It has come to the attention of the PassionFruits that this weekend is Valentine’s Day. Regardless of what one makes of this most Hallmark of Hallmark holidays… A dreadful affront to singletons? A chance for the besotted to preen? An opportunity to demand chocolate from female Japanese co-workers? A sop to countless useless crap merchants whose Christmas sales weren’t enough to put them in the black? There is but one simple rule for Valentine’s Day: DO NOT GO OUT TO DINNER. Meet-Cute traditions like friends’ traditional V-Day Five Guys binge get an exemption; otherwise, stay the hell home. If you’ve not made reservations, fine, you’d end up at IHOP anyway. If you have, think hard about them, and cancel.
People! This is a sad, tragic, no-good, very bad idea. Whether with your sweetie, your posse, or your girls, stay home. Order pizza, make a fabulous dinner, but do not, DO NOT go out. Going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day is like going out for drinks on New Year’s Eve, or to brunch on Mother’s Day; EVERYONE is doing it, and as a result, it very often sucks. Restaurants tend to pander to the lowest common denominator–cranking out unimaginative surf & turf combos for people who wouldn’t know an oyster if they sat on one. Of course, throwing in a bottle of Frexinet and a single long-stemmed rose–scentless, thornless, and “fresh” from deepest Brazil (a fitting symbol of love through capitalism’s gimlet eye?)–allows them to raise the price astronomically…
Even if they’re not actively price-gouging, the extra strain on kitchens and staff means that diners run a much higher risk of getting sub-standard everything. Even the storied Inn at Little Washington is not immune; some dear friends made the trek one Valentine’s Day (ignoring my Cassandra-like prognostications of dinner doom) only to have a meal so laughably terrible it beggars belief. Of course, the Inn invited them back on the house and they had a superlative time of the kind that can only be had there. Suffice to say, though, even the mighty may fall on their fish knives on Valentine’s Day.
If you’re celebrating with friends or actively wooing someone, this is the day to take a stand in the kitchen. Invite friends over for a witty affaire de coeur: pasta with artichoke hearts, chicken heart yakitori, bitter greens with a broken (heart) vinaigrette, and a coeur a la creme. Or find something that your beloved will like–yes, something that he or she will like, not necessarily what YOU like–and that you can ably produce, and make it so. Luxurious home cooking will generally be the order of the day. Risottos are easy, elegant, intimate, and accommodate any number of tasty morsels. Frisee aux lardons is at once bracing and silky-rich, just like any great love. A bittersweet chocolate torte to mark the ups and downs of any relation would be a welcome end to dinner, as would, for similar reasons, something with a sweet-tart lemony bite.
And that’s THE WORD.