Who needs a reservation at a crowded ‘date’ restaurant with an overpriced menu and poor service when you can easily prepare an elegant meal at home for your sweetie, husband, or best friend? Our market chef, Andrew Cohen, gave us some great tips about how to create a romantic meal that is easy to prepare ahead of time.
First Things First! Set the Mood
Create your own intimate ‘bistro.’ If you have a fireplace, rearrange the furniture and place a small table-for-two in front of the fireplace. No fireplace? Use a sofa table (or other small chest or table) and arrange an assortment of candles and flowers on it to create a focal point, then place the table-for-two near it. Dress the table with your finest linen and napkins, stemmed glasses, and china. Place votive candles around the room, and set a small votive or candle on the table. And don’t forget the flowers! A perfect rosebud? A sweet scented stem of ginger? An exotic lily or orchid? Appeal to all of the senses!
Chef Andrew suggested a menu with many textures and tastes, but one that is easy to make ahead of time with minimal last minute preparation.
Beginnings — Sparkling Wine
Chef notes: Here’s where a champagne cocktail reigns supreme — a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur or French black raspberry Chambord takes an ‘ordinary’ glass of sparkling wine to new heights. Make sure it’s icy cold! Salud!
Appetizer — Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates
Chef notes: These salty-sweet bacon wrapped dates are the perfect finger food with the first glass of a crisp, cold sparkling wine.
First Course — Stacked Beet, Avocado, and Mixed Microgreens Salad
Chef notes: Add five steamed shrimp to each plate and drizzle with ginger juice and orange juice. If lightly dressed, the salad can be assembled and left in the ring mold covered in plastic in the refrigerator. Assemble 10-20 minutes before your guest arrives, then add sprouts and shrimp around perimeter when you are ready to serve the salad.
Second Course — Green Garlic Soup
Chef notes: This flavorful soup has a sublime texture and flavor. Make the soup the day before. Return to barest simmer to heat through and keep warm on stove.
Main Course with Poultry — Lavender Braised Chicken
Chef notes: Make the day ahead up to the point where you turn the chicken after uncovering it to finish it. Reheat the braising liquid after bringing chicken to room temperature, then proceed from where you turn the chicken after uncovering it. Serve with a nice plush red wine.
Main Course with Seafood — Scallops and Mushrooms in Vanilla Cream Sauce
Chef Notes: This is a very sexy dish! Serve with chanpagne, chardonnay, or something like a grenache black or verdelho.
Main Course Vegetarian — Balsamic Roasted Portobello Mushrooms
Chef notes: Make ahead and rewarm. Serve with a zinfandel or Tempranillo.
Side Dish Vegetable — Shredded Carrots Sauté
Endings (or Beginnings?) — Cheese, Molten Center Chocolate Cake and Cordials
Chef notes: Serve a nice cheese to eat with your fingers as you finish the wine, while the dessert is baking. I like the molten center chocolate cake for ease of preparation and sex appeal. Add vanilla or lavender. Not a chocolate fan? Serve Honey Vanilla Caramels with Fleur de Sel with coffee and cordials.
*or How to Woo Your Sweetheart on Valentine’s Day