Ever since we have been together, Dave and I have always gone out to a fancy restaurant for dinner on Valentine’s Day – one of the few occasions where we splurge when dining out. We always enjoy it, but it is definitely expensive. We usually each get wine, often order steak for a main course, and always have dessert. On many occasions, the bill has been over $125.
Since we are having a new house built and will move sometime in spring, we have been trying to save money wherever possible. So I decided that I would plan a “restaurant” dinner at home, by taking all the aspects we like about fancy dining, and try to recreate them. Some of the features I’m trying to incorporate are:
- pleasant background music
- romantic lighting
- crusty bread to enjoy with the wine before the main course
- a steak main course with a side vegetable
- a decadent chocolate dessert
For background music, I’m going to create an mp3 playlist. I could simply pick out a bunch of love songs, but generally when we eat out, the restaurants aren’t specifically playing romantic music. Rather, we often hear old standards (think Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin) or instrumental jazz. I’m thinking of picking out some older jazz by Vince Guaraldi or Dave Brubeck.
To achieve romantic lighting, I’ll just dim the lights a bit, and use some candles. Several years ago I bought these tea light holders but haven’t had many occasions to use them. Now is a great occasion!
I plan to get a fairly inexpensive wine – probably around $10 or $15. That will still be a bargain, considering we sometimes order 2 glasses each, at a cost of $7 or $8 each.
The crusty bread will be homemade. My first attempt at baking bread last year was at a class where we learned how to make “no-knead” bread, made famous in a New York Times article in 2006. This technique is super easy, and results in a crusty, chewy loaf of bread, just the thing for dipping in olive oil or spreading with warm butter while you enjoy a glass of wine. And best of all, the dough is made the night before, so all I have to do before dinner time is pop it in the oven.
The steak main course will be my attempt at recreating a dish from our favorite restaurant, Daniel’s in Hamburg, NY. The first time we went there, we had bacon-wrapped filet mignon in red wine sauce, and we have gone back twice, getting the same dish each time. I found two recipes from Cook’s Illustrated (one for the steak, another for the sauce) that I’m hoping will be almost as good. I think the side vegetable will be steamed carrots, because they don’t involve a lot of work, and might go well with a bit of the red wine sauce.
Since we are both chocoholics, one of our favorite desserts is chocolate lava cake (aka molten chocolate cake). Several years ago I took a cooking class where we made this dessert, using a recipe from Dave Lieberman. The recipe states that the batter can be mixed up ahead of time, so when you’re ready for dessert, all you have to do is bake them for 12 minutes, and serve immediately.
So, that’s the plan. The fact that the bread & dessert will be mostly made ahead should help things go smoothly. I will try to make a video for at least part of the preparation, possibly no-knead bread since it’s so easy, and may encourage some people who have never tried bread-baking before. Wish me luck!