I woke up this morning to a an email with the subject "Perfect Food & Wine Pairings for Valentine's Day" and I thought, "Great! Maybe I will find inspiration for my own celebration". I clicked on the link and settled in for a good read about food, wine, love and life. After references to happy, young lovers and bitter, angry singles, I read "...for those of us who have been with the same partner for decades and have grown kids Valentine's Day really does not mean much at all". Talk about depressing! I didn't finish reading the article. Instead, I thought about how I have celebrated the occasion over the years.
I met my husband 32 years ago and Cupid's arrow had already struck us by our first Valentine's Day together. I forget what we did to celebrate that year, but I'm sure it involved delicious food, wine, chocolate and at least a few kisses! A couple of years later, on Valentine's Day my husband proposed to me over a bowl of my home-made Alligator gumbo - I had just returned from a trip to New Orleans that included an afternoon at Joe's Cooking School. Three kids and many years later we haven't missed a romantic Valentine's Day celebration filled with lots of tasty meals and delicious wine. Sure, we have our ups and downs like any couple but we rarely pass up an opportunity to celebrate life and each other.
So what if it's perceived by many as a commercially-driven "Hallmark holiday"! Like us, you can use it as an excuse to spend time with someone you love. If you are single, invite a friend over for a special meal or spend the evening with your widowed aunt who would love some company (and a glass of red wine). If you do have a partner, whether you've been together four months or forty years, surprise him or her with a special bottle. Life is way too short! Find any excuse to enjoy and celebrate love!
Last Valentine's Day I popped open a bottle of 2004 Pol Roger Vintage Champagne. That rich and elegant champagne was perfect for a meal which began with caviar and blinis from Russ and Daughters Gourmet Grocery Store and ended with a decadent yet easy-to-make flourless chocolate cake (recipe here).
This year the meal will again start with caviar but I plan to serve a rosé Champagne alongside it.
Champagne, with its fine bubbles and refreshing acidity, is a wine that can pair well with every kind of food and the pink color of a rosé makes it a perfect choice for Valentine's Day.
Krug NV Brut Rosé ($250). This exquisite champagne, with its pale pink color and intoxicating aroma, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Meunier. The intense flavors of berries, spices and flowers will envelope your senses. This is a complex, full-bodied rosé which would be fantastic with the whole meal.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé ($80). This Champagne house has a long history of making some of the most exceptional wines. With its beautiful salmon-colored hue, this rosé is full-bodied with subtle aromas of ripe red fruit and toasted bread. On the palate, it is luscious and fresh with a long finish.
Henriot Brut Rosé ($45). Henriot, with their full-bodied yet elegant house style, is one of my favorite Champagne producers. This rosé is medium-light copper colored with bright, fresh acidity and just a touch of the signature brioche. The taste of ripe berries lingers on the palate until you are ready for the next sip.
If bubbles are not what you're in the mood for, another excellent option is red wine. The color red symbolizes love and the wine will warm your heart and soul on a cold February night.
RED WINE SUGGESTION:
Calon Segur 2000 red wine from Bordeaux ($140 in NYC at Millesima Wine shop, 2nd Avenue between 71st and 72nd Streets). The heart-shaped design on the label makes it a perfect Valentine's Day gift to present to your honey. Open this wine at least an hour before dinner to allow the intense blackberry, leather and dark chocolate aromas and flavors to open up with the exposure to air.
This complex, well-structured wine would be an excellent accompaniment to my rich Braised Short Ribs dish. You will find some other delicious red wine suggestions ($15-$50 Malbecs) along with the recipe here.
And don't forget dessert. The flourless chocolate cake mentioned earlier has been my go to Valentine's Day dessert for years. My inner Martha Stewart makes a brief appearance and I bake it in a heart-shaped pan.
This year my inspiration for what to pair with the cake comes from a recent trip to Mexico where I enjoyed chocolate with a Reposado tequila.
Class Azul Reposado ($100) - Reposado means "rested" and this tequila has been aged for eight months in used American oak barrels after distillation. During the resting period, the tequila picks up many complex flavors of caramel, spice, vanilla and honey. It reminds me of drinking a fine aged Scotch and it has that same amber color but the taste of agave is always present. WOW!!! One sip of this reposado, along with the chocolate melting in your mouth will make for an evening you won't forget!
And while you're at it, don't forget to send silly Valentines like the ones I sent to my daughters last year.
Happy Valentine's Day!