Continuing on with our Valentine's Day special to create that perfect Valentine's Day whether going out or staying in, in PART 1 ("Everything for a perfect Valentine's Day–from a DIY to a romantic remote getaway"), whether you’re a do-it-yourself kind of gal or a spare-no-expense kind of guy, we have what you’re looking for to help make this Valentine’s Day romantic from events and places to go (such as in Part 1); to dinner and wine (including which labels are best when buying your own); to how to set the stage for love when creating your own romantic getaway at home (here in Part 2). So, as we continue on with our Part 2 with "The perfect Valentine's Day–from a remote romantic getaway to a complete DIY" – from food and wine to décor, to a stay-at-home romantic indoor getaway, we can help set the stage for a perfect Valentine’s Day complete with magic and the igniting of romance – the rest is up to you!
Just keep in mind that Valentine's Day is less than two weeks away so you'll have to get started right away. Just keep in mind that it’s not about the money spent but more about the time and effort put in; and if ever there was a day to bridge a gap between you and the one you love, this would be it. So down with the walls, meet them halfway or better yet, run to the other side. Out with the words and tell them how you feel; no holds barred. Make every moment count; and remember, don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to roll around to tell people how you feel for everyone needs to know they’re loved (and often). After all, “Love, is the spice of life.”
One of the best parts about Valentine’s Day is the food - with reader favorites, and a few of P.K.’s, too.
Whether you’re looking to create a DIY romantic dinner for two or order take-out dinner to eat on a picnic; you can create a romantic elegance with a fireplace, candles, white lights, rose and flower pedals (or all of the above) creating a dreamy romantic getaway of your own (most restaurants will have the candles) but you can create this ambiance at home (see the end).
Taiwan Restaurant, Willow Glen (San Jose) – Located at 1305 Lincoln Avenue in San Jose – the best Taiwan food (much like Chinese) that will not only impress, but you can casual-dress or dress it up. This place gets busy and the parking is tough so go early and not when you are starving.
Le Papillon, San Jose – Another great place to impress your date located at 410 Saratoga Avenue in San Jose. This place is an upscale restaurant with rave reviews and a more expensive restaurant to impress, for celebrating or giving jewelry – or popping the question, this would be the place to do it. This is the type of restaurant you should dress the part for – elegance times two.
Original Joe’s, San Jose – For an original date at an original kind of place a little more upscale to casual dress for theater-goers and Valentine’s Day. Just good food; located at 301 South First Street in San Jose adjacent to the Fairmont.
Golden Wok, San Jose – Located next to Trader Joe’s near the City Bermuda Triangle corner at Lawrence Expressway, Saratoga and Cupertino – this is the best Chinese food in the Bay Area by far – the one and only that is quick on delivery and doesn’t use MSG; about $40 for a good variety of healthy choices including meats, vegetables, rice and soup; no MSG.
The Counter, San Jose (or Palo Alto) – For a great burger with a taste that’s unbelievable and to die for, over and over. Split with your date or order your own – but this is a fantastic fresh burger joint with fries that are equally fresh and yummy. You can eat inside or out on the patio near the courtyard (located near the courtyard outside of Maggiano’s); located at 3055 Olin Avenue Suite 1035 in San Jose – these burgers will have you coming back for more – after you give it a few days to recover because these are so yummy.
Sam’s Chowder House, Half Moon Bay – With a famous lobster roll has received so many awards we lost count. Be sure to call early as they have live entertainment and views of the coast; you can eat indoors or out, top deck or lower – the views are incredible no matter where you sit because your sweetheart will be sitting across from you. Located at 4210 North Cabrillo Highway in Half Moon Bay this is one restaurant you will want to try. When done, head on over to the Ritz Carlton for a nightcap – impress that date of yours to no end.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, San Jose – One of my daughters turned me on to this place and it’s one of those can’t be beat for make-it-the-way-you-want-it and it is fresh, healthy and tasty and HUGE which means sharing and getting close, or leftovers for a little while later.
