Category: Dining

Plan A Special Valentine’s Day

Couples have been commemorating their love for one another in February for quite some time. Couples may go about such celebrating in their own unique ways, but it’s not uncommon to focus on a night out on the town.

Valentine’s Day is a busy holiday for many businesses, but especially so at restaurants and other romantic venues. So it’s best to plan ahead to ensure a perfect evening. These tips can help you organize a Valentine’s experience to remember.

Tip #1: Reserve Early

The closer to Valentine’s Day, the more likely popular restaurants will be all booked up. If the goal is to dine at a particularly trendy spot – or anywhere but the most obscure establishment – be sure to make a reservation well in advance. Start planning the Valentine’s Day dinner in December so you won’t have to look far and wide to book a reservation. If a restaurant does not take reservations that far out, ask when they will start collecting names for Valentine’s Day and book the moment you can.

Tip #2: Secure Transportation

One way to make the night more romantic is to snuggle in the back seat of a vehicle and have someone else do the driving. This also is a safer option if you plan to pop a bottle of bubbly or sip some wine while celebrating. Hiring a limousine, luxury car, horse-drawn carriage, or something similar also will require advanced reservations. However, going the extra mile can make the night memorable.

Tip #3: Emulate A Scene From A Favorite Film

The person you love may adore a romantic movie, whether it’s a classic or more recent tear-jerker. When planning a romantic evening out, consider reenacting a movie scene with you and your special someone in the starring roles. For example, recall when Tom Hanks met Meg Ryan at the top of the Empire State Building in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Include a visit to the observation deck or roof as part of a whirlwind Valentine’s Day experience.

Tip #4: Attend A Live Music Performance

Music can touch the heart and soul. That makes an evening watching a band play or enjoying a musical on the stage even more memorable if it occurs on Valentine’s Day. Select an intimate venue to add to the romantic ambiance of the night.

Tip #5: Think Outside Tradition

While dinner and a movie are Valentine’s Day favorites, any activity done together can be memorable and romantic. Why not book a couple’s cooking class? Or enjoy a winter sport like skiing or ice skating? Or warm up after window shopping on Main Street by sipping hot cocoa and snuggling on the sofa under a blanket at a nearby B&B?

Romantic nights out on Valentine’s Day can be made even more special with some forethought and planning.

Match Food to Your Favorite Brews

The rise of craft and home brewing has created more beer flavor profiles than ever before. In fact, there’s likely a beer for everyone, whether you’re a novice or connoisseur. The Brewer’s Association, a trade association that represents small and independent American craft brewers, reports that, in 2018, small and independent brewers collectively produced 25.9 million barrels and experienced a 4 percent total market growth. The BA also states that these small brewers achieved a collective retail dollar take-in of $27.6 billion.

While wine will always have its enthusiasts, beer is fast on its heels as a popular mealtime beverage. Much in the way wines are paired with certain foods, it has become the natural course of action to pair certain foods with particular styles of beer.

“Beer is a great match for food because of the complexity of its flavors, its ability to provide refreshment and to interact with many food flavors,” says Marc Stroobandt, a master beer sommelier for the Food and Beer Consultancy, UK. Although each person has his or her preferences, here is a brief listing of generalized pairings, courtesy of the Brewer’s Association and

• American Amber Lager: Creamy risotto, wild rice, polenta

• American Pale Ale: Game birds, such as duck and quail

• Belgian-style Dubbel: Pork chops, sausage, tenderloin

• Belgian-style Flanders: Grilled ribeye, root vegetables

• Blonde Ale: Chicken, salads, salmon, nutty cheese

• Dark Lager: Barbecue, sausage, roasted meat

• Hefeweizen: Weisswurst, seafood, sushi

• Imperial Stout: Smoked goose, foie gras, strong cheeses

• IPA: Spicy foods, curries

• Porter: Roasted or smoked foods, blackened fish

The Brewer’s Association recommends matching delicate dishes with delicate beers and strong dishes with assertive beers. Commonalities, like aromas and sub-flavors, also work together. A beer with roasted notes may pair well with chocolate, for example. Opposites also attract, in that a spicy food may taste best when paired with a sweet beer. Pairing might once have been limited to matching wines with certain foods. But the booming craft beer business has popularized pairing flavorful beers with foods to make meals even tastier.

Local Dining Spots Foster Community

Dining out is a great way to celebrate life’s milestones or simply reconnect with friends and loved ones.

Research firm NPD Group found that, by the end of 2015, restaurant visits by consumers increased by 700 million compared to just five years prior. While chain restaurants invest heavily in advertising, independently owned restaurants do not have those same resources. Multi-unit chains also have more pull with suppliers and might be able to negotiate better deals, or can spread operational costs across various locations.

Too often diners are not aware of the vast array of tasty, well-priced and artisanal foods awaiting them just down the street. But dining out at local eateries can be beneficial in various ways.

• High-quality food: Many local establishments have complete control over their suppliers and menus. As a result, they can be picky with regard to the vendors they use and the produce, meats, dairy, and other ingredients that they select. Many small, independently owned restaurants team up with local organic farmers and distributors to supply a farm-to-table experience that many diners now enjoy.

• Freedom of experimentation: Although chain restaurants may have to meet approval from administrative boards and marketing departments before they can introduce new fare, independently owned restaurants can let their diners decide which foods remain on the menu and even adapt to community trends. Local restaurants may take pride in serving cultural or regional foods.

• Ability to customize: Independently owned restaurants may be more amenable to adapting recipes or making substitutions to meet diners’ requests. Skilled local chefs can think on the fly and modify recipes, which may not always be possible in chain establishments.

• Crowd control: Local restaurants tend to be smaller and more intimate than many chain restaurants. This can translate into a calm dining experience. When crowds are small, the noise level inside the restaurant may be muted and service may be fast because there aren’t as many tables to serve. Furthermore, local establishments, although concerned about making a profit, may be less worried about table turnover rate, preferring to let diners linger if it means repeat business.

• Familiar faces: Some diners enjoy being a “regular” at their favorite local restaurants. Local dining spots also become gathering locations for residents in the know, instead of passing-through tourists or commuters.

Much can be said about the advantages of patronizing local eateries. Men and women who want unique dining experiences can give local, independently owned establishments a try.