Buck Reed

The Supermarket Gourmet

Valentine’s Day: flowers, candy, romance, and hearts all spring to mind on this holiday. But, few people remember that it was named for a Roman priest around 269 AD. He believed that one man wedding one woman for life was more in keeping with Christianity than the polygamy that was so popular in that day. Because of his belief, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death by beating, stoning, and, finally, beheading. To say the least, there are more than a few men who may believe St. Valentine got off easy.

The commercialization of Valentine’s Day is just the tip of the iceberg for this romantic holiday. The price of roses at this time of year is higher than any other time of the year. Restaurants enjoy preparing a special menu for lovebirds, but getting a reservation is sometimes difficult. Granted, many establishments will try to extend the holiday by offering their special menu through the weekend. Valentine’s Day for a restaurant can sometimes be a hardship, with up to ten percent of reservations turning into “no shows.”  To prevent this, restaurants may either overbook their dining room, or worse, take your credit card number and run it for a fee if you do not honor your reservation.

There are many solutions to this problem, but since this is a cooking article, let’s talk about preparing a meal at home for your loved one. Imagine the shock you might summon if you surprised your loved one with a special meal prepared lovingly with your own hands. You can grab an even greater reaction if you’ve never cooked before!  Here are some tips:

• Keep it simple. Don’t get too extravagant or try to prepare something too far above your skill set. Start with some sliced cheese and crackers, and then sit down with a plated salad. Follow with your main course and finish with a dessert.

• Pick a menu that shows you know your partner’s tastes, desires, and most of all, allergies. Cooking for someone is the most intimate thing you can do for that someone special (okay…second most intimate), so put some thought into it.

• Try to pick menu items you can set up a day or two before the event. Having things that are ready to be popped in the oven or vegetables that are cut and ready for the pan will make the day’s workload considerably easier. Safety Tip: Make sure you keep things covered and refrigerated once you prep them. 

• Once you have figured out your menu, practice it. Try actually making it for yourself and a friend before you bring it out to your loved one. The effort will show.

• Pick a wine that works. If you know their favorite wine, great! If not, talk to the guy behind the counter. If they cannot help you, find another shop. Or maybe your loved one’s favorite wine is beer. That works, too.

• Set the table. Put a little effort into the table and the room. Carefully pick your music. Clean up a bit, adjust the lighting, add a nice centerpiece; these are the details that can make for a memorable night.

Some easy menu ideas are: Rock Cornish Game—roasted with herbs or a glaze; Lobster—expensive but easy and always impressive; or a pasta dish—easy to set up ahead of time and can be a baked dish as well.

Need some tips on menu ideas? Send me an email at news@thecatoctinbanner.com, and I will try to help you in any way I can.

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