Executing a successful Valentine's Day takes planning and creativity; like most line cooks, I've sometimes regarded the shift as "easy money," eagerly anticipating the post-shift pint and wondering, as I look out at the guests in the dining room, how many of them are only participating due to obligation or guilt. Meanwhile, we think of our loved ones, who continually sacrifice their own interests as we build our careers in the service others.
And when thinking about it, it's easy to see how amazing a job we do. Aside from the culinary performance, there are issues of planning and logistics to consider, and every element up to the food's arrival at the table is carefully orchestrated. There are so many points where things could go wrong that its amazing that there aren't more failures in the system. Of course, failure isn't an option when it comes to Valentine's Day, too many people are counting on us to make it perfect.
Since going to a restaurant is the norm, there are several places in town that can be counted on: Spice Creek Cafe tops the list, as Chef Becky is sure to design some masterful cuisine and Brian will leave no detail overlooked. Red Tavern, Fifth Street Steak House, and Nash's could also be great options, with the latter being easiest to get into. Wherever you go, however, please respect your reservation and be courteous to the staff and other patrons, to assure this day is extra special.
Having been a long time cook, I've often had to improvise, and even after the long day at work on the hot line, I've been able to come up with some fast and easy fixes: One year, I showed up at my date's house, and insisted on taking her for a walk. As we strolled under the crisp crescent moon, I led her to a putting green, where I had set up a picnic of cold chicken, potato salad, and carrot cake; it was a beautiful night, and the simplicity of it made it magical, even though I forgot the corkscrew.
Another unforgettable Valentine's Day, I stopped off at the market and picked up strawberries, grapes, a melon, a sweet loaf, and some cheeses to go with the chocolate fondue I was planning. The end result was a chocolate fight that had us laughing until 3:00 a.m., and it still has me chuckling when I think of the inanity of it.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to do that aren't so easy, but often, the simplest things are the best. The important thing is to do something considerate and meaningful, whether it be a picnic at One-Mile Rec Area with some food from Chipotle, or maybe visiting Table Mountain or hiking to Feather Falls.
And if you don't have a partner to share the day with, there is no reason not to celebrate someone else you care about, whether it be a close friend or roommate, sibling, a parent or your child. Regardless of who you're with, February 14th is just another day after all, and as I cook my Canard a l'orange, I can't help but think that there isn't any reason that you can't celebrate your special relationships every chance you get.