Cooking in Langley: Setting the table for romance

Tailor Valentine’s Day menus to your sweetie.

One of my pet peeves is trying to make dinner reservations on an evening when 90 per cent of the general population is also trying to attain the same goal. You may be able to perform this feat without pulling out your hair. However, if bustling crowds and hurried serving staff is not your idea of romance, one can easily create this setting in the comfort of your home.

Staying in for a romantic dinner can be accomplished with little effort and some creative planning. To achieve this successfully, we will focus on three areas: the menu, the table setting, and the room environment.

The menu you decide on does not have to be complicated, however it should be meaningful. Your effort should reflect the compassion you have for this person. The first thought that comes to mind is to prepare their favourite food. If this is a dish that you cannot prepare at home then have it ordered in or pre-purchase parts of it ahead of time to ease your preparation. It’s acceptable to not have everything prepared from scratch if it is beyond your means and capability. Your thoughtfulness is the most meaningful ingredient.

Add extra simple courses, rather than just having a main course and dessert. Once again this does not have to be perplexing. A fresh pile of mixed colourful greens with a good dressing makes a great salad course. A few pieces of unique cheeses with some grapes and a small glass of wine make another delicious course. All of the elements to make these extra courses can be purchased direct from the store and assembled together to ease your preparation. Now you can express to your sweetheart that you made them a “four-course romantic dinner.” An example of a quick enchanting dessert would be chocolate covered strawberries.

The table setting is very important and should harmonize with the mood you are trying to establish. Candles are a must, but there are other things you can do to make it memorable. Silk rose petals or heart-shaped confetti scattered on the table is a nice touch. Compliment that with red cloth napkins and a love letter tied up with a ribbon, and you will have them swooning. Make sure you have enough pieces of cutlery set to accommodate each course and use your best wine glasses. A glass of wine always looks very elegant; if wine is not desirable, then fill the glass with red juice. A finishing touch on the table would be a fresh bouquet of flowers. Long stemmed red roses are perfect for Valentine’s Day, however they will be impressed already by your efforts and carnations or a mixed arrangement will do fine.

The room environment is equally influential. If you have children, make arrangements for them to spend the evening, or at least part of it, with grandparents or doing other appropriate activities. Be certain that you serve dinner in a light-controlled room and have access to music. Favorite CDs are the best option as they eliminate the hassle of having to listen to advertisements on the radio. Lastly, make sure that the room is tidy. It is much harder to set a mood if the area is cluttered with everyday items.

Now that the lights are dimmed and soft music fills the air, look into their candle-lit eyes and smile. Not only because you created a romantic interlude successfully, but also due to no gratuity being required.

Dear Chef Dez:

I want to make chocolate covered strawberries for dessert for a Valentine’s dinner, but the last time I tried making them it was a disaster. Even though I took them out of the refrigerator ahead of time, the chocolate was still too hard and it broke off the berries with the first bite and fell onto the plate. What am I doing wrong?

Chris D., Abbotsford

Dear Chris:

When melting your chocolate for dipping, melt butter in with the chocolate as well. Room temperature butter is much softer than room temperature chocolate, and thus will create a more palatable bite and will adhere to the berries. I normally add 50 per cent of the weight of chocolate being used with butter. For example, if you are melting four ounces of chocolate, then also melt in two ounces of butter.

Chef Dez is a chef, writer, & host. Visit him at www.chefdez.com

Write to him at dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C., V2T 6R4

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