Three Perfectly Lovely Valentine's Day Menus

Andre Baranowski

There's a very particular version of romance to be expected when you dine out with your loved one on Valentine's Day: the scramble for a reservation, the cheesy heart-themed decor, the other couples smooching over their Death By Chocolate a deux. For a celebratory experience that's truly special, nothing tops the intimacy and affection of a home-cooked meal. But while the holiday may fall on a weeknight, this isn't the time to fall back on quick 'n easy standards; a memorable meal calls for a memorable menu. We've created three Valentine's Day menus — an elegant bistro-style dinner, a decadent all-red feast, and a beautiful vegetarian spread inspired by Italy and Greece — that are designed to hit the sweetheart sweet spot: beautiful, indulgent, and undeniably romantic.

SIMPLE, CLASSIC ROMANCE
There's a reason a meal of oysters, roast chicken, and chocolate is the iconic dinner for two. Each element is earthy, sensual, and undeniably delicious — even more so with a tart winter salad and a rich, dusky fennel gratin balancing it out.

Chef Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, shared this recipe for a lighter twist on classic oysters Rockefeller.

Chef Suzanne Goin reinvents the Waldorf salad in this bright appetizer featuring beets, apple, and walnut.

Evan Kleiman of Angeli Caffe in Los Angeles gave us the recipe for this simple, aromatic roast chicken, which cooks in pieces for elegant serving.

The combination of fennel and parmigiano-reggiano is popular in Italy and Provence.

This recipe for rich, dark chocolate truffles rolled in coconut gives you a small taste of life's little passions.

ROMANTIC REDS

From ripe tomatoes to blood-rare steak to elegant purple radicchio, the color red goes hand-in-hand with strong, complex flavors. The cherry clafoutis is a sophisticated end to the meal, even richer with a bowl of fresh whipped cream served alongside.

This deceptively simple starter calls for good-quality olive oil and a ripe tomato.

The key to finely chopping filet mignon for this classic tartare is to chill it in the freezer before slicing and mincing it.

In this adaptation of a popular southern Italian specialty, king crab legs are a meatier alternative to blue crabs.

California grower Lucio Gomiero loves this dish, served at Trattoria da Mario in Montegrotto Terme, near his family home in Padua. we were lucky enough to have him share this recipe with us

This French dessert is made the traditional way, with unpitted cherries for extra flavor. If this idea unsettles you, don't hesitate to use pitted ones.

A VEGETARIAN MEDITERRANEAN FEAST

The bright flavors of the northern Mediterranean have a romance all their own: tangy olives, fruity citrus, bitter greens. Serve the focaccia alongside the Wild Greens with Fried Eggs to sop up the runny yolk from the eggs.

Firm olives marinated in fresh herbs make a tangy start to the meal.

The appeal of this first course (from Brooklyn's Marlow & Sons) comes from the contrast of earthy and tangy flavors.

Brightened with thin-sliced lemon and aromatic herbs, this is similar to a focaccia made by Marcella Hazan, a rosemary devotee.

This dish from the Epirus region of Greece marries the silky richness of an egg with the pleasing, mild bitterness of wild greens.

A heady mixture of olive oil and preserved oranges flavors this moist, dense Sicilian dessert. The recipe is based on one in The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark.