Which type of Valentine are you?
From the window displays in the shops at the moment shops you’d think we were all clones when it comes to love and romance. That we’re anyone’s for a bunch of roses, a box of chocolates and a bottle of pink champagne. But lovers come in all shapes and sizes - and ages.
What suits a first-time cook of 21, eager to impress or a couple in the throes of passion isn’t necessarily going to work for a pair who’ve been married for 21 years and face sniggering teenagers at any display of affection.
As someone who isn’t married to a hearts-and-flowers type, much as I love him, I know I just couldn’t pull off a candlelit dinner without us both dissolving into helpless fits of giggles. So here are some light-hearted suggestions for Valentine’s feasts and matching wines to suit all situations
The Valentine newbie
If this is the first Valentine dinner you’ve ever made and you’re an inexperienced cook to boot, the key thing is not to be too ambitious. Make a simple main course, something that doesn’t take too long or leave you hot and flustered - a couple of salmon or duck fillets - even a steak (no chips if you don’t want frying-oil infused hair!) and buy in your starter and dessert.
(For the former I’d suggest some seafood such as crab or prawns provided, obviously, your loved one isn’t allergic to shellfish and a chocolate dessert. Gu makes some sinfully chocolatey little puds. Just pretty them up and make them look home-made.
To drink you could serve champagne or a good sparkling wine with maybe a glass of pinot noir (the world’s sexiest wine, surely) with the main course. Just don’t drink too much of either if you don’t want to fall asleep on the sofa after dinner.
The can’t-keep-your-hands-off-each-other couple
Little point in arranging a romantic meal - you probably wouldn’t get past the first course - so think in terms of a picnic. In bed. A bottle of champagne, some generously filled smoked salmon sandwiches and a tub of ice cream should do the trick. And lay in the ingredients for a hearty breakfast with some freshly squeezed orange juice and good strong coffee the following morning.
Even if you love to be in the kitchen Valentine’s night is not the night to pretend you’re Gordon Ramsay so don’t embark on a meal you’ve never attempted before. One dazzling course, maybe, just to underline what a brilliant cook you are - a terrine, a really good risotto or a fabulous cake but keep it light.
Personally I’d go for luxury ingredients - caviar or a caviar alternative, foie gras (if you eat foie gras), lobster or fillet steak and a simple fruit tart with which to enjoy a really gorgeous dessert wine (see my article here on wine matches for luxury ingredients)
Any of you who have or have had teenage children will know that any expression of physical affection is likely to be greeted with repulsion so there’s absolutely no point in trying to have any kind of romantic encounter at home. You could book a restaurant but it’s not the best night of the year to dine out. Restaurants often resort to expensive set price menus and staff tend to be rushed off their feet. Personally I’d leave it a week or two and escape for a romantic weekend. And just open a very good bottle of wine to accompany the family dinner.
The kids have flown the nest. You can do anything you like. Lucky you. I’d jump on a train to Paris, Venice, anywhere . . . just do something impetuous and romantic. Or go out to lunch to a fabulous restaurant (always cheaper at lunch than at night) and spend the evening cosily at home with a modest glass of your favourite malt whisky or - yes, why not - a glass of champagne. In the bath.
Image © Kudryashka - Fotolia.com
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