For the first Valentine's Day I ever spent with my now-wife, I opted to spend an entire Saturday cooking a seven-course meal. There was something with lamb, but that's all I really remember. The whole experience was a blurry mess, and I undoubtedly had a long way to go before I could consider myself a decent cook. We enjoyed the dinner, though if I look back today at what I cooked, my blood would probably curdle.
Hey, it's the thought that counts.
That's the point. Also, you can and will do better. If you opt to cook dinner for your partner this Valentine's Day, maybe think like the best chefs. We asked some of the top cooks in Houston what they'd cook for their partners—a.k.a the sexiest dishes for Valentine's Day. Below are their answers. Print them out. Take notes. Look up recipes. Be careful. And most of all, have fun.
"Pan-seared scallops have always worked for me. It works well with either mushroom risotto or English peas."
– Jason Gould, executive chef at soon-to-open The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston
"Codorniz con salsa de petalos de rosa or quail with rose petal sauce. It’s delicate, very special and delicious."
"For me it would be a dessert; the one we will do at Étoile is a white chocolate raspberry mousse on a pistachio 'dacquoise with raspberry sauce and pistachio ice cream."
Consider the Lobster?
"For Valentine's Day, I like lobster ravioli. I appreciate a connection to my ancestry in the ritual of mating flour to water. Through the whir of the dough hook in the mixer, the scattering of flour, the rhythm of the knead and the even turning of the handle as I roll out the dough, I feel a connection to the past and generations of cooks. It is a story told over and over—and on Valentine's Day, it's a love story."
– Ryan Pera, chef/owner of Agricole Hospitality
"Whole Maine lobster fra diavlo with spaghetti peproncino. My wife likes spicy food. It’s not overly heavy ... fresh tomato, garlic, chilies and fresh pasta accentuate the flavor of the lobster. All the ingredients are cooked and tossed together very quickly."
– John Watt, executive chef/owner of Prego
Consider Your Partner
"The sexiest dish I could make for my wife would be lasagna. Simply because it’s her favorite dish and I rarely make it. I think I’ve only made it once at home in the 10 years we’ve been married."
– Jon Buchanan, executive chef of Third Coast
"Whatever dish my wife enjoys the most. It makes me so happy to make something for my wife that she truly enjoys. Seeing her enjoy the food I specifically made for her is sexy."
“I would make braised breast of duck in a red wine and sherry reduction sauce. I have always loved to cook for (my wife) Janice, and over 36 years of marriage you can imagine I have been blessed with the opportunity to do it many times. Through our love affair of food we started celebrating our anniversaries early on in New Orleans at one of our favorite restaurants, Brigtsen’s. It was on our fifth anniversary that we enjoyed the most wonderfully memorable duck dish there. Needless to say, the rich dish and beautiful company have been inspiring me ever since. Coming up with new ways to prepare one of my wife’s favorites has always been a treat for me. This year I will carve table side my newest duck recipe for my wife while continuing to make memories on this beautiful holiday.”
– Arnaldo Richards, chef/owner at Arnaldo Richards' Picos
Keep It Casual
"Josh and I usually take the opportunity to lay out blankets and enjoy a charcuterie board of meats and cheeses. I've done heart-shaped mozzarella and tomatoes for a special caprese presentation. Our bottle of choice for the celebration is La Fin du Monde because, well, there's nothing more special than being with the one you love at the end of the world. Super cheesy, right!?
– Cuc Lam, former executive chef at SING
"My wife Hayley and I have a Valentine’s Day tradition (usually after working a hard shift) of getting Whataburger (patty melt for me and few orders of fries to share) and a ridiculously good bottle of Champagne."
– Felipe Riccio, chef/partner of Goodnight Hospitality
Don't Forget The Morning After
"Pancakes or eggs Benedict. If they stay until breakfast, you did something right!"
– Nick Fine, culinary director of Underbelly Hospitality