When we were planning our Valentine's Day dinner menu Paul decided that he wanted Indian food. I suspect it is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think 'Valentine's Day' nonetheless it was what he wanted so it was what he got.
Of course, because we are who we are nothing was easy about this. Dinner involved 4 hours of errands which took us downtown, into Hamilton (with a wander on Locke Street and visit to Chuck's Burger Bar for lunch), and a longer than normal stop at the grocery store. Is it any wonder we had a two hour nap in the afternoon?
Because of that late lunch . .. . what the heck - here it is:
If you like burgers and amazing fries AND you happen to be in the Hamilton area, I'd suggest stopping by Chucks. It was recently rated one of the top 10 burgers in Canada - with good reason.
Anyways . . .yummy burger, full bellies, nap - yes, dinner was late! LOL
We started with a suitably coloured martini:
Pomegranate and Blood Orange . . . YUM
The appetizers we had purchased from Samosa Queen in Hamilton:
(hmmm - apparently my area of focus was on the tulips and not the food. LOL) Chicken samosa, sweet potato pakora and their famous tamarind chutney.
For the main course we had chicken tikka, saffron rice pilaf, and a curried vegetable stew (which we made months ago and I just had to pull from the freezer - yeah).
There was nothing Indian about dessert!!!
Paul cleaned up and afterwards we sat in the family room and enjoyed a chocolate raspberry heart shaped from MollyCake and some wonderful vin santo.
I took Valentine's Day as a vacation day, as I do every year, so that I had time to prepare our annual feast to St. Valentine. It seems odd that a third century man who was beheaded for converting Romans to Christianity would be associated with courtly love but such are the vagarities of religion and what has become Hallmark holidays.
We do not go out for dinner on Valentine's Day - we have no desire to be served mediocre over priced food in a crowded restaurant. Interestingly there were many articles about how Valentine's Day was the worst day of the year to go out to a restaurant. I guess we knew this instinctly and have cooked our own feast for years rather than brave the din of restaurant goers.
Generally I spend the day cooking but the menu we planned didn't require a good deal of pre-dinner prep. I spend my day doing errands, got a couple of things done in advance, wrapped Paul's treats, and napped.
It was a happy day. :-)
When Paul arrived home from work he was tired so he napped a bit as well.
After he had woken up (and recovered from his general post-nap crankiness) we set out our charcuterie and cheese.
Notice the heart-shaped salami I found in the salami case at the Cheese Boutique.How fun is that?
With this first course we sipped a new drink called an 'Infrared' which we both LOVED!
After nibbling for a bit (and sipping A LOT!) Paul tidied up and set the table for dinner.
When we were last in Rome I found some shaped pasta that I knew would be perfect for Valentine's Day. Made by Italy's famed pasta maker Gargnano, we decided to stuff them with spinach and ricotta, and to cook them with a simple tomato sauce.
Neither of us could eat the whole thing.
OK, let me correct that, we could have eaten it but we knew this was just the primi (as they say in Italy) and there was more feasting to come . ..
For the main course we made a recipe from a cookbook we received for Christmas from our friend Sandi: the Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes. In it she includes a dish her daughter enjoys on a regular basis at a restaurant in Florence - beef tenderloin with a balsamic sauce. With this we served a baked fennel gratin and potatoes with our friend Judy's Tuscan spice mixture.
We opened up a 2004 Brunello Di Montalcino to enjoy with our meal. 2004 is considered to be one of the best years for Brunellos and it was easy to see why - the wine was wonderfully perfumed and majestically refined with an excellent balance of fruit and refined tannins. It is a shame we only had the one bottle.
After all of this, it was time for dessert.
I had ordered a mini-vanilla heart-shaped cake with a raspberry mousse filling from our favourite bakery around the corner from our house.
A perfect finish to a wonderful meal!
Paul wasn't done with the sipping though - he brought up a bottle of vin santo - that sweet dessert wine made in Italy from dried grapes.
Thank goodness we were able to sleep in on Saturday!
While I was stuck in traffic the other day I heard someone on the radio blathering on and on about how the best Valentine's Day celebration was a bunch of flowers and then dinner out.
That would be the WORST Valentine's Day celebration!
Yes, flowers are a wonderful treat but they wilt and end up in the green bin.
The only thing WORSE than dinner out on Valentine's Day is dinner out on Mother's Day. Crowds. Poor service. Tables packed so close to one another that you have to scream at your companion to be heard over the inane couple beside you. Mediocre food on some set menu.
