Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Why go out on Valentine's night?

Bonjour, bonjour and apologies for the lapse in communication over the last few days. As you may have guessed I've been over in France sorting out family affairs (complicated) and carousing with friends (light relief) and have now been marooned by the snow. No-one's going to feel especially sympathetic about that, I imagine, though it may make you feel better to know that it's been chucking it down and there's a serious threat that the nearby river may burst its banks. Global warming, eh?

Anyway one subject I've been thinking about is how to tackle Valentine's Night, prompted by a spate of press releases from restaurants promoting their Valentine's menus. I guess that it's a sign of the hard economic times that they're pretty desperate to pull the customers in but I have to say that Valentine's night - along with Christmas Day and New Year's Eve - is one of the worst nights of the year to go to a restaurant. On the following grounds:

* You nearly always pay over the odds for a 'special menu' that's often not so special - and you don't get any choice.

* You eat way too much so probably just feel like falling asleep afterwards

* You pay a premium for bad champagne

* You have to sit cheek by jowl with couples who are either snogging or rowing or sitting in glum silence

So - apart from the fact that you don't have to cook - why do it?

My solution is to crack open a bottle of decent fizz and buy an indecent quantity of smoked salmon or cook something really simple like some big garlicky prawns or some scallops or a baked Camembert or even better, a Vacherin with steamed new potatoes and open a tub of really good vanilla ice-cream and serve it with a hot chocolate fondant pudding (not made by me). Not too much work, not too expensive, much more intimate.

Or am I wrong? If you've booked a table for two tell me what's tempted you. Or what your planned menu is for the Big Night. Or will you ignore it totally and just bunker down with a cup of cocoa and a good movie? Tell us all.

20 comments:

verity said...

It's only the second V day that my OH and I have been together; last year I cooked (pasta, probably, it was a work night) and I seem to remember having our last Christmas pudding.

I'd quite like to go out this year, but maybe we'll go out on Friday night and then eat in on Saturday. I'll be making shortbread hearts, and I've got some heart decorated paper cup cake cases and want to think of some pink cakes to make (without colouring, so maybe using frozen raspberries?). I've also got some quite expensive heart shaped pasta, which I guess we might have with a smoked salmon and cream sauce. I'm pretty limited this year, as I'm on a low fibre diet which I'm finding impossible to follow, so I guess eating out isn't an option anyway!

So..I think it's nicer to eat in, but I'd still like to be taken out and treated!

Signe said...

I agree with Verity, it's great to eat in, but also treat to be taken out! Given that I usually do the cooking, I'd like to go out, but it's such a trap going to Valentine's dinners in restaurants, so this year I've mandated my other half and I spend the day going to see exhibitions during the day, along with a lunch somewhere fun, then a trip to the cinema in the evening. That way it feels more like a fun day spent doing things we enjoy together, rather than indulging in schmaltzy Valentine's romantic stuff (if that makes sense!)

Like the idea of smoked salmon for supper Fiona, anything with seafood is always a winner :-)

Charlie said...

I think I might try to persuade my other half to make his famous thrice-baked cheesecake...

verity said...

I hope you'll come up with some V-day inspired baking Signe over on Scandilicious!

Fiona Beckett said...

Good plan to go out, but not on the night itself, Verity and Sig. I'm certainly not against celebrating Valentine's Day or being treated (nb Other Half!) just against being ripped off in the process. And it doesn't have to involve food. A great big bunch of flowers is always welcome - as would be a thrice baked cheesecake, Charlie, though I don't think OH would run to that.

And yes, we're definitely relying on you to bake something delicious, Sig!

Caroline said...

Couldn't agree more, Fiona - can't think of any night I'd less rather go out for a meal than Valentines Night!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about Valentine's Night and we would usually have a cosy night eating something prepared with love (!)

This year Mother-in-law happens to be visiting and has offered to babysit and as we rarely go out for dinner, the offer is too good to pass up.

I know it's a long shot but can anyone thinking of a decent restaurant in Bristol that won't be too expensive and cheesey - or should we just accept that we're going to be ripped off wherever we go?

Fiona Beckett said...

