Brooke Jackson-Glidden, MUSE Food Editor
My relationship with Valentine’s Day is complicated. Yes, the dramatic spike in PDA sightings is more than unfortunate, but I will take any excuse to enjoy a nice meal with someone. People often forget that the culinary arts are actually one of the more passionate art forms – being able to consume something beautiful, especially with someone you care about, allows you to experience the beauty of that art with a multitude of senses. Valentine’s day is fun for two reasons, in my opinion: one is not suitable for print, and the other is, of course, the dinner date.
My advice to all you lonely foodies (or not so lonely independent foodies who don’t need no Valentine) on Valentine’s Day: Screw the romantic context of “February 14th” and enjoy that meal with a friend. And no matter the context, if you’re looking for some way to celebrate, never fear. There’s a meal out there for your Thursday dinner date just waiting to be found. Here are some ideas:
For many, Valentine’s Day means a cozy table in the middle of a candlelit Italian restaurant, a bottle of red wine and a plate of pasta for possible Lady and the Tramp moments. Giacomo’s in The North End comes straight from a cheesy early-90s romance. Stuck in the 1800s in the best way, Giacomo’s takes no reservations and no credit cards. You may have to wait out in the cold for a while, but the following meal is worth the wait. Start with the classic salad caprese with slabs of fresh mozzarella and drizzled in olive oil. As for the main course, you cannot go wrong with the beautiful homemade Lobster Ravioli in a delicate tomato-crème sauce. You’ll have to find dessert somewhere else, but there’s no better way to end a romantic meal than with a stroll on the rain-soaked brick streets of the North End. I recommend Modern Pastry for a slice of Tiramisu, though with the myriad bakeries in the area, you’re sure to satisfy your sweet tooth if necessary.
The Kitschy Hipster
Okay, so maybe a romantic Italian meal wasn’t what you had in mind, but you still want a nice dinner out. Maybe your idea of a romantic night out is a Tiger Tears salad and a fixie ride. Myers + Chang offers the most fascinating menu in Boston, with a variety of dim sum, noodle and fusion dishes within a “funky indie” exterior. The braised pork belly buns are far from a bowl of fettucini at Giacomo’s, but these playful almost-sliders are beyond addictive. The fish tacos with kimchi salsa are almost bizarre but unbelievably tasty, regardless. And I wasn’t joking about that Tiger Tears Salad – it tastes just like the version at Portland’s famous destination Thai restaurant, PokPok, with sweet and spicy Thai basil. If you’re still craving noodles, Myers + Chang has you covered with a noodle bar Bon Appetit named as one of the best in the country. If your special someone prefers their meals animal, nut or gluten free, Myers + Chang offers several gluten free, vegetarian and nut-free menu options.
The outdoors are scary, right? Who needs to leave the dorm room? If you’re willing, venture out to DeLuca’s Market on Newbury and pick up a couple of supplies for a romantic dorm room picnic. Then, you can shut the door loudly on the couples of Boston, turn on some Rosemary Clooney and luxuriously lounge to the light of electric candles. Here’s a list of staples for any good dorm room picnic:
(To start, you need a good cheese board. Am I nerd for talking about good cheese boards as a teenage college student? Maybe, but I’ll have the last laugh when you’re eating Doritos and Cheez Whiz on Thursday.)
The Cheese – DeLuca’s cheese selection brings tears to my eyes faster than any Beethoven symphony could. Imported from every corner of the planet, the cheeses at DeLuca’s are all listed and described on their website, so you can study up before you make your selection. I’m a huge cheese fan, so I usually go with one hard cheese (a Manchego, for instance, to shave into slivers with a cheese shovel), one soft cheese (like brie or chevre) and one munchable cheese (like marinated mozzarella balls).
The Cracker – The cracker selection at DeLuca’s is not the best, but never fear! O & Co. just down the street offers a beautiful selection of both crackers and jams (see the next section). Make sure the cracker you choose will be sturdy enough to stand up to any cheese or olive. Avoid crackers with powdery flavor coatings – they compromise the flavor of the cheese.
The Spread – If you have yet to experience the flavor of goat cheese with blueberry jam, you’re in for a treat. DeLuca’s has a great selection of fruit spreads, but if you’re looking for something savory, O & Co. makes a tasty Zucchini and Goat Cheese Delice. Also, Sabatino Tartufi (also on Newbury) offers a wide variety of pestos and tampenades.
The Fruit – You can’t serve cheese without a little something sweet to go with it. You can go as fancy or simple as you’d like: Cheese tastes just as good with apples or grapes as it does with figs or kiwi.
The Olive – The counterpart to the fruit, olives offer a salty contrast to some of the sweet aspects on the plate. I absolutely adore the olive selection at DeLuca’s, though I’m sure the olives at O & Co. or Sabatino Tartufi would be just as diverse.
Other nice additions to your picnic might include…
Something warm – As weird as it might feel to microwave something for a little picnic, it often doesn’t feel like a meal without something warm. DeLuca’s has a deli section with a shrimp skewer that might stand up well to a microwave.
Something sweet – You’re on Newbury anyway; might as well pick up a dozen cupcakes from one of the copious number of cupcake shops there. My personal favorite is Georgetown Cupcake – their frostings are silky and the cake is moist. Plus, they have come out with a Valentine’s Day collection including strawberry champagne and strawberry lava fudge. Of course there’s nothing wrong with their classically delicious Red Velvet, which is bright red just for the occasion.
Something to drink – Nothing makes me feel classier than a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water with dinner. I drank them growing up with my family, in wine glasses so I wouldn’t feel quite as left out surrounded by people drinking shimmering Pinot Grigio. There’s something about pouring something out of a big glass bottle that just seems fancy. If it’s not your scene, however, San Pellegrino also makes their own versions of Squirt and Sunkist, but the labels are in Italian so you feel like you’re doing something special. Both are easy to find at DeLuca’s.
No matter what you end up doing this Valentine’s Day, make sure you enjoy yourself and eat something tasty.