The perfect "Do-It-Yourself" Valentine's Day begins with cooking at home
Cook for (or with) your date
Looking for recipes to cook and prepare yourself, from stove/oven to table? If you don’t have a good cookbook to browse through, try one of your favorite cooking show “chef” sites, such Emeril Lagasse, Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart or one of the many others (each will usually have a list of favorite Valentine’s Day dishes). And of course, the fail-safe cook is always “mom.” Be sure to shop for all your ingredients ahead of time, and again, the idea is to enjoy yourself – and maybe even ask your partner to join you – it could be the beginning of yet another new tradition. A few easy and quick meals would be fresh spinach and your favorite meat (or tofu); or homemade burgers, stir-fry, spaghetti or pizza (Trader Joe's or Whole Foods is great for helps with homemade dough and fresh ingredients, or even for pre-made dinners on the run).
Valentine’s Day dinner – after all, it wouldn’t be romantic without a good wine.
If you don’t know what to buy, here are P.K.’s favorites as well as a few reader fav’s to ensure a satisfied palate:
Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz (about $4 and $6), fairly smooth; good for those considering red in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Those who’d rather stick with a white, try the Yellow Tail Chardonnay – (honestly, I’m not much into Chardonnay) – for those that like that aged oak taste and this is even aged in a steel barrel – the best part is it’s only about $5. Another fear to get over is to try shopping at a few new stores for wine: Grocery Outlet, Cost Plus or Trader Joe’s.
Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be complete without a Robert Mondalvi of some sort so either a “Twin Fin Pinot Noir” (about $5 to $7)) from his private selection; or a personal favorite, the Robert Mondalvi Cabernet Sauvignon (between $6 and $8) – smooth, bold and very rich in taste for the price. No matter which of Mondalvi’s wines you get, remember it’s all good.
And last but certainly not least – it wouldn’t be sweet without a finer California 200 Central Coast Cupcake Vineyards Pinot Noir – and folks, this is smooth, robust and if you think coastal berries are good, Odonata and Heart O’ The Mountain fans can vouch for how the fog somehow balances the sun on grapes for a flavor that can’t be beat; in this case, of cherries and red currants. For only about $12 to $18 and that’s not bad for an incredible pinot like this one.
And don’t forget the bubbly – and sparkling wines. Champagne for those jewelry-giving moments (or proposing), and for special moments and those who just love the stuff, sparkling wine. And here are some sparkling wines worth talking about such as Creekview’s Private Cuvee (not sweet or too dry, yet light and elegant) – a good choice (and their downtown San Jose tasting room sells it); or for those on the low, the Chandon Bruth Classic is always a good fallback for a great priced champagne (dry, not sweet and fairly balanced). And remember, there is always your favorite winery to grab a bottle from while wine tasting at the weekend prior or even to stop by during the week (hint, hint).
From food and wine to décor, we can help set the stage for Valentine’s Day – the rest is up to you!
At-home hints and tips for décor, ambiance & more
Need a few “romantic” ideas that don’t cost much other than your time? With a few things you likely have laying around the house (or with things you are just packing away from the holidays), you can create an elegant ambiance that will impress anyone
Create the mood: Plan a romantic dinner (order take-out from one of the restaurants above, have it delivered or pick up early; or pick out the recipes you plan to cook and pick up the ingredients ahead of time; planning ahead and getting the mood created the evening before allows for more time to focus on each other, so that couples can forget the stresses of the day (good, bad or indifferent) allowing for the creation of forever moments – to enjoy Valentine’s Day together, in the moment.
The more you are able to do ahead of time, the more time you have with your sweetheart. The idea is to create a sense of calm, serene and peace – with soft lighting, soft music (from classical to soft rock – anything to two of you like) to a relaxing mood modifier.
White lights, candles burning in the background in every room (preferably flameless candles so you don’t have to remember to blow them out), fireplace(s) burning if you have one as it is one of the most soothing and calming affects ever; soft or colored light bulbs to change out existing light bulbs temporarily, sheer cloth or scarves over the lamps to soften existing lighting (even hanging down from lamps with fan blades (or ivy, decorative bead strands or ribbon, etc.) – all decorative enhancements can add a soft atmosphere that can also be mood modifiers, so that no matter what the mood of you or your sweetheart, you both can be swayed to a more calm environment with the ability to enjoy a relaxing evening together – even if you just start out in such a setting.