Hi Caroline, glad you agree! But, yes anonymous, ma-in-law offer is too good to refuse. Bells Diner (main dining room) Culinaria, Green's Dining Room, Prosecco all reasonably small/intimate as is Primrose Cafe which I know is doing a Valentine's menu (eat downstairs if you can). Bordeaux Quay good but a bit bustly for Valentine's night.

realfoodlover said...

I agree - forget going out to eat on Valentine's Day! Restaurants are overcrowded, staff are overworked...

Lots of great dance nights in Bristol this Valentine's Day including reggae at Malcolm X and The Big Green's Valentine's Ball at Trinity Community Centre...

Fiona, thanks for your comment on my blog and just thought I would mention http://www.lactofree.co.uk

Have you come across this site?

Fiona Beckett said...

I haven't but thanks for the tip-off, Elizabeth. Will pass it on to my daughter.

More ideas for frugal Valentine feasts? Am toying with the idea of chicken pot pie with a heart-shaped puff pastry lid. Nothing like a bit of Valentine kitsch!

recipes2share said...

I agree totally, but I think this year we will be driving en route to the mountains - not romantic in the slightest...may I suggest gravalax as an alternative to smoked salmon. It is so easy to make and so inexpensive. My recipe was given to me when we lived in Norway and it is totally fail-safe and apart from romantic dinners it is fantastic for party catering. When it is on offer I will buy a side of salmon which certainly feeds a crowd.

Fiona Beckett said...

Sounds great. Have you got a link to it recipes2share?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendations.

I LOVE Bells Diner and the Primrose Cafe Valentine's menu had me salivating. I made the mistake of emailing it to my OH who was starving at work! But... since we're feeling the pinch, we're thinking of trying out A Cappella - a gourmet pizza and tapas place (used to be Boccacina) on the Wells Rd. It's BYO so we know we can drink something nice even if the food isn't incredible.

As for gravalax, I always pick it up at IKEA.

Heart-shaped chicken pot pie sounds v.nice for a cosy evening in - perfect if it's still as parky as it is now. Brrrr!

verity said...

I've decided on my menu:

I'm going to make heart shaped toasts (using a cookie cutter) and either buy some smoked salmon pate or try to find a recipe (I've found one for mackerel but it's not quite the same!). Then heartshaped pasta with tomato and basil sauce. And then a mincemeat tart baked in a heart-shaped tin (OH loved this when I made it at Christmas and we still have 1/3 jar of mincemeat left)...so being frugal too! It uses a shortbread base so I'll make plenty so that I can make him some heart shaped biscuits for work the week after. I've bought some heart shaped teaspoons for a bit of kitsch.

Haven't heard anything about whether I'm getting taken out for dinner or not, but we might go out for the day - hence an easyish meal that I can make when we get back.

Fiona Beckett said...

Brilliant, Verity! Your OH is a lucky man!

Boak said...

We ignore it and go out a week later.

The worst thing is when you have to go out that night because you're in a strange town on business. I remember being stuck somewhere with a male colleague and we really struggled to find anywhere we could eat that wasn't trying to be all luvvy-duvvy (and it was too cold for a takeaway from the chippy). Think we ended up with sandwiches from M&S.

Fiona Beckett said...

probably a wise decision boak ;-) If you're not doing the whole hearts and flowers thing being in a restaurant on Valentine's night is pretty grisly

realfoodlover said...

Hi - are you really in Argentina? Please make sure you have a tango lesson, if there is time!

Two things to add: one of my favourite foodie and utterly-reasonable places to eat in Bristol is La Barrique, Gloucester Road. Highly-recommended.

I linked to your post on Valentine's, from mine on a similar subject...do have a look when you have time!

http://tinyurl.com/ceozv9

Anne said...

We stayed in this year and ate very well, I reckon our 3 courses inc wine came to £25 and that was with premium steaks, would have cost far more out and far prefer what we ate, compared to when we did eat out a few years back and had a lame, overpriced meal.

Yes I cooked it all and I always cook but I enjoy it so didnt mind. Oh and the beloved even cleaned the oven for me, champ that he is!!.

Fiona Beckett said...

Yes, I really WAS in Argentina realfoodlover - but no time to tango. Watched a couple of great tango shows tho'

I've heard good things about La Barrique so will definitely try and make it there.

And welcome and well done Anne. Your Valentine's meal sounded delicious and much much cheaper than going out. Nice to have a willing washer up too!

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