To eat typical and predictable meals this Valentine’s Day would be to short-change yourself and deprive your palate of awesome inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. As much as I like the idea of a juicy filet mignon or lamb chops with a lovely mint sauce, the idea of embracing dishes inspired by other cultures, cities (there’s so much more beyond our own backyard!), and traditions just speaks to me.
I say we get creative. Here are five dinner and dessert options from different spots around the world. Each one is unique and possibly more special than any prix menu in your town! And, they’ll add some unexpected flair to your evening.
Rose Petal Risotto & Oysters With Swiss Chard
I made this for some girlfriends a few years ago for Valentine’s Day as an homage to the sweet memory I have of eating risotto in Florence, Italy, some 16 years ago. I remember the restaurant—so quaint and warm—as a well-known spot in a bustling shopping district. What made this risotto extraordinarily special were the sweetly dried roses infused into the uncooked rice. Your dinner could be really sexy. Or really cultural. It’s up to you.
Garides Saganaki (Greek Shrimp Saganaki)
A typical dish hailing from Greece, the seafood dish is perfect for cooking up on Friday night. It’s a one-stop dish. All you have to do is wait for the onions, fennel, and tomatoes to cook down into a homestyle sauce before you cook the shrimp in it. And you know that takes no time. I like eating food that transports to you a place you have fond memories of or are getting ready to trek to. This will definitely give you a “Big Fat Greek Wedding” experience.
Veal Bratwurst Sandwich
If you’re keeping things simple and easy on Friday night, consider this authentic German staple sandwich. If you’re ever taking a road trip along the north coast of California, stop in the town of Solvang to get a good European vibe. A restaurant called Heidelberg will introduce you to German eats you can then take a stab at recreating in the comfort of your own home.
Passion Fruit Mousse Napoleon
For a light and exotic treat after dinner, this Caribbean delight will have you and your companion booking a flight to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Passion fruit trees grow in abundance, and passion fruit is eaten in a myriad of dishes, starting as a snack around breakfast. These pretty napoleon cookies are commonly made with fresh passion fruit purée spread it between layers of puff pastry. If you don’t want to indulge in chocolate, this is the way to go. By the time you get to the Dominican Republic, you’ll speaking sweet talk like the locals. That may earn you some free hand-picked passion fruit.
Warm Fruit Compote
A trip to castle country in France’s central region in 2006 changed my life. I walked through more mammoth-sized and ancient castles than I ever imagined even seeing with my own eyes. The quaint and beautifully bucolic town of Lys (pronounced “Lee”) boasts a plethora of small restaurants serving decadent food. I enjoyed a warm cocktail of gently cooked fruits doused in sweet red wine, topped with the softest hand-whipped ice cream and drizzled with some fancy honey. You already know it wasn’t just any honey. I made my version of it soon after my return and haven’t stopped since. It’s a bona fide sexy dessert to entice even the savory-inclined palate.
Bren is a Latin-fusion private chef and avid world traveler, always looking for the next best adventure. As a writer, she documents her own food experiences with her camera and notepad and then shares on her blog,Flanboyant Eats.