Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's Day Approaches

I told a friend about my plans to not drink until my D.C. trip. Her first response was, "That encompasses Valentine's Day. How can you not drink on Valentine's Day?!"


This was her concern?

I apparently missed the memo where I'm supposed to feel woeful about some dude not buying me crap on  a designated day in February, in which I'm then to reciprocate by wearing sexy lingerie, that I need to drown my sorrows in cheap pinot grigio and romcoms living up to every Hollywood cliche out there. This should go without saying but: Not. That. Girl.

It's a non event. A non issue. If my mom buys me chocolate foil covered hearts, I'll be good. Even if she doesn't, pretty sure I'll soldier through.

I just don't get it. And the more I ponder Valentine's Day and the advertising surrounding it, I really don't get it.

The ads targeted at men: buy your woman fancy lingerie, flowers, chocolates, and in one instance: cupcakes with silhouettes of lingerie on them. *scratches head* To women the message is: your man was nice enough to not be a knuckle dragging neanderthal for 6 straight hours, shouldn't you reward him with sexual favors? Huh? Wha? No.

I hope I don't sound like bitter single person. Because, and it really is hard to say this without people thinking you're protesting too much but serious face right now, I'm not. I'm good. Seriously. All good. I'm really just questioning the origin of it all and how it got to be what it is and why some cheap teddy bear is supposed to make me love someone that much more. Because it doesn't. And it shouldn't.

(I'd insert a whole tangent about societal norms and why I think it's ridiculous to keep honoring them without really understanding what they mean and making a choice to do so and living your own life but I'm out of exasperated rage at the moment. Just know that I could.)

The best article I ever read about the history of Valentine's Day is here. Check it out. Lupercalia sounds way more up my alley than the white washed version the Christian church has foisted on us. In fact, it sounds a little like what Mardi Gras is. If only I had the funds to go enjoy that...

The best Valentine's Days I ever spent were in college with my girl friends when we were all single. We'd go to dinner and drinking and it was just like every other night in college but it was more 'Hell no we don't need guys to feel complete!' than those nights. And it was true. We'd have absurd amounts of fun. Every Valentine's Day when I was in a relationship felt like there was too much pressure to make it mean something when it didn't.

Now, all that said, I came to the realization that some of you may actually want to celebrate this day (which upon further reflection can't be true because there is no way you'd be reading my ramblings if you did). But on the off chance that you do, I thought I'd help you out. I wrote this assuming it's men who need help making plans.

First: my vote for most romantic Bay Area restaurant, which includes a fantastic view and winding roads to get to: The Bella Vista. Which is now on Open Table (and has no availability for that day but give them a call anyway).

Since the Bella Vista isn't likely an option, I perused what was available on Open Table. Here are some recommendations, for those of you who insist on going out for a meal on that night, places I've actually eaten:

1. Alfred's Steakhouse. If you are dating the kind of lady who doesn't appreciate a dry aged steak, you are dating the wrong lady.

2. Andalu. Casual, tapas type stuff. They have these lamb cigar things and fried macaroni and cheese. Yes.

3. Boxing Room. Cajun food may not be romantic but I don't care. Well, they have oysters and that's an aphrodisiac, right? Phew. Made it count. Still, if a dude took me here, I'd be impressed. Nothing says love like Abita and fried shrimp po'boys.

4. Bubble Lounge. It's called the Bubble Lounge. All they do is champagne. And some light appetizers. But champagne! You should know by now that ladies love champagne. (No, really, we do. Fine, I won't speak for us all. I do.)

5. Chez Papa. Everyone knows the French invented romance (made up fact!), so head to a French restaurant.

6. E&O. It sort of borders on touristy, since it's Union Square adjacent, but they have strong rum based drinks and pretty good food in a dark atmosphere so that's kinda Valentine's Day like, right?

7. Fresca. In my own hood, but with 2 other outposts. Peruvian fair with lots of ceviche and sangria.

8. Presidio Social Club. Your lady likes to dress like it's the '40s and you like fried chicken. You also live in the Marina. This is your place.

9. Pacific Cafe. Not on open table. They give you free wine while you wait. Ladies love wine, thus, stellar choice. 34th and Geary in the Richmond. Fresh, amazing, casual seafood.

Annnd I'm bored with telling you where to eat so take those recommendations. Or don't. You act like I care. (I feel like the radio announcers of Giants games when it's the 8th inning against the Nats in late May for a midweek day game and they start talking to themselves because they know no one is listening.)

But really going out on Valentine's Day is up there with the worst ideas ever. Everything is crowded. Service is slow because the servers are trying not to vomit all over your food with your lovey dovey proclamations. Most restaurants move to an overpriced prix fixe menu. Stay in. Find anything with my "how to feed yourself" tag and make it. I recommend the roast chicken or the carbonara and the whipped cream for berries after.

I'm also gonna save you a ton of money. You know how chocolate covered strawberries are sort of de rigueur on this holiday? Places like Godiva charge about $2 each for them. Which is absurd. Make them yourself.

Buy fresh strawberries. The biggest, reddest ones you can find. Rinse them off and dry them thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper or even foil if you're super lazy. Or nothing but then you're going to need to be very careful when you remove your berries from the cookie sheet (a little elbow grease with a spatula should do it).

Put a cup and a half of chocolate chips of your choosing (milk or semisweet) in a microwave safe bowl.  Put it in the microwave for 45 seconds. Stir. If not smooth and melted, another 30 seconds and stir. Do this until the chocolate is smooth. DO NOT over do it or then your chocolate seizes and though that can be dealt with by adding a little water it's a pain in the ass. Just gently microwave and stir after you take the bowl out of the microwave each time.

Dip your berries in the chocolate. Pull them out and let the excess chocolate drip off. Put them on the lined baking sheet. Put the lined baking sheet in the fridge. You're done. You're gonna get chocolate everywhere. Just deal with it.

Want to make it fancy? Melt some white chocolate the same way you melted the other chocolate. Take a fork and dip it in the chocolate. Take it out and waive it over the chocolate dipped strawberries. Fancy lines! Voila. You just made dozens of chocolate dipped strawberries for like $6 that a store would have charged you $24 for. I'm here to help.

You can do this with anything, really. Pretzels, marshmallows, other kinds of berries...go crazy. I've been wanting chop up bananas into hunks and then sprinkle nuts over them after dipping them in chocolate. I'm lazy though so I haven't. And I really have no reason to. Put bananas in the freezer though, not the fridge.

There, I've perfected your Valentine's Day.

Personally, I'm looking forward to celebrating non-Valentines Day at a sports bar with the bestie on February 13th with the Caps/Sharks game.

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