Love, locally: A stay-at-home Valentine dinner is just as special

Some tips to create a night that everyone will love:

1. Select a night when “all is calm” on the home front and there will be little or no interruptions for your entertaining night at home. Planning is the key and selecting the date, working at keeping it clear of obligations and collecting for the evening, days in advance, will make this special Valentine night have the energy it needs.

Once the date is selected, make certain the night is on the reservation calendars of those you wish to attend. It may be that “special someone,” or it may be for a party of four or even larger. It is your call but make certain all involved know to “save the date.”

If you really have the time and want to do something “over the top,” spread the courses out over several days around the Valentine holiday with one course served per night. The buildup of anticipation can be electric. Start with your special someone as the honored guest and have your largest crowd on the first night for appetizers — then lessen the invited guests until on the final night or last course of the meal, the evening (or breakfast!) is a special event for just the two of you!

2. Go on a scavenger hunt through the garage, the store room, the closet shelves and find that perfect container. A laundry basket, a picnic basket, even three or four smaller baskets (one for each course of the evening meal and extra surprises)…the choice is yours, but keep them “under-wrap” until all is ready for the special night. This is the perfect time to get the dishes, whether paper or china, the silverware, the cloth napkins, etc. all ready ahead of time for last-minute setting of the table, or TV tray, or that special corner in the house for your intimate dinner party.

3. With the components of your theme in mind, begin filling the baskets with your favorite food items that can be secured ahead of time. The appetizer or hors d’oeuvres basket may be as simple as fruit and cheese, or wine and cheese. An antipasto platter is also a great alternative to a typical garden salad with dressings.

4. If the night is to be a total surprise, select an entree from your history of favorite eating establishments. Plan ahead, call in the order and pick it up in time to place in the “dinner basket” or one of the basket/containers for your evening’s meal. If you have the delight of cooking it at home the night before or the day of the event, then you’ll simply prepare your favorite dish and place it in the basket.

5. Save the “big culinary fireworks” for the last basket or baskets! You should know your guest well enough to know palate preferences — whether chocolate, mousse, tortes, cheesecakes, candies, pies or “all of the above.” This is a time to truly prepare that special dessert or desserts to finish out the celebration.

For me, it would be grand to order dessert from one of our favorite restaurants across the country (such as Gaido’s in Galveston, Texas, or The Bubble Room in Captiva Island, Fla.). The list is endless — be creative! It might be a dessert from the newest local offerings, from a nearby city or shipped in from Harrods in London!

6. To complete the night, you have had several days to find that special gift to express your love and appreciation to the one or ones you are honoring. A piece of jewelry, a gift card to Starbucks, a “car wash on the house,” a thought-through book selection or even the delightfulness of a handwritten letter — keep in mind that the amount of money spent will in no way express the deepest expressions of the heart.

Whether you decide to go out on the town or have your “candy and flowers” at home, take advantage of the opportunity to say “I love you” and “thank you for all you are.”