Happy Valentine’s Day. This year, we can’t send you inside the hottest new restaurant or tell you where to reserve the most romantic table. We can, however, remind you how important it is to care for one another — and yourself.
Buy flowers weekly, light candles all month long and remember that chocolate (or beer or Dungeness crab or cheese or whatever else you consider special) is medicine for the soul.
Need inspiration? Peruse this list of nine great date night ideas for Valentine’s Day — or any day, quite frankly. You deserve it.
Dine with Cakebread Cellars
Just because you can’t traipse through Napa Valley’s tasting rooms — some have reopened for outdoor tastings with rezzies though — doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a winemaker’s dinner.
Cooking with Cakebread, which launched in October, offers virtual cooking classes with resident chefs of the famed Rutherford winery. The price includes four full-sized bottles of wine, such as the 2018 Cuttings Wharf Chardonnay, and an hour of instruction to make gourmet dishes like Dungeness Crab Souffle and Andouille-Crusted Filet Mignon.
Shop in advance and cook along, or simply sip and chat with the Cakebread crew and cook later. There’s no limit on the number of guests. And while the registration deadline for the Valentine’s Eve dinner is Feb. 5, there are a slew of classes (hello, Feb. 19’s Brazilian Feijoada with Syrah) offered through spring.
Details: $292 includes four bottles of wine and instruction via Zoom link. You buy ingredients and prep dishes at home in advance of the event; www.cakebread.com.
Grazing in style
More of a snacker? Graze the day away with your boo — or two — in the backyard with one of Brie Grazing Board’s customized picnic boxes. Karla Ahmed’s Castro Valley-based business has taken off during the pandemic, and it certainly makes sense. These portable and colorful medleys have all the meaty, sweet, crunchy and salty nibbles we’re craving these days.
The standard 9- by 9-inch picnic box comes with three to four cheeses, two to three cured meats, seasonal fruits, veggies, crackers, crudités, nuts, olives, honey or jam, chocolate and other surprise treats (Hint: Yogurt-covered pretzels). Did we mention she also does Grazing Cones and Platters?
Details: $50 box feeds two or three. Gluten-free, vegetarian and nut-free options available. Order at https://briegrazing.com.
Ballet at home
As the ultimate Valentine to its patrons, San Francisco-based Smuin Contemporary Ballet is offering a first-time Love Day — it’s a virtual performance series of classic Michael Smuin works both “romantic and frisky.” The program, “Long disDance Love,” is billed as “having something delightful for lovebirds of all kinds, from the red-hot ‘Fever’ solo to passionate tango and love duets.” Steamy.
Recently filmed in Smuin’s new in-studio theater, it also features timeless pieces from the company’s vault, including excerpts from “Tango Palace,” “Hearts Suite” and “Frankie & Johnny.”
Bonus: The Feb. 12 and 14 performances will include the balcony pas de deux from Smuin’s “Romeo & Juliet.”
Details: $30 per ticket. Livestreams are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11-14. Buy tickets at www.smuinballet.org/long-disdance.
A Market Hall V-Day
It’s the neighborhood gourmet food hall that never stops giving. Market Hall Foods, with locations in Oakland and Berkeley, is offering two ways to celebrate a cozy Valentine’s Day at home.
The first, a three-course dinner, includes crispy Arugula and Fennel Salad with Burrata, Blood Oranges and Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette; Salmon, Beet and Basmati Rice Pastry Parcel with Caper and Dill Crème Fraîche; and a Chocolate Mousse Cake Heart with Raspberry Cream.
Just want nibbles? Try the well-priced cheese set that comes with a heart-shaped Cypress Grove chevre with pink peppercorns, plus two more cheeses, crackers, dried fruit and chocolate-covered almonds.
Details: Dinner, $50 per person, is fully cooked and ready to assemble, heat and serve. Cheese kit is $28 and serves two. Find details and place orders at www.rockridgemarkethall.com.
Virtual sake tasting
Who says wine is the spirit of romance? Sake is sexy, too, especially when you’re learning the difference between Junmai and Junmai Ginjo with the one you love.
Takara Sake has been brewing and bottling its Sho Chiku Bai in Berkeley since 1983. And while the gorgeous tasting room and museum are currently closed, the knowlegable specialists are offering one-hour virtual tastings every Thursday.
