve like bake ahead new potatoes in a garlic butter sauce or a mélange of caramelized baby onions and zucchini. Brandied oven-baked sweet yams are fast and easy to prepare. Entrees for two with spectacular presentations might include Cornish game hens stuffed with mushroom wild rice. Steaks like Steak au Poivre are always a good choice.
8. Budget your time and prep your kitchen for Valentine’s Day dinner
How extravagant or casual Valentine’s Day dinner depends on how much time you have to prep your kitchen. Don’t forget that part of planning ahead includes shopping for menu ingredients. Fresh vegetables, fish, meat and poultry should be absolutely “fresh.”
Allow enough time to shop for these, usually one day ahead. Try to choose menus with staples that are already in the pantry, freezer or refrigerator. Be creative with dinner presentation. Put on a “designer” hat when carving meats, vegetables, and cheeses. Arrange food artistically to make the presentation more charming and attractive. For example, cut vegetables in fanciful shapes like asparagus bundles or zucchini pots stuffed with peas. Offer baked biscuits and rolls shaped into Valentine’s hearts.
9. When the lights are low, love is in the air
Lighting is a big part of the romantic aura you’ll create for Valentine’s Day dinner at home. Candles always turn harsh glaring lighting into a soft, sensual glow. Stray from usual candle arrangements. Choose candles and flowers as centerpieces or an elegant candle array in bright silver or gold candlestick holders.
Choose candelabra for a formal dinner for two. Accent this with dark, leafy greens and add dashes of pretty pink and red roses or carnations and a few sprigs of Baby’s Breath. With soft music, candlelight and a romantic dinner for two, all that remains is Valentine’s dance to put a couple in the “mood” for love.