White lights make an elegant transition to elegance in any room, by taking a strand or two of white lights and hanging them from the ceiling, light fixtures, or even along the walls (knowing they are temporary for the one evening) can make a huge difference. Using these lights as your sole light source for the evening, accompanied by perhaps a few candles spread about; some great ideas for the white lights are to put the strands in vases (clear or colored) and add colored glass beads, rose pedals or even pearls for an added elegance or if you are looking for a theme. Sometimes people add lights to clear glass vases, and then put flameless candles (or other votives and mini candles) inside cocktail glasses, champagne glasses, wine glasses, etc. – with a whole theme of cocktail hour, or in celebration of something. Some do Mardi Gras (such as if you can’t find white lights and must use colored lights). White lights look great in plants, along the walls in shapes (such as in hearts, using straight pins or tacks), or even along the base of the room (or along the ceiling outlining the doorways). Others have used the theme of every place they’ve been to together from the movies (with the movie tickets framed), to white lights in a vase with shells they collected at the beach, to assorted photos and memorabilia from places they’d been scattered about with the white lights surrounding it – as if a historical museum of the two of them. There are all sorts of ways to get creative when using your imagination; with the white lights being the most elegant and softest, which always sets the mood (keeping in mind that the less there are, the less lighting (or, you can unplug a few later to soften the mood later after dinner). The ideas are absolutely endless – and fabulous!
Candles also add a romantic touch, with some using flameless candles – sometimes leading to a hot bubble bath, with a candle pathway from when they walk in the door, to the dining table to the bath on into the bedroom. Elegance, creativity, sense of humor – it’s all in what you’re looking to create and maybe it’s just about spending the evening wrapped in a blanket watching a movie or reading to each other – something simple and what neither have ever done before. Maybe it’s about dancing in the moonlight on the patio, or naked (in the house, of course) – whatever it is your heart desires, you can create.
Traditions from the "past" make great ambiance additions to hang with the white lights (such as for the camera buff, the antique seeker (or even antique dealer), the sewing professional, etc.); such as digging through your antiques or ornaments (or even when shopping, look for old camera lights or spools that can be turned into ornaments or designs and "saved." Although we use them for Christmas tree ornaments, these are traditions that are terrific not only to restore memories, but to treasure them. Some are made recently, but in years to come will indeed become "heirlooms" or treasured gifts of memories past. Line these up with your white lights for that love in your life who is unique, and show them the things you made remind them of the good times you've had and it will have double meaning. The ideas are endless, but you "get the idea."
Soft music adds not only a nice touch, but if you create two copies a mix of songs you both adore – you have then just created an added bonus gift the two of you now have for your car to listen to any time you are apart, or for those long trips. Some go as far as making a CD cover with the song name (and then add the date you heard the song and where, and adding if it was a ‘first kiss’ song or where you were when you heard it, etc.) – it makes a fantastic and “unforgettable” gift.
Rose or flower pedals are one of the most romantic gestures for men and women – whether for a pathway, to cover the table for dinner, as an added décor for the dining table with candles, for a walkway, entry way to a hot bath, over a bed with a rose, heart box of dark chocolates – or leading to a ring for a proposal. You can purchase flowers fairly cheaply from the local Farmer's Market, or, from your yard (you would be surprised with colored leaves can do, or pine needles even) or what treasures a neighbor's yard would bring and it would be a trimming they may really need. Whatever the décor, you can never go wrong with rose and flower pedals; and the beauty about these is that you can use almost any type of flower from daisy to mum to fake rose or flower pedals to agapanthus – the purple in the agapanthus flower looks so beautiful with the white rose pedals; it really is amazing to see spread out all over. Again, be creative and remember that its not about the money spent, flowers, chocolate, elegance in the dinner or that perfect bottle of wine – it’s in the time and effort put into the meaning behind, and your heart speaking to the one you love.
Just keep in mind that whether in “like” or in love, make this Valentine’s Day a memorable one and make each moment count.
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