Entertaining at Home
February, 2007 - Issue #28
Valentine's Day Dinner for Two
by Therese Edwards

"My most memorable Valentine's Day involved a local sheriff," recalls Gail McCroskey, owner of An Affaire Extraordinaire. "He snuck us into his backyard, where we created a formal dinner for him and his girlfriend in his gazebo on top of a hill. We created a space full of lights, flowing fabric - the works - and it started to rain." McCroskey's staff trudged through mud while the happy couple dined comfortably out of the elements. The result? "He proposed to her that night, and she said 'yes!' It was very romantic," remembers the popular caterer.

Even if a marriage proposal isn't on your list of to-do's this Valentine's Day, you may intend to skip out on the annual restaurant trek and take your chances at home. "An evening in can be incredibly special, as long as attention is given to the setting," says Myra Harbour, an event planner and owner of Celebrate. "Last year we created a gorgeous space in a living room. We brought in drapes to section it off, and hung a chandelier. We put throw pillows around a low coffee table for seating and lit the room with candles. A little pink champagne and we were done! Celebrating at home can be both economical and fun."

There can even be an element of surprise. Lori Parkinson, owner of The Big Chill, suggests pretending that firm dinner reservations have been made. "Get ready to go out, and once you are both in the car, 'realize' that you left your phone in the house," she strategizes. Once you return inside, quickly pull out a box full of romantic goodies you stashed earlier. On Parkinson's list to include are wine glasses, candles, a lighter, wine, a tablecloth, boxed chocolate strawberries, china plates, a romantic CD and napkins. Set the scene and then return to the car to request the assistance of your partner. Once the surprise has been revealed, dine on a simple-to-prepare supper (see sidebar for suggestions) or order in. Local restaurants like Abbey Lane Cafe offer gourmet take-anywhere meals on Valentine's Day. The cafe's multi-course meal even includes plates, napkins and candles.

Whatever you do on Valentine's Day, remember that love is in the details.

• Gail McCroskey of An Affaire Extraordinaire 661-254-7684
• Gina Madden of Extraordinary Events 661-478-1106
• Jeannie Watkins of First Class Concierge Service 661-799-9793
• Lori Parkinson of The Big Chill 661-209-1810
• Alice Goetschel of Memorable Occasions 661-270-9448
• Myra Harbour of Celebrate 661-259-8611
• Maita Henson Miyake of Simply Marvelous Weddings


Sip on This
by Maita Henson Miyake

Pick their favorite flavor - lemonade, chocolate or strawberries - and surprise them with a romantic beverage perfect for a night at home.

Pink Passion Martini
3 oz Asti Spumante
3 oz sparkling pink lemonade
1 dash of sweet and sour

Shake in a martini shaker and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a raspberry or pink edible rose petal.

Valentine's Day Chocolate Martini
2 oz base spirit (vodka, light rum or brandy)
1/2 oz chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz white creme de cacao
chocolate syrup to coat rim of martini glass

Coat rim of martini glass with syrup. Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the martini glass.

Strawberry Kiss
1 oz white rum
1 oz Disaronno Amaretto
4 strawberries
1 oz double cream

Blend all ingredients with ice until smooth. Pour into a hurricane or wine glass garnished with fresh strawberry on the rim.


Valentine's Day Dinner a Deux
by Gina Madden

Keep in mind that the purpose of Valentine's Day is to spend time with the one you love, so plan a meal that goes together quickly, leaving you plenty of time to gaze into each other's eyes. Keep portions small and enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace to avoid feeling overstuffed on rich foods.

Make a meal of sexy appetizers. Nearly every culture believes certain foods can have seductive powers. Try some of these ideas and get the sparks flying. Spicy coconut shrimp with a spicy mango basil salsa; raw oysters with a horseradish dipping sauce; prosciutto-wrapped figs and roasted baby potato slices with a dollop of sour cream horseradish and caviar.

A gorgeous cheese tray is always a decadent way to celebrate in style and requires no cooking. When planning your cheese tray be sure to include cheeses of various textures and styles: hard sharp cheeses, soft creamy ones and pungent blue cheeses. Include fresh grapes and slices of pears on your tray. Add sliced bread and crackers and you are all set for a sumptuous feast.

Maybe cooking is your thing. You can't go wrong with a warm, creamy pasta and a simple salad. Try a creamy farfalle pasta made with mascarpone cheese with cremini or Portobello mushrooms, walnuts and asparagus. For the salad, create a simple toss of baby arugula with shaved parmesan and chopped walnuts or a classic Caesar with grated parmesan and toasted croutons.

Nothing says romance better than a chilled bottle of champagne. And when you open and pour it correctly, you enhance the entire experience. Untwist and remove the wire cage around the cork, keeping your thumb on top in case the pressure is strong enough to push the cork out. Place a cloth napkin over the cork, so if it pops it will go into the napkin (you'll avoid injuries that way). Twist the bottle, not the cork, until you stop hearing a fizz, and then remove it completely. Although it may seem dramatic to let the cork "pop," it results in carbon dioxide loss, which is what gives champagne its sparkle. Gently pour the champagne down the side of a glass, make a toast to the one you love and enjoy the most romantic Valentine's Day ever.


What to Give
by Jeannie Watkins

A sensory-oriented evening at home means that you can think outside the "box" when it comes to thoughtful presents. Jeannie Watkins, a local member of the International Concierge Association, has had great success putting together themed baskets for her clients. Here's one that has earned rave reviews from couples celebrating at home.

Bed of Roses Basket
• scented silk rose petals
• votive candles
• long stem chocolate-dipped strawberries
• chilled bottle of champagne
• champagne bucket and glasses
• board game for couples
• James Blunt "Back to Bedlam" CD
• Al Green "I Can't Stop" CD
• "Pretty Woman" or "The Notebook" on DVD


Celebrating with Friends
by Alice Goetschel

Maybe your perfect Valentine's dinner includes the company of others. Alice Goetschel, a local event planner, suggests setting up sweetheart tables for each couple, complete with centerpiece and bottle of bubbly. Couples should be encouraged to bring a small framed photo of themselves for display. Romantic music should be on hand for dining and dancing, if the space allows. For an unexpected comic twist, request that couples come in matching attire.
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