The normal routine is for me to pick outrageously complicated recipes, clean like a mad woman the weekend before the big day, cook things ahead of time in the evenings leading up to the big day, take a day (or part day) off work, cook, set the table, write out Valentines … and get ready for my company to arrive.
Each year is a little different. One year, my roommate Jim (I call him the “80% guy, ‘cause almost everything he does is 80% right/complete, etc!) hit the 100% mark, and showed up with red roses for each single woman at the table.
Another year, a girlfriend scoured vintage stores looking for antique valentines for each guest.
One guest surprised us with a CD mix of all his favorite torch songs.
I think one of my favorite memories was the year I made individual chocolate soufflés and had this amazing red German Champaign pared with them. I’m not much of a dessert person. And chocolate isn’t my favorite. (But I LOVE Champaign!) So everyone was sitting around the living room. And I am nervous … and babbling (I know, hard to imagine, yes?) “Do you like it?” I don’t know … the chocolate is a little bit bitter, but it looks pretty right? You like the filling? It’s crème fraîche, homemade with vanilla beans!”
The whole time NO ONE was talking to me. They were just sitting there, rapidly bringing the spoon from their ramekins to their mouths. BUT NOT SAYING ANYTHING and NOT DRINKING the Champaign. I really started to panic. I started to describe why it was a good pairing ... finally Dr. Esq. looked up and said, “Will you shut up! No one wants to talk because this is so damn good! Got any more?”
There is a couple I cook for once a month. We compare calendars, figure out when our schedules mesh, then I send her 3 menus, she chooses the one she wants me to cook … and then SHE DOES ALL THE GROCERY SHOPPING!!! Then I show up, drink their wine, cook the meal, and then we sit down and eat! Is that not the most PERFECT arrangement EVER?
So when we were looking for a night to cook this month I said, “Well, we can’t do it on Thursday the 14th, that’s Valentine’s Day, and I’m sure you have plans.” But I guess when you’ve been married for a while, things are different. She was all concerned that maybe I’d have a date (HA!) … but I told her no and about my Valentines tradition – and so we decided to combine them into one.
So last night two recently single women from our Sunday school class, plus the host's daughter and her boyfriend, joined us at the table. Because of all the excitement in my life this week (ie: NO ELECTRICITY, and not living at home), the menu was simple and rather quick to pull together.
We started with an appetizer of Artichokes with a Roasted Red Pepper Dip.
Our salad was Red Leaf & Romaine Lettuce with a creamy honey/tarragon dressing and Toasted Pine Nuts.
For our main dish I fixed Veal Medallions with a Apple/Thyme Sauce. It was accompanied by Sweet Mashed Potatoes with Marsala. Dessert was deceptively simple – and a huge winner. Balsamic Glazed Orange Slices with fresh Mint.
One of the hallmarks of Valentine’s Dinner – is you have to go around the table and say two things you “love/appreciate” about each person. Our ring around the table lasted the entire meal, was fortified with laughter and sprinkled with a few watery smiles. It was hard to NOT feel the love – or give it back in return.
I count myself lucky, that in a week with no electricity, so much light has shinned on me, and I’ve been warmed and welcomed with so much love. Valentines 2008, another success.