As I’m writing this, there’s only 11 days left to V-Day, so if you don’t have your reservations booked it’s looking like slim pickings. I was talking to my hairstylist about it the other day, and like many people in the service industry, she and her partner avoid the stressful scheduling and pricey feature menus by saving the date for another weekend. But rather than settling for your second choice or simply doing nothing, why not make your own special dinner for two?
You had to be a seriously early riser to catch tickets to Chef Jason MacIssac’s sold-out Valentine’s Day French Bistro Dinner, but Chef Jason does have a soft spot for those of us feeling the do-it-yourself spark. We met up this week as he was prepping for his Cooking Bootcamp class, and he was happy to share his more simple, personal take on the multi-course meal he has planned for the big day.
Coming from a guy who counts Alice Waters and Fernand Point among his culinary heroes, it makes sense that he’s all about starting with simple, high-quality raw ingredients. But I’d never heard anyone imbue the principles of Nouveau Cuisine with quite the same romantic flair. “I just find romance in being able to cook something so pure and sharing that with somebody,” he said. “There’s something so enthusiastic and heartfelt about using pure ingredients, manipulating them as little as possible and representing them for what they are.”
You could start things off with a salad, but something small and shareable keeps things light and increases the chance of an adorable hand-touching moment. “A selection of cheese, dates, nuts… Things that can be eaten with hands, together, from one plate.”
Global 5.5” Cheese Knife
Of course, if you’re really into dairy, a real-deal cheese knife with a slotted blade makes slicing even sticky soft cheeses nice and smooth.
The star of the show is also very simple – fresh local shellfish like mussels or clams, steamed in white wine, tomatoes and some simple herbs.
It makes a great pairing with pasta, and if you or your partner aren’t particularly into shellfish, you can do a simple poached sole instead. “If my guy friends call me up and say, hey, I’m having someone over, what should I make? I say okay well make this, the sole. You just put sole in a pan, white wine, olive oil, a little butter, some fresh herbs, and salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, bring that to a boil and its done in two minutes,” says Jason. “It’s easy and always impressive. You can add garlic if you want, but I always recommend you leave it out depending on which direction the night is headed,” he added with a wink.
Staub Oval Oven
This oval oven dish is the perfect size for a nice piece of fish for two and gives you a smooth, even heat for steaming or poaching. “These pots are really constructed well, the lids are meant to seal and keep all moisture in and they’ll last the test of time,” said Jason. “And for Valentine’s Day, they’re all very sexy and appealing, which might contribute to how sexy and appealing your food will be.”
Finally there’s dessert, and if you’ve been following the rapid growth of our chocolate inventory you probably saw this one coming. Chef Jason is very excited about Victoria’s own Sirene Chocolates, which make the perfect endnote for a romantic evening. The two paired bars in each package give you some taste-testing options as well, and if you remember how Jason felt about the Vitamix, well, he had a similar reaction on his first few bites. “Heavenly. The flavour difference between these two side-by-side sweethearts is glaringly apparent. The origin has determined their exclusive differences but together they seem truly affectionate towards one another. Surely foretelling of the emerging romance of the evening.”
Of course, I can’t reveal my plans in case my girlfriend sees this — but if I were making this menu on the fourteenth, I suspect this simple, elegant plan would be a hit. - Sol