• By: Jane Staples

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with special food and wine, even if it’s just you!

In recent years the traditional idea of Valentine’s Day has expanded to embrace everyone — there’s Palentine's Day, Galentine's Day, and in some cultures, such as Finland, it’s a day to honour friendship. In Ottawa, by mid-February, we’re all a little weary of cleaning off the car and shoveling the snow. We’re ready for some indulgence! It’s been several weeks since the December holidays and New Year’s, so we’re all ready for another dive into wine and food decadence.

Celebrations often include a starring role for chocolate, too. Couples can celebrate romance, but you don’t need a partner to enjoy the evening with special food and wine. 

Many restaurants will have special menus for February 14th and since it’s typically their busiest night of the year, be sure to make your reservation several days in advance. It can still be a special evening if you prefer to eat at home, too. During the lockdown, restaurants expanded their ability to provide take-out meals. 

If you’re a steak lover, you could pick up a steak at Wellington Butchery, where you can choose from several cuts of meat, including Delmonico or Wagyu. They also have ready-to-eat dinners that you only need to heat up. Thyme & Again offers a special Valentine's menu, too. Be wise and order in advance.

For at-home chefs, here's a recipe for a decadent meal that is surprisingly easy to prepare:

Photo: Bob Stefko

Lobster Louie Salad

Recipe courtesy of restaurateur Rich Melman and chef Doug Psaltis of Booth One in Chicago

• 2 sticks (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
• 4 lobster tails, cooked and sliced about 1/4-inch thick
• 2 avocados, pitted and thinly sliced, divided
• 1 cup Louie Dressing (recipe follows)
• 4 cups romaine hearts, shredded
• 1 lime, halved
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 hard-boiled eggs, grated on a fine box grater or microplane
• 1/2 cup Jalapeño Crema (recipe follows)

1. In a small pot, melt butter over low heat. When foam subsides, set aside and let cool slightly. Skim foam from the top. Leaving the white milk solids at the bottom of the pot, spoon liquid butterfat through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and into a heatproof bowl. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate clarified butter for up to 1 month.

2. On a large serving platter, arrange the lobster along one side of the dish; arrange half of the sliced avocado along the other side. Spoon the Louie Dressing along the middle of the platter between the lobster and avocado.

3. In a large bowl, toss the romaine with juice from half a lime and the olive oil; season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the dressed greens on top of the Louie dressing.

4. Spoon the Jalapeño Crema and sprinkle the grated egg over the greens. Squeeze the remaining lime juice over the avocado; season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Serve with a small dish of the clarified butter. Serves 8.

For the full recipe, click this link. The quantities can be easily adjusted for a smaller serving size.

Valentine's Day Wine Accompaniment

A wine from Austria makes a lovely accompaniment to this dish. Gruner Veltliner is not well known, but definitely worth trying with lobster. If you like delicate white wine, another option is Mochefilero from Greece.

Laurenz V. Friendly Grüner Veltliner 2020
Kamptal D.A.C., Austria
Refreshing with characteristic apple and citrus zest flavours. The zippy acidity makes it work well with the rich lobster and mayo. Alternately, it pairs beautifully with pasta in a cream sauce.
Extra Dry • $21.95
LCBO# 66225

Zacharias Mochefilero 2021
Peloponnese P.G.I., Greece
This is a dry and aromatic white wine with delicate notes of lemon, rose petals, lemongrass, and lokum (Turkish Delight). Pair it with grilled white fish or a shrimp salad. The high acidity makes it very refreshing, and the aromas are delightful throughout.
Extra Dry • $14.95
LCBO# 548222

Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2017
Veneto D.O.C.G., Italy
If you are cooking a roast, Amarone is the perfect wine to savour over a leisurely meal. Smooth and elegant, this beautiful rich red wine shows the hallmarks of classic Amarone: a perfumed nose, and a rich, layered palate, with flavourful and bright flavours. It’s a ruby red colour, with intense scents of ripe cherry, black cherry, and slightly spicy tones. On the palate, it’s dry and soft, with complex flavours of dark cherries, prunes, licorice, mocha, and herbs. There’s excellent balance and a velvety mouthfeel with soft tannins, followed by a sensuous lingering finish that fades slowly with hints of red fruit. Amarone also works well with chocolate desserts. 
Dry • $49.95
LCBO# 356220

Veuve Cliquot Brut Imperial Champagne
Champagne A.C., France

Champagne is always a hit. Veuve Cliquot Brut Imperial is a perennial favourite, with its delicate notes of apples, pears, brioche, and fine, frothy bubbles.
Dry • $82.20
LCBO# 563338

ABOVE: Three go-to Ottawa shops for quality Valentine's day treats are: Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana, Anna Stubbe Chocolates in Kanata, and Stubbe Chocolates in Westboro. (PHOTOS: Courtesy italianpastryshop.ca, annastubbechocolates.com, Mckenzie Donovan)

Many of us have an ongoing relationship with chocolate. This is a perfect occasion to splurge on the good stuff! Stubbe Chocolates in Westboro and Anna Stubbe in Kanata have fabulous gourmet artisanal chocolate products.

Then there are the bakeries and pastry shops. One of Ottawa’s favourites is Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana in Little Italy, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of Valentine’s chocolates and cookies to treat yourself and your significant other. The pastry chef has won multiple international awards, and gazing at the selection of cakes will make you weak in the knees. 

Whether you are dining out or making a special evening at home, there are so many ways to make February 14th deliciously special. Enjoy!

For more wine and food discovery from Jane Staples, visit www.bellovinoj.com