Sometimes you don't want to stress over a reservation, or strap on black heels, or get dolled up for a big night out.
Sometimes, on Valentine's Day, the most romantic (and relaxing) way to celebrate the holiday is in the comfort of your own home.
Here are three suggestions for ways to spend the holiday in your kitchen.
Get more Valentine's Day inspiration from the sweet (well, most of them) stories that make up this week's cover package (Pages 4E-5E), in which we asked Times staffers to recall memories when food and romance came together.
Picnic and a movie: Create a cozy night in for you and your beloved by spreading a blanket on the floor and putting together an indoor picnic. Opt for small bites like an array of fancy cheeses (sharp cheddar, Brie and a smoked Gouda are always safe bets), olives, a fruit plate, assorted crunchies like crackers and mixed nuts and, of course, a bottle of bubbly. Peruse stores like Fresh Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's for top-notch premade picnic options. Set up in front of a TV and play your favorite movie (or binge-watch your favorite TV show on Netflix).
Host a wine tasting: This could be a group activity or something for just you and your date. The only requirement is the willingness to taste several different types of wine. It's a fun way to try a bunch of wines and figure out which ones you like and would buy again. If it's a group thing, ask every couple to bring two bottles. Stock up on a handful of different varieties, preferably brands or types you have never tried before. Get a mixture of reds and whites, and give each guest a tall, stemmed wine glass, like a Bordeaux glass. Then commence with the tasting. Remove white wines from the fridge just before pouring; reds can hang out in there for about 30 minutes before pouring, but no longer. Serve the wines in order from lightest to darkest, pouring just an ounce or two in each glass, then take each wine through these steps.
• See. What color is the wine? Is it clear, cloudy, darker in body? Notice how it looks.
• Swirl. Yes, this really has an effect of what you're about to drink. To help release the wine's aroma, place the glass on the table and, holding the base, move it around in a circle to swirl the liquid.
• Smell. Stick your nose into that glass and take a whiff. Notice how the wine smells. Herbal? Fruity?
• Sip. Take a sip of the wine and hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. Repeat with the other wines, but don't rinse the glass between servings, since leftover water can affect the taste of the next pour.
Cook dinner together: I know, I know, some of you might not think this is very romantic. But it can be! Pour a glass of wine, put on some fun music and get to work whipping up the recipe below. It's a light yet satisfying meal that involves tasks for each of you to accomplish, and the name (which essentially means "chicken in paper" in French) is fancy enough to make it feel special. And at the end of your cooking time, you have a meal for two, no reservation needed.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17 on Twitter.