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Lobsters of Love

February 10, 2010

Some things are best done in private.  Valentine’s Day dinner is one of them.

I know that there are all of these restaurants that offer special menus for the occasion.  Some are even quite inventive.  My favorite idea is where each person is blindfolded, and one feeds the other all kinds of sensuous treats.  But this is Exhibit A for something that is best done in the privacy of one’s own home, or possibly hotel room.

Some of the most romantic meals I’ve had have been at home.  Granted, this was in the years before having children.  The others involved travel to special destinations, but Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year, and I can’t imagine most people will be traveling for the holiday.

But even if you are a terrible cook, and all you can do is boil water and turn on the oven, you have all the skills you need to make an incredibly romantic dinner.

Here is a foolproof menu, complete with wine pairings, and an explanation as to why this meal is just so damn romantic.

Let’s start with the menu:
A nice rich and round sparkling wine.
Oozing soft rich cheese, with or without crusty bread.
Boiled lobsters, lemon, melted butter, baked potato.
The best chocolates you can find.
Something sweet to drink with chocolate.

I executed similar meals with stunning results.  The menu provides a sensuous treat.  You eat with your hands.  You get messy.  You go slowly.  You lick your fingers.  Butter drips down your chin.  Bubbles go to your head.  Everything is delicious.  It’s not everyday food, but it’s nothing too fancy either.  All the same, if you were to get this menu at a restaurant it would cost a small fortune.

Eating lobster is another one of those things that I think is best done in private.  But it doesn’t have to be lobster, either.  Dungeness crab is a perfectly good substitute.

Convinced?  Good.
Now let’s talk about the specific ingredients and the executional details.

The sparkling wine
I am a huge fan of the Roederer Estate non-vintage brut from California’s Anderson Valley.  It is widely available for under $20, and I have seen it as low as $16.  If you are one of those people who insists on Champagne, may I suggest the Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Particuliere non-vintage brut from Épernay.  I am still kicking myself from years ago when I saw a large display of this on sale for $18 a bottle.  I should have bought as much as they would have sold me.  Today you can find it for around $30.

The cheese
This will have to depend on what you can get locally.  But what you are looking for is a super-ripe soft cheese.  Brie or cream-added brie are the classic choices.  But it may prove impossible to find a specimen that is properly unctuous and runny.  Looking beyond brie might help.  There is a great mixed milk cheese called La Tur.  But if you cannot find runny, stick to rich and buttery.  Trust your cheesemonger, but just don’t forget to get a taste to make sure it is something you like.

The bread

If it were me, I’d skip the bread entirely and just eat the cheese with my bare hands.  Remember, this is a sensual affair.  I say tear the bread with your fingers into small pieces to hold a bite of cheese.  I believe in hearty crusty bread.  Crackers detract too much from the cheese, which should be the star of the show.  A baguette should do the trick, and if it’s not crusty enough, you can always warm it in the oven.

The ritual sacrifice
Steel your resolve and just throw those cockroaches of the sea into well-salted boiling water.  They would do the same to you if they had the chance.  If your date is a bit squeamish, spare them the show. Set a timer, and then join your date for more cheese and bubbles.

The spud
Honestly, I could do without this.  But for some people it is just not dinner unless there is a starch involved.  So this could be as basic as throwing a few potatoes in a hot oven in advance of the meal.  Or, if you were so inclined to show some cooking prowess or culinary creativity, this is where you could make your mark.

The sauce
Melted butter can be a sauce, no?  If you want to get all fancy and clarify the butter, that’s easy enough to do in advance.  But you are not running a fancy restaurant, you are having a messy and voluptuous meal with someone special.  So don’t sweat it.  Just make sure to have a lot of butter on hand, because you can go through more than one might reasonably expect.  I like to melt multiple sticks down in a Pyrex measuring cup.  It makes refilling butter bowls that much easier.

The chocolate
Godiva is for suckers.  My two favorite chocolates come from LA Burdick and La Maison du Chocolat.  But after a large meal nibbling chunks from a giant baker’s bar of Callebaut with some nice dessert wine is lovely too.

The closer
Bonny Doon Framboise.  I’m a big fan of port and chocolate too.  But this is Valentines Day, and Bonny Doon has gone and put all of these raspberries in a glass.  The color.  The color.  It’s magnificent.  And with chocolate it’s sublime.

Now all you have to do is bring the chocolate and the wine over by the fire, and linger over dessert.  The dishes can wait until morning.  But do yourself one favor.  Try to break away for two minutes and make sure the lobster shells are in the trash and the trash bag is tied up.

You can thank me on Monday.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 10, 2010 10:07 am

    You need something green, such as a salad, to cut through all that richness.

    • February 10, 2010 10:21 am

      In general I am opposed to salad. The thought process is so crazy, it probably deserves its own post. But to address your concern, the bubbles do a remarkable job cutting through all that richness. I promise.

      If you want to add a salad, go right ahead. But if your date needs something green, I’d cook some spinach in a pan and drizzle with a little lemon.

  2. February 10, 2010 10:15 am

    I’m pretty clearly on your side for lobster: http://eatinalbany.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Lobster-12.jpg

  3. February 10, 2010 10:20 am

    Where can I get decent seafood (including Lobster) in the capital region?

  4. Vanessa Gabor permalink
    February 10, 2010 10:28 am

    sounds FABULOUS! Mrs. Fussy is a very lucky girl :)

  5. February 10, 2010 10:33 am

    After thinking about this a little while longer, I think that having solely a lobster, although I have done it a few times, is not enough for me. I want to have all sorts of different tastes on my tongue. If the meal is truly to be something special it needs to wow me. On top of that, going out is an experience which is not often found at home. I don’t need to go to the store, I don’t need to cook, I don’t need to clean, and I can ask for whatever I want and within reason, receive it.

    Is going out cost effective? Completely not, but there are more things that are nice than a single course of lobster with some chocolate and cheese. I would want something savory as well to go with all of this sweet and melty and buttery and gooey.

  6. beck permalink
    February 10, 2010 10:51 am

    Daniel, your menu sounds sexy and delicious to me. Unfortunately, my fiancé doesn’t drink at all, so there goes the wine and framboise, and he doesn’t eat any fish or seafood, so there goes the lobster. (Or really the crab would be my preference). Maybe I should get a new fiance? (Of course I’m just kidding about that – no need to answer in “Ask the Profussor.”)

    I can understand and even agree that eating at home can be more romantic, but at the same time, aforementioned fiancé has a limited culinary repertoire and he really wouldn’t be great at putting together a Valentine’s dinner, which leaves it to me. As the primary cook in our household, there’s nothing sexy to me about making another meal, which makes the restaurant option so appealing. But with limited funds this year, it looks like we’ll be at home. Lucky for us someone gave us a generous gift card to Cardona’s, so I think that we’ll be using that to get our Valentine’s dinner.

  7. mirdreams permalink
    February 10, 2010 12:14 pm

    In terms of the starch I think I’d go with a risotto. I know this goes against your simple is better idea and I don’t think I’d eat it with my fingers, but it goes great with lobster, looks fancy and tastes so yummy. If you make it with some mushrooms it will be a nice change of textures.

  8. kerosena permalink
    February 10, 2010 12:23 pm

    @beck-I once cooked a fabulously romantic bolognese with lovely ingredients from Cardona’s. The recipient was not appropriately impressed, so I had to cut him loose, but the meal was FAN-tastic.

    Re: lobster- sounds great! In my world, I add bread, skip the potato, and the cheese is Robiola.

  9. February 10, 2010 2:19 pm

    I do wish I liked seafood. It does sound romantic…pulling pieces of lobster meat off and dunking them in melted butter is undeniably sexy…I keep telling myself that I need to get over my seafood squeamishness a la Jeffrey Steingarten and his clam aversion in The Man Who Ate Everything but since my partner doesn’t eat seafood either there’s little incentive.

    I’m the primary cook in this household and I want to be taken out and wined and dined. We were discussing the whole forced feeling of going out on VDay so we are considering going out on Saturday instead. I’m not a fan of put on romance, I just want to enjoy a meal that I did not prepare sans children.

  10. Jessica R permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:27 pm

    Old Chatam Sheepherding Company puts out a heart-shaped version of their award-winning Cabembert around Valentine’s day. It’s the perfect soft cheese, in my opinion, and so cute! I saw it at the Honest Weight Co-op yesterday.

  11. February 10, 2010 4:16 pm

    It’s business time at the FUSSYlittleHOUSE.

  12. Mrs. Fussy permalink
    February 10, 2010 7:47 pm

    I am indeed a lucky woman, but the last time we did this was probably 2004, pre-Young Master Fussy. Oh well, only 17 years till the little one goes off to college.

  13. phairhead permalink
    February 10, 2010 8:34 pm

    very romantic but no thanks to the lobster

  14. Jess G permalink
    February 14, 2010 2:54 pm

    Love it!

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