THIS is how one should celebrate Valentine's Day . . . a quiet dinner at home that you cook together, drinks, chatter, laughter, gifts.
Paul worked yesterday so when he got home we had lunch and a nap. Once he was energized we set to work. When I asked him what he wanted for Valentine's dinner he said 'dumplings'. Dumplings might make a nice appetizer but not an entire meal. Here is what we did:
Martinis (whipped up by Paul) and assorted dumplings and rolls by the fire.
This is a better shot of the dumplings . . . we did pork shu mai, shrimp har gao, fried pork and scallion dumplings, steamed pork buns, and spring rolls. They were served with a soy/chili/ginger dipping sauce and a sweet chili dipping sauce.
Once we were done that we moved into the dining room where the table was all set for a celebration!
We kept going with the Asian theme . . . orange chicken, Chinese ribs, broccoli with ginger and oyster sauce, Dan Dan Noodles and steamed Jasmine Rice. Paul selected a floral Gruner Vetliner wine to accompany the main course.
A few years ago I decided that it was far easier to buy a nice dessert for Valentine's Day than to make something. This year I bought these heart-shaped chocolate and raspberry mousse cakes.
They were great with a tiny glass of ice wine.
Then we moved on to gifts. I think this was the favourite part of the evening for the cats!
I know that here are those out there who are cynical about Valentine's Day, complaining that it is a made up Hallmark holiday that has gotten out of hand. Truth be told, in our world of excess and commercialism EVERY holiday seems to ahve gotten out of hand but that is a different matter.
Valentine's day isn't all about roses, candy, and expensive dinners.
It has a historical background too. . . looooooonnnnnnggggg before Hallmark started writing cards telling people how they aught to be feeling.
Contrary to what some may believe, Valentine's Day wasn't created by
greetings card companies just to sell cards and candies. It's actually a
church sanctioned holiday, as Pope Gelasius deemed February 14 St. Valentine's Day near 498 A.D.
Shrouded in mystery, the exact origins of the celebration of St. Valentine are somewhat unclear, according to History.com. While the holiday's history is well documented through the years, the saint (or saints) it's named after is up in the air.
It's still unclear exactly who the celebrated saint of love really
was, as the Catholic Church acknowledges 3 separate saints named Valentine or Valentinus. All of them were martyrs.
According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first "valentine"
greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in
love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter --
who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged
that he wrote her a letter, which he signed "From your Valentine," an
expression that is still in use today.
The oldest know Valentine's poem in existence today was written by
Charles, Duke of Orleans during his imprisonment in the Tower of London,
following the Battle of Agincourt, according to History.com. The poem was written to his wife.
holiday continued to gain tremendous popularity through the 17th and
18th centuries, but saw tremendous popularity in more recent times, with
faster communication. It wasn't until the 1840s that Valentine's day
cards began to be produced.
It was a strange Valentine's Day for us yesterday - Paul was sick and took the day off of work. I was busy with work running a conference in Toronto. It's the first time we've ever been apart for Valentine's Day.
We ended up having a special dinner on Saturday. The table was set with bunches of tulips (as always - we both abhor roses).
Paul mixed up a Cab Franc Ice Wine martini which we enjoyed by the fire. MMMMM
The first course was a composed salad from a Jamie liver cookbook. Paul pulled it together - burrata, citrus, smoked prosciutto, pomegranate arils, greens, and Parmesan cheese. It was so good we had the same salad then next night as well!
Next up were some heart-shaped ravioli. They were stuffed with ricotta and spinach. We made a gorgonzola and toasted walnut sauce to accompany them.
For the mai course we made one of our favourite jamie Olive recipes - a 12 hour slow-roasted pork shoulder coated with a fennel rub; gravy; an amazing potato, leek, and gruyere galette from Martha Stewart; and roasted carrots and beets. AMAZING!!!
We were pretty full by then so we waited a bit before dessert. When we finally indulged it was with this decadent chocolate fudge cake. MMMM
Yes, it was a great meal and the company was even better. Just the same, I would have eaten Kraft dinner and had a diet coke if it had meant we could havebeen together last night and Paul weren't suffering from this sinus infection.
We left the snow behind and headed to California for a long weekend of fun. We shoppedm toured wineries, tasted olive oil, met up with good friends, and ate some wonderful food. I can't wait for slow bowl 2009.