Here’s how it works: Buy a variety set online, which includes five 300-750 ml bottles of Sho Chiku Bai Sake — Classic Junmai, REI Junmai Daiginjo, Premium Ginjo, Organic Nama and Nigori Silky Mild — and sign up for a class. Bottles can be mailed or picked up at the Addison Street location. Just make sure you order in advance.
Details: 4-5 p.m. Thursdays. $50 includes sake, instruction and tasting notes. Purchase and sign up at www.takarasake.com. February dates are still available.
Picnic like “The Bachelor”
Booking a fancy picnic — and having someone else schlep the poofy pillows, blankets and basket — is one of the best outdoor concepts to come out of the pandemic. Picnics in the Bay has mastered the schlep.
How it works: Choose from themes, like Luxury Picnic or Galentine’s Day, and desired park location, then design the dream, with add-ons such as a doughnut wall ($25) or breads and spreads platter ($20). For $5, they’ll throw in a Love Language card game to get the sweet talk going.
Doing more of a group hang when the weather warms? A Luxury Movie Night ($250 for four) is the ticket: A 4500 lux LED portable projector is set up in your home or backyard, along with a 120-inch projector screen and all the necessities, down to the popcorn and pillows.
Details: Two-hour picnic for two starts at $180 and includes set-up and break-down, blanket or rug, cushions, wooden picnic table and seating, flowers, candles, wine glasses and more. Food is extra. Book at www.picnicsinthebay.com.
French tea for two
In the midst of building a new parklet for outdoor dining, San Francisco’s Parisian tea salon, Maison Danel, found time to create this delightful Saint-Valentin edition of its signature afternoon tea experience.
Available for pickup and delivery all month, each festive box features Three Petits Sandwiches, a mini Chocolate Heart-Shaped Cake, a Mini Viennoiserie, Petits Fours Secs Butter Biscuits, a chocolate-dipped strawberry and more.
You choose your sandwiches from a half dozen selections, including the popular Smoked Salmon Croissant Sandwich with White Sturgeon Caviar that was first introduced during the holiday season, as well as your premium loose-leaf tea. Cue the Carla Bruni tunes, you savage romantic.
Details: $55 per box (portioned for one person) at 1030 Polk St., San Francisco. Hours vary. Learn more and order at www.maisondanel.com.
Tri-Valley Restaurant Week
OMG, you forgot? A pre-fixe meal supporting a restaurant in the Tri-Valley should redeem you.
The Tri-Valley’s first-ever Restaurant Week runs from Feb. 19 to 28 and features 34 restaurants from Danville to Livermore. So if you forgot the big day or feel that Valentine’s is more of a month-long celebration, sign up for the free Taste Tri-Valley mobile pass to access menu specials and check-in at restaurants to enter to win $25 gift cards from local eateries and a grand prize for a Tri-Valley weekend getaway.
Stand-out lunches include BottleTaps’ $15 two-courser, which includes the Pleasanton gastropub’s Housemade Pastrami Reuben with a cup of their Beer Cheese Chowder. For dinner, take it up a notch with Sabio on Main’s Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Dumplings, Dry-aged Cream Co. Meats Rib-Eye and Meyer Lemon Tart with Swiss Meringue. All meals available for pickup or delivery.
Details: Meal prices vary by restaurant. Find details on Tri-Valley Restaurant Week and participating restaurants at https://visittrivalley.com/restaurantweek.
Nosh box of love
Nothing says ‘I adore you’ like heart-shaped cream cheese.
Rocky’s Market Brooklyn Basin in Oakland has whipped up a tempting Valentine’s Day Nosh Box that includes Cowgirl Creamery Heart’s Desire Triple Cream Cheese (yes, shaped like a heart) along with other treats, like Rustic Bakery Olive Oil and Sel Gris Flatbread Crackers and Sweet Hearts Cookie, Endangered Species Chocolate and bubbles from Besserat de Bellefon Champagne.
The boxes, which range in price, are available for pick-up at Rocky’s Market Brooklyn Basin all month long. How perfect indeed.
Details: $30-$100. Rocky’s Market Brooklyn Basin is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 288 Ninth Ave., Oakland; https://rockysmarket.com.
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