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A Skeptics Guide to the Perfect Valentine’s Day

Love will set you free. Love is blind. Love is learning to let go. Love is kind. Love is never having to say you’re sorry. Love is patient and love conquers all.

The ten-year-old version of me would have rattled off the above clichés with a dramatic thrust of my arm and an unabashed sense of satisfaction that I knew the answer to life’s most daunting question – what is love?

By my early 20s I thought that heteronormative lifestyles – marriage, babies and picket fences were a fool’s errand. Why bother wasting time dating when you could be at a trendy bar, sipping a whisky neat and toasting your good friend’s?

I am happy to say that I am now a well-adjusted adult with realistic views on life and love. It did not come easily, but it feels invigorating to believe in another person’s ability to bring happiness to your life. My partner and I enjoy long walks on the weekend, shopping for vegetables at our local farmer’s market and talk about the future, our goals, our fears and our desires. We are not over-the-top romantics. We are pragmatic and believe that while romance is important, partnership is paramount.

This long-winded insight into the history of my love life serves a purpose. You see, there is one holiday that never fails to threaten me every year. Valentine’s Day is an annual reminder that I have a complicated relationship with love. I want to curl up on the couch and watch Manhunt: Unabomber with a cup of tea so as not to be a cliché drinking Cosmopolitans with my girlfriends, watching Sex and the City.

My partner doesn’t like to admit it, but he loves romance. He will surprise me with flowers for no reason and call my mother to make sure she is okay when my dad leaves on extended business trips. I love him and want to make sure he is aware of just how adored he is.

In an effort to ensure he knows how much I love him, but also maintain my dignity by refusing to get dressed in a red frock and eat from a pre-fixed, overpriced menu on Valentine’s Day, I have decided to make him a romantic dinner in our home. He loves steak, but because I am a vegetarian, we don’t often eat it and I am going to surprise him with his favourite meal.

To start, I have purchased the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and ordered a custom label with a (private) message to him inscribed on it. As we are very lucky, well-employed professionals, there is little that we need that we do not already have and a present like this as a buffer between “gift” and “something special to enjoy together.” Plus, it is super easy to order the label. No crafting for this gal!


I want to ensure that it is as thoughtful as possible, and while I am no expert at , he loves them. So, to start off the evening, I will have a custom cocktail waiting for him upon his arrival home. Next, I will have his favourite salad to start, followed by a Cumbrea’s steak with a homemade rub and twice baked potato. I figure, why not take advantage of the occasion and create a meal that pairs with the flavour profile of the scotch and makes my partner feel special? For dessert (it is a special occasion, after all) we will have a Grand Padano cheese and organic honey. He’s not big on sweets. See, thoughtful!


Despite my hesitancy towards Valentine’s Day, it is nice to have an excuse to celebrate your love for someone. And in my opinion, that celebration should be a reflection of who you are as a couple. In our case, it is a romantic night in, a thoughtful and custom gift and spending time with one another. Try it out. It might be your best Valentine’s Day yet.

Valentine’s Day Dinner Recipes

The Founder’s Reserve Packhorse Cocktail
2 oz Founder’s Reserve
6 oz Ginger
Splash of Lemon juice
Add Founder’s Reserve and lemon juice to a glass. Top with ice and then pour in ginger beer.

Curried Cashew, Pear and Grape Salad
¾ cup cashew halves
4 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped (swap out tempeh to make it vegetarian friendly)
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup of olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
½ medium Bosc pear, thinly sliced
½ cup halved seedless red grapes

In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.
Return skillet to medium-high heat, cook bacon (or tempeh) until crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Coarsely chop bacon (or tempeh) and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together butter, rosemary, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and toasted cashews and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together white wine vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly whisky in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large salad bowl, toss dressing with greens, pear slices, grapes and bacon (or tempeh) and sprinkle with nut mixture.

Steak Rub
1 cup ancho chili powder
1/3 tablespoons, ground dried oregano
3 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon of finely chopped thyme
½ tablespoon espresso grinds
Black pepper to taste

Portobello Mushroom “Steak”
4 large Portobello mushrooms, stems removed
¼ teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with cooking spray.
Place mushroom caps, gill-side up, on the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, oil, the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and top each cap with about 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumb mixture, spreading evenly. Return to the oven and roast until the breadcrumbs are browned, about 5 minutes.

Twice Baked Potato
4 medium  potatoes
12cup  sour cream
14cup  milk
14cup  margarine
12cup shredded Grand Padano cheese
12teaspoon  salt
14 teaspoon  pepper
4 slices bacon, crisp and crumbled

Microwave (or bake in oven at 400 for 1hr) the potatoes until done.
Allow to cool a bit.
Slice about a 1″ strip of the skin off the top of each potato.

  1. Carefully scoop out the pulp, placing in a large bowl, and leaving potato shells intact.
  2. Mash the potato pulp along with the margarine.
  3. Add milk, sour cream, cheese, salt and pepper; combining well.
  4. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells, piling high.
  5. Top with the crumbled bacon or bacon bits.
  6. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

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