Happy Valen-times 2013

The new pizza frontier.
The new pizza frontier.

After a successful Valentine’s dinner last year, Sam decided to do it again. This time, no steak. And this time — the only thing I knew about the dinner was that mussels would be the APPETIZER. Yes, there were courses. Secret courses.

Well played, Mr. Tea.

Bonus points — the meal was not so heavy as to throw us into food comas. After we ate, we went to Santa Monica and had a nice digestive stroll.

It’s easiest to sum up the meal with this picture, which I happen to be in. Sorry?

Welcome to my table.
Welcome to my table.

As per usual, Sam cooked on Saturday (a few days after Valentine’s Day) because he needed plenty of prep time. I arrived to find a table with a CLOTH on it, wine, candles, flowers… very impressive stuