Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wine and Dine Your Valentine

After New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day is the second worse night to dine out. Expectations are high, menus are fixed, everyone is rushed and stressed, and overall quality of food and experience is diminished. To make matters worse, this year it falls on a Saturday, already one of the busiest nights for many establishments. 

As the Beverage Director/Sommelier at Michael Mina's Aqua in San Francisco, I saw it all - celebrities, drunks, liars and cheats - along with genuinely nice, warm, and friendly guests. We were open for lunch and dinner, so I often pulled double shifts. I will never forget one Valentine's Day, when a winemaker had us put a ring in his then girlfriend's dessert. I was table-side when he proposed! Earlier that day, a regular business executive came in for lunch with his girlfriend. Then he came for dinner with his wife. Thankfully I didn't say, "So nice to see you again, sir."

Why deal with all of this chaos, mayhem, and madness? It is hard to relax, to slow down, to focus on each other with all this bad energy swirling around. What is a savvy somm or foodie to do? Stay in and prepare a sensual feast at home.

 Here are a few suggestions for a sensual feast at home.  

 Dress to Impress 
Wear fabrics that are soft to the touch, such as cashmere, lamb's wool, or silk. Don't overdo it with fragrance. The aromas of sensual foods mixed with your own natural pheromones should do the trick.

Set the Stage 
Use soft lighting and candlelight. Set out a single rose and a bowl of apples. Play soft, soothing romantic music from Chopin, Will Downing, Enya, Joao Gilberto, Diana Krall, Luis Miguel, or your favorite artist. Place large, overstuffed pillows in a semi-circle around platters of the following food and drink. 

Toasted almonds, pistachios, grapes, dates, fennel bits, truffled popcorn, oysters, or caviar 
Champagne Collet Brut Rose Ay France $59.99
or Cava, Prosecco, or Vinho Verde

Main Course
Risotto with truffles and Champagne, Lamb Chops, Steak au Poivre, Roasted Quail or Duck Confit
2010 Ruffino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Riserva Ducale Oro $38
2013 Argus Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros $42
or Chambolle Musigny or Morey St. Denis from Burgundy, France, or Pinot Noir from Oregon or New Zealand

Mango slices, raspberries, candied orange slices, and Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Syrup
2013 Bonny Doon Vinferno Arroyo Seco $24 (375ml)
2009 Dow's LBV Port $24 (750ml)

May the sensual pleasures of wine, food, and good living enrich your daily life.

© Copyright 2015 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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