What to CookHolidaysValentine's Day

How to Make Grocery Shopping the Best Part of Your Valentine's Day Meal

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This time last year, I had an epiphany: I don’t hate Valentine’s Day. What I can’t stand are the overpriced prix-fixe meal, the chocolate truffles with hidden cherry “surprises,” and the expectation that I’ll deliver said chocolates with an appropriately reverential, but not-too-gushy love note and a dozen red roses.

Photo by James Ransom

Last year, I went rogue and instead sought out the things I love most about Valentine’s Day: An excuse to eat a delicious dinner with my special someone and a reason to spend the entire day together, sans distractions. After some on-the-fly planning, my date and I headed to New York’s Chinatown on a rainy Saturday afternoon.


We spent the day wandering through the fish markets, stopping for lunch, clams, and crab legs along the way, before returning back to our apartment to cook a feast of linguine alle vongole and crab dipped in clarified butter. The dinner wasn’t perfect—we’d never cooked clams and had to phone a few friends about the crab—but it was fun, and, in its own way, romantic. Here are 4 field trips that end in dinner for you and your date (or best friend!) this Valentine’s Day:

Head to Your Local Farmers Market (or to the Farm Itself!)

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and White Bean-Anchovy Sauce
Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and White Bean-Anchovy Sauce

The easiest way to turn an excursion into dinner is to head to the farmers market. And if you’re lucky enough to have the means (a.k.a., a functioning car or great public transportation), head to the farm itself! Right now, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), root vegetables (potatoes! carrots!), and citrus (grapefruit, pomelo) are in season. Search online to see if there are any farms in your area and schedule a visit—then cook whatever the farmer suggests! Chances are it will end in a memorable, delicious, true-to-itself meal (just like your relationship).

Visit a Winery, then Cook with the Wine

One Bottle of Red Wine, 5 Ways to Use It
One Bottle of Red Wine, 5 Ways to Use It

While harvest season is over in the northern hemisphere, there are still plenty of wonderful wineries that stay open year-round. Head to a local winery with your other half, taste a few glasses, then buy the bottle you enjoy most and ask for the tasting room specialist or winemaker’s advice on cooking with it. Use some for your dish of choice, then split the rest of the bottle between the two of you.


What to Make:

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Port Wine Sauce

Porcini and Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Port Wi... by TasteFood

Simple Pasta with Leeks and Scallops

Simple Pasta with Leeks and Scallops by fiveandspice

Red-Wine Poached Pears

Red-Wine Poached Pears by Kenzi Wilbur

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine and Vanilla

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine and Vanilla by Phyllis Grant

Visit Your Local Brewery, then Make Spent Grain Sandwiches

Vegetarian Muffuletta
Vegetarian Muffuletta

Head to your local brewery for a tour, then spend a few hours in their tasting room. Once you’ve had a beer (or two!), take home some spent grain (the leftover grain from mash)—just email the brewery ahead of time to make sure they can accommodate you. Once home, grind and bake it into bread! The dough has to rise for a few hours but we’re sure you’ll find a way to spend the time.

Head to Little Italy for an Italian Feast

Livorno-Style Red Mullet (Triglie alla Livornese)
Livorno-Style Red Mullet (Triglie alla Livornese)

If you love Italian food, head straight to the source—Little Italys are filled with gourmet Italian goods, from fresh mozzarella, to warm, just-baked bread, and oil-cured eggplant… we could go on and on. Take your loot home, act out a scene from Moonstruck, then dig in (with tealights and white tablecloths, of course). That's amore!

Where will you be going this Valentine's Day? Tell us in the comments below!

Tags: field trip, little italy, chinatown, date ideas