If you haven’t made a reservation yet for Valentine’s Day, we have good news and bad news.Let’s start with the bad. You probably won’t get in to the restaurant you were ready to splurge at. You waited too long. Most joints will only have walk-in availability left, leaving you and your date on a 45-minute wait. The good news? There are better options than celebrating your love dining next to a hoard of strangers with a limited menu.
If you are really trying to show your Valentine how much you value them, wine and dine them at home. We know it sounds like a lot of work. You want the setting to be intimate and comfortable, you want to impress your guest with a dish you didn’t pour out of a bag, and you want to have the perfect wine or cocktail pairing. When you spell it all out, the thought of an at-home dinner date can be a bit overwhelming.
Lucky for you, we never suggest stress- we’ve come up with a romantic plan fit for two. All you need to do is follow the steps, choose your course and turn on the charm (and maybe the oven).
A little change of scenery is key. He or she has been to your house before, so if you don’t spruce it up, the date may just seem like an ordinary visit. That, however, does not mean you need to go overboard. Ditch the paper mâché hearts, “I love you” balloons and Volkswagen-sized teddy bears. Keep it clean and classy with white linens, candles and flowers. If you have an outdoor space and the weather is nice, string a strand of lights above the table and play music on low. Remember not to put too many accents on the table. The dinner you are about the prepare will be decoration enough.
If you aren’t exactly Gordon Ramsay or Giada De Laurentiis, don’t panic. We’ve discovered some dishes that look impressive while still remaining simple to make. We’ve put a few options for you, starting with easier meals and ending with a more difficult dish that is well worth the work. Choose your favorite based on your skill level or palate.
Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum Chicken Curry Skewers (Easy)
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-2-inch cubes
- 2 limes, juiced and zested
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons water
- Fresh cilantro, garnish
- Skewers (pre-soaked in water)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients besides chicken, flour, water and cilantro. Stir to thoroughly combine. Mix in the cubed chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours. Skewer the marinated chicken and grill on medium until cooked through. Take remaining marinade and put in a pot over high heat to boil. Stir in the flour and water and continue boiling until thick. Pour mixture over chicken skewers, garnish with cilantro and serve.
Cocktail to pair: Pink Flamingo
Combine all ingredients in shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with cherry in bottom.
If that is too much coconut in one sitting for your taste, try pairing the dish with a dry white wine like Block 056 Chardonnay Reserve.
Cigar City Florida Cracker Poached Tuna (Easy)
- 4, 1/4 lb. high-quality tuna steaks
- 1, 12 ounce can Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale
- 8 ounces water
- 1/4 teaspoon whole green peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 teaspoon dry turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 fresh cut lemon
Combine Florida Cracker, water, peppercorns, turmeric, salt, garlic and fresh squeezed lemon in large skillet and bring to a boil. Place tuna steaks in skillet and simmer to desired temperature (2-3 minutes per side for medium rare, 3-4 minutes for medium, 4-5 minutes for medium well.) Serve immediately on a bed of mixed greens with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.
Z Alexander Brown Braised Short Ribs (More challenging)
- 8 bone-in beef short ribs, 3 inches
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 cups Z. Alexander Red Blend
- 1 cup Zackariah Harris Bourbon Whiskey
- 2 cups demi-glace
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. bacon
- 1 lb. shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic bulb, thinly sliced
- 5 ounces fresh shitake mushroom, sliced
- 8 ounces Portobello mushroom, sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt & pepper
- 10 sprigs fresh parley
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 325°. In sauce pan, combine porcini mushrooms, ZAB Red Wine, whisky, demi-glace, water, tomato paste and brown sugar. Bring to simmer then remove from heat and let sit.
Prepare the bouquet garni. Take the parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano and either tie it together with butchers’ twine or tie the herbs together with a long stem of parley. Set aside.
Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to Dutch oven and heat to medium/high. Add the short ribs and sear both sides, about 2 minutes/side. Remove short ribs from Dutch oven and set aside. Add bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Turn down heat to medium and add shallot, garlic and sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add shiitake and portobello mushrooms and tarragon. Continue stirring and sauté for another 3 minutes. Now add the ingredients from the sauce pan, bouquet garni and bay leaves to the Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer. Put the lid on and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours.
Remove from oven. If you’d like you can skim off any excess fat. Remove the meat and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves. If necessary, reduce the red wine mushroom mixture to desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place meat on plate and ladle the red wine mushroom sauce over the meat for a delicious presentation.
Pair with Z Alexander Brown Red Blend. The wine used in the entrée recipe is more than suitable to sip while eating because it will compliment the flavors of the dish. You can also pick from these 14 wines under $14.
It’s only appropriate to end the night with a sweet treat to share with your sweetie. The hardest part about these recipes isn’t the preparation- it’s not eating the final product before your love gets a chance to try it. The best part about these delightful desserts? They are a last course and night cap, all in one.
Baileys Strawberries & Cream Shortcake Jar (Easy)
- 2 ounces Baileys Strawberries & Cream
- 2 slices of pound cake
- ¼ cup strawberry sauce
- ½ cup fresh cut strawberries
- Whipped cream
Pour Baileys Strawberries & Cream into a mason jar. Add pound cake, strawberry sauce, sliced strawberries and top with whipped cream.
Bonterra Merlot Soaked Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Easy, with more prep work)
- 12 large strawberries
- 1 cup Bonterra Organic Vineyards Merlot
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
Wash the strawberries and pat dry. Place in a small bowl or baking dish and cover with the wine, making sure the strawberries are mostly submerged. Place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the strawberries from the wine (save the leftover wine to drink, cook with or use for sangria!) and place on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
Meanwhile, set up a double-boiler by bringing 1 inch of water to a simmer and placing a tight-fitting heatproof bowl on top. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to the bowl and melt, stirring occasionally, until it is fully melted.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Dip the strawberries into the melted chocolate, tapping off excess, then set on the baking tray. When all of the strawberries have been coated in chocolate, set the tray in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is set.
After 15 minutes, use any leftover chocolate and a fork to decorate the strawberries by dipping the fork in the chocolate and drizzling it over the berries (you may have to re-melt the chocolate for a few minutes).
Now that you mastered a perfect Valentine’s Day dinner at home, keep the momentum going. Find out how to throw a romantic brunch for two here.