About a year into dating, my now-wife and I decided to opt out of Valentine's Day. Fine, we weren't so non-conformist as to disregard the "holiday" completely, but we were most certainly done with the hustle: hustling to score a reservation at an overcrowded restaurant that's hustling to turn over two-top after two-top and serve up a prix fixe menu that's never as good as the regular one. Instead, we decided to stay home and cook up a Valentine's Day dinner of our own, and now it's become an annual tradition that I highly recommend.
The act of cooking for someone is inherently intimate, but some meals are more conducive to romantic evenings than others, and it has nothing to do with dubiously scientific "aphrodisiac" properties. Here are my criteria for making Valentine's Day dinner:
1. It has to be attainable. Yes, it's a special occasion, but that doesn't mean you want to spend the evening fussing with your new immersion circulator or whatever. As long as your level of kitchen competency isn't "how do I make this water boil again?" the meals should be well within your cooking comfort zone.
2. It still has to feel fancy. Maybe you both love a good box of mac & cheese with some hot dogs cut up in it, but it's going to bring a little more magic to the equation if you stretch yourself a little beyond what you'd serve on a typical weeknight.
3. It won't put you in a food coma. You should come away from the meal satisfied, but not "let's just watch Property Brothers in sweatpants" satisfied.
So what qualifies? Here are my go-to special occasion meals that'll help you break free from the Valentine's Day Reservation Industrial Complex.