Below is an excerpt from my column on Bachelor Kitchen, geared towards providing advice for bachelors in the kitchen and in life.
Every year, Valentine’s Day presents itself with a veritable minefield of do’s and don’ts. Everyone’s got their own spin on deal breakers and must haves for what can quickly become a stressful day for all parties involved. I’ve had some pretty memorable Valentine’s Day flops, but I have to say the number one thing to keep in mind is to make sure your gestures fit and apply to the person you’re involved with. Seems simple but that’s the key. This is not a one-size-fits-all holiday. It’s a chance to show her you’re attentive to what she likes. Also, if your girlfriend says she doesn’t want to do anything for Valentine’s Day, she’s lying. You can try it and find out the hard way- but for your own self-preservation, try some of the ideas and suggestions below.
1. Cover Your Bases: Flowers, chocolate, card. If all you do are these three simple things, you can’t run into too much trouble.
Flowers: Keep it simple. Avoid excessive filler flowers (baby’s breath, greenery) and stick with one type of flower in one solid color (unless you’re creative and have an awesome florist). Red says love, pink is more lighthearted, orange says you got to the florist too late, and white is for funerals and sympathy so avoid that all together. You don’t even have to do roses- tulips and hydrangea are both in season now and probably more affordable.
Chocolate: This one’s pretty straight forward, and there’s no shortage of options this time of year. If in doubt, go with a box of Godiva and call it a day. If you’re feeling more creative, look for a more small-batch, bespoke chocolate, maybe something local. Chocolate covered strawberries also qualify, and are a fresh alternative to the boxed varieties.
Card: I know the card section can be painful this time of year, but just pick one and write something personal inside. You’ll look super thoughtful
2. Dinner: Make dinner reservations somewhere you know she loves, or better yet cook her dinner yourself. Cooking dinner at home saves you the annoyance of over- priced, pre-fix menus, crowded restaurants, loud strangers, and the hassle of getting a reservation time that’s not before 5:30 and after 11:30. Cooking also scores you major points because it takes effort and forethought. Swiping your credit card at the end of an over-priced dinner just can’t compare.
Pasta: It’s quick to pull together (key for after work cooking), everyone likes it, and even if you’re a novice cook you can pull it off. Try my recipe for Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu. Or keep it super simple and toss warm pappardelle pasta with butter, herbs (basil, parsley, chives, etc.), and a drizzle of truffle oil-delicious.
Steak: Obviously not a good choice if you’re dating a vegetarian, but steak has enough panache to set the tone for a special occasion. Try my recipe for how to cook the Ultimate Steak.
Oysters: Whether you serve them raw on the half shell, fried, baked, or battered, these are an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day. Just make sure your lady doesn’t have a shellfish allergy or an aversion to these crustaceans. Check out my tips for eating and serving Raw Oysters on the Half Shell.
Lobster: This is the ultimate no-cook homemade dinner at home. You can buy your lobsters pre-cooked, then just serve them with melted butter, lemons, and some kind of side dish. They offer a similar panache as steak, minus the stress of actually cooking. Plus, they’re fun to eat- kind of an activity in itself. Check out my tips for eating and serving Lobster. (Make sure you have crackers to break the shells!)
*Make sure you’ve got wine, champagne and/or cocktail supplies. If you’re feeling up to it, this Chocolate Souffle with Bourbon Caramel Sauce makes a killer dessert. Candles and music are a bonus.
3. Jewelry: If you do decide to top this all off with jewelry, proceed with caution. Jewelry is really personal, and if you pick something she thinks is unwearable and totally not her style, she’ll think you’re not paying attention. Look at what she wears every day. Note if she wears gold or silver. Pick something simple unless you’re super confident in what she likes and wears. This website offers lots of simple, pretty jewelry that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Their jewelry was also featured in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and if it’s good enough for those girls…