The actual food of love

Imagine a scene where a couple is seated at a table. They stare into each other’s eyes. All that tragic misunderstanding is behind them, and they are a few lines away from the part of the movie that used to get censored. Now imagine that they confessed their undying love to each other while guzzling energy drinks, munching frozen pizza and unwrapping discounted Christmas chocolate. Somehow that line, “we have all the time in the world,” doesn’t quite sound the same.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day. All clichés aside, honouring love is still a beautiful idea. If you and your significant other are planning on having a romantic dinner, don’t forget that dinner is half of it. This is a day of the year designated for making the act of eating into a ceremony of carefully savouring each flavour, going slowly, letting each moment linger. Even if you’re single, why pass up that chance to enjoy unabashed sensuality? Here are a few things worth considering in making the most of your Valentine’s Day food experience. As for the romance part — there you’re on your own.

Going to a restaurant

If you are planning on going out for supper on Valentine’s Day, just remember three very important words: make a reservation. Living in Winnipeg, there is a wide range of restaurants to choose from between the large-scale chain establishments and the tiny intimate café where you can hear the cooks gossiping in the back. The advantage to eating out is that the ritual element of your meal is taken care of — creating ambiance is essentially what most restaurants do. Also, many places will create customized menus for the occasion so you can show up and order dishes decorated with special heart garnishes.

When you go to a chain restaurant you can count on efficiency. This type of restaurant can be counted on to be well organized, provide reliable service and deal with large numbers of customers efficiently. That may also be why it’s worth opting out of going to a chain restaurant — the sheer volume of people that the industry has to serve means they need to make sure the turnover rate is high. Translation: your chances of enjoying lingering around after dessert are slim to none. Spending hours at a restaurant talking to your date may sound romantic — but not when it’s because you’re waiting for the host to seat you and the two of you are both now ravenous. Add to it the focus on creating a consistent product means that the food is usually not as good as it would be at an establishment where it is prepared by someone who is actually a cook, not just someone who throws ingredients together in the order specified by an ingredient card.

For better food, a smaller restaurant is probably a safer bet. Sure, you may not get the option of a special menu, but the trade-off could be a more intimate atmosphere, better dishes and probably more chance to talk before being booted so the next couple can have their big culinary moment. If you are planning on going to a locally-run restaurant, I recommend doing a little bit of comparing ahead of time. This could be a chance to experiment with new types of cuisine, try somewhere new or even explore a different area of the city — but this will probably only be fun if you are both in the right mindset. Even if that particular meal isn’t your favourite, at the very least the experience will be distinctive and intimately connected to a specific time and place. Still, there are some incredibly good reasons why the idea persists that restaurants are romantic. Just reserve ahead of time and tip generously, of course.

An evening at home

If you don’t want to go out for dinner that doesn’t mean that your Valentine’s Day has to be without the sense of ritual and ceremony provided in restaurants. The biggest difference between food that’s good versus delectable is time taken in enjoying it. Taking simple steps like setting the table or having multiple components to the meal go a long way to creating a deeply sensual experience.

Using high-quality, whole ingredients is the best way to make a meal amazing. My recommendation would be to pick out items from a gourmet food store like DeLuca’s, Mise or Organza. Even if you normally subsist on packaged stuff, or don’t have any time, you can still select high quality prepared items for less than you would pay at a restaurant. This allows the two of you to focus your attention on each other versus the kitchen. Alternately, if you are already a gourmet cook or devoted foodie who makes moan-worthy home-made dishes from scratch at every opportunity, well, then you probably don’t need to be reading this article, now do you?