Cook At Home Or Go Out To Eat - How Do You Spend Valentine's Day? - The Gloss Magazine

Cook At Home Or Go Out To Eat – How Do You Spend Valentine’s Day?

Trish Deseine weighs the options for February 14 …

It’s a tricky one, Saint Valentine’s Day, for the over-16s. Restaurants can quickly become theatres of self-consciousness, particularly those deemed “romantic” all year round and expected to hard deliver on February 14. Thankfully in France, we also have plenty of brisk, noisy, quite impersonal, yet formal, brasseries, with cosy banquettes, where you can be as demonstrative as you like and no one will notice. Friends Fred and Elliott take themselves to Lipp on Boulevard Saint Germain, as they would on any other evening they fancied a treat.

My friend Sophie has a passion (which I fully share) for luxury hotel bars on a date. “The atmosphere is feutré (soft), the service like a ballet, snacks are refined and cocktails often exciting. It’s fun to people watch with a piano gently playing in the background.”

Without going full goblin mode and depending, probably, on what stage of the romance you are at, why not skip the dining table altogether and eat in bed? At the very least, it ups your chances of seven hours’ shut-eye, a rare gift for so many of us, be it because of babies, children, jobs or hormones.

A quick poll amongst my wise French girlfriends harvests varying degrees of energy for hitting the kitchen. For celebrity cook and entrepreneuse, Luana, for example, it’s the one day of the year where she doesn’t cook! Most of the others, shrugging Gallically, simply advise spoiling your loved one with his or her favourite dish.

Bestselling French cookbook author, Keda Black, swears by quick-to-cook, luxurious, scallops. “I do Saint-Jacques. Either super-fancy: chopped leeks and shallots cooked in butter with white wine, lemon and cream, scallops cooked in the shells topped with brown buttered breadcrumbs, grilled in a hot oven ten minutes and served with piped duchesse potatoes. Or the simplest – sliced raw with a tiny drop of bergamot olive oil, lemon juice and zest, fleur de sel and a citrussy black pepper or pink peppers.”

This is all fine and dandy if you are far enough into the relationship to know your dining companion’s tastes, and if you are not confronted with a picky eater with dictatorial table manners, who will seriously cramp your style and curb your enthusiasm. I once dated probably the only Frenchman who didn’t eat garlic, policed my knife handling, despised all fresh herbs and any type of leaf or flower garnish.

But I still believe in love, and that Saint Valentine’s is the one night where you really can take your time to gracefully decorate or plate a dish, or entirely cover it in flowers if you feel like it. Roses after all (with a quick rinse) are an edible flower, and in February you will find pansies and violets for decoration and nibbling. They look perfectly gorgeous on individual chocolate tarts or covering a larger cake. Cooking more formally for just two also means you can attempt dishes with more luxurious ingredients but simple to cook – a touch of black truffle over steak, or a teeny touch of caviar mixed through cream whipped with a wine reduction, served with, say, steamed potatoes and turbot or sole. Or you could try my lobster linguine, which is more laborious, but worth it.

The power and romance of a shared love of food is undeniable, and I always take heart from other friends’ romantic rituals. Mona and José, now together for over 30 years, would book a table at their local Portuguese bistro in Paris every year, and always ordered Porco Alentejana – pork and clams cooked in a cataplana, a traditional copper pan, shaped like a plump flying saucer. Their love long outlived the restaurant, however, and now Mona cooks the dish at home come February 14.


Photographs by Veronika Faustmann for The Gloss Magazine. Styled by Corina Gaffey.

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