Ah, romance. That's what entertaining for Valentine's Day is all about.
"It's a day of fantasy, surprises and sensory pleasures with a beautiful dinner in a lovely ambiance," said Bernard Jacoupy, general manager of the Hotel Meridien in Newport Beach. He should know. As a Frenchman and self-proclaimed incurable romantic, Jacoupy is full of ideas for entertaining one's mate.
So we consulted with Jacoupy, and other reliable sources, and came up with a grab-bag of adaptable ideas for people who entertain at home on Valentine's Day.
Although roses are the all-time preferred Valentine flower (and our national flower), why not try other varieties, suggests Collins Hansen of Environmental Floral Designs. "A bouquet of long-stemmed French tulips flown in from France, gerbera daisies, irises and freesias are often more expressive than a dozen roses," he said. If you use red flowers, consider anthuriums, red carnations, red gladoli, red snapdragons, tulips, star-gazer lilies and plumerias, as well as roses.
Use heart-shaped picture frames in lieu of place cards. "They make charming favors for guests to take home at the end of the evening," said party planner Charles Compton of Party's Plus of Los Angeles. If you have been married for any length of time, dig out an old favorite photograph of your mate.
From premier caterer Milton Williams: Decorate a table with a red tablecloth covered with a white lace overlay for a traditional look.
Williams likes to tie silk red ribbons with tiny silver hearts attached to the ends around a bottle of champagne.
Use a heart-shaped mirror as a place card and write "I LOVE YOU" with lipstick. "Whoever looks into the mirror will see him or herself," Williams said.
He also suggests tagging stems of three roses, with single words to spell "I love you," to lay or arrange at each place setting.
For an unusual centerpiece, how about a chocolate house? The all-chocolate house we discovered at Edelweiss Chocolates in Beverly Hills, stands 12 inches high on a 16x16-inch base. It's decorated with chocolate children and can be ordered ahead.
For some food ideas:
--Try breaking off scalloped shortbread cookies (petticoat tails) along perforated edges to form a heart. Then top with confectioners' sugar icing or sweetened cream cheese and top with strawberry halves. (Walkers Shortbread from Aberlour-on-Spey in Scotland is available in most fine gourmet food stores in Los Angeles.)
--Serve Beluga caviar on heart-shaped toast points.
--An idea inspired by St. Estephe's chef, John Sedlar of Manhattan Beach: Cut tortillas into heart shapes and arrows. Insert an arrow into each heart and fry them to use as a dip, or decorate them by piping on names of your guests, using a pastry bag.
Looking for culinary aphrodisiacs?
Try herbaceous salads, made with fresh mache, arugula, radicchio, basil, mint leaves and garnish with blood oranges and pickled red and gold beets.
--Other passion-provoking foods:
Oysters on the half shell. (Louis XIV ate them by the dozen and Casanova is said to have consumed 50 oysters daily.) Try them with cranberry or other chutney.
Asparagus, parboiled and chilled to use with dip. Young, thin asparagus can be used raw.
Garlic (baked whole with tops cut off so you can use the garlic flesh as a spread for toast).
Love apples (tomatoes).
Chocolate and Champagne (gooey, creamy chocolates).
Cherry candies with stems.
Strawberries, preferably dipped in French chocolate.
Passion fruit (squeezed for juice the next morning).
Blood oranges (peeled and sliced at the table).
Sorbets (in hot pinks, reds and purples) molded into heart shapes.
Artichokes, leaves plucked at the table; served with or without dips.
Deviled bones (buy them at a fast food take-out).
Champagne (Dom Ruinart Pere et Fils rose?) in an ice bucket, a set of crystal Champagne flutes alongside.
--Canfield's diet chocolate or cherry chocolate fudge (for dieting lovers).
Love bites (bite-size, heart-shaped brownies).
Coeur a la creme: This heart-shaped creamy cheese dessert is often available for take-out at gourmet delis. Julienne's in South Pasadena makes them in two sizes (for two or 12). Order ahead to be safe. Serve on red paper doilies.
--Figs and fig leaves (poached, dried or fresh).
--Heart-shaped raspberry tarts.
--Heart-shaped napoleons filled with salmon, sour cream and caviar or layers of poached salmon, cooked spinach in cream sauce.