Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: Love is free (unless, of course, you’re Charlie Sheen)… cards, candy, flowers and dinners are not. And all of that can add up quickly.
So instead of making reservations this year, make her dinner instead. It’s more romantic, more personal, and much more impressive than shelling out a couple of Benjamins for a cramped two-top at some crowded, over-priced French place.
And even if you’ve never made anything with a recipe that didn’t start with “Peel back the plastic film…” just follow these 7 tips, and you can put together a VDay dinner she’ll be bragging to her friends about for months.
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #1: Plan the Menu
This doesn’t mean just plan it in advance, it means make good decisions on what to have on the menu. That means no Bad Date Food: Anything with heavy garlic or spice (you want to be kissing her later), anything messy (she’s going to be dressed to impress), nothing that can get caught in her teeth (sorry broccoli and spinach, you’re out), and nothing she has to eat with her hands (not the time to show off your famous slow-cooked ribs).
Go with something light and flavorful, and think chicken or fish. Bookstores are loaded with cookbooks and food magazines packed with recipes even a greenhorn could follow. Look through a bunch and find something you like. And it’s always a good idea to find out if she’s allergic to anything. It’ll be a short night if you plan on steaming some beautiful Maine lobsters, and shellfish makes her blow up like a Mississippi mudfish.
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #2: Treat Dinner Like a 3-Act Play
There should be three parts to your dinner: Something quick and easy to put together you can both enjoy while dinner is cooking (what the debutants would call “finger food”), the main course, and then a light dessert. (That you made. There are tons of simple desserts that involve berries, whipped cream, gelato, and other ingredients you can get, and assemble quickly and easily after dinner.)
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #3: Rehearse the Play
This is no time to be winging it. And you definitely don’t want to be struggling during the meal. It should look effortless. So take the next couple of days and practice. Get it down, so you can look good whipping up dinner while holding a conversation and being entertaining.
NOTE: And while you’re rehearsing, you’ll find out if your missing any necessary tools or equipment. With plenty of time to go buy it. Right in the middle of VDay dinner prep is not the time to find out if you don’t have a fine mesh sieve she’s going to get more than she bargained for on her plate.
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #4: But Don’t Pre-make Anything
You want her to see you putting this dinner together. So no pre-baking the chicken, or having the salad already in the bowls on the table. Why? Because you don’t just want to impress, you also want to…
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #5: Get Her Involved
There’s no better opportunity to flirt than when making a meal together. And you don’t want her sitting on the couch while you toil in the kitchen. Give her something to do to help, like stirring the sauce or washing vegetables. (Anything involving a knife is up to you. Valentine’s in the ER isn’t exactly romantic…)
NOTE: Have a bottle of wine opened and at the ready for drinking while you cook. Wine that compliments the meal you’re making. And if you don’t know what goes, ask at the store. Tell them your menu and have them make a suggestion. And make sure to have them tell you the story of the wine… where it was made, if there’s anything unique about the winery… anything you can use to spark conversation.
Valentine’s Dinner Tip #7: Set the Mood
The food isn’t the only thing you should spend time on. Make sure the table where this dinner is taking place is in V-Day shape. If your dining set is more fast food than fine dining, go get a table cloth. While you’re at it, grab cloth napkins too. And candles. Either tapers in candlesticks, or tea lights, or both. And nothing scented. You don’t want “Tropical Breeze” interfering with the scent of your delicious dinner. Flower centerpiece? Excellent idea. And make it something she can take home with her after.
Follow these 7 tips, and chances are good, you’ll be making her breakfast the next morning as well. So Bonus Tip: have something ready to make her for breakfast. After that night, coffee and a stale donut won’t do.
Shameless plug: You can get more strategies for being successful with women in my new book, “The Art of War for Dating” now available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Borders, and in bookstores nationwide. So stop reading this immediately, and go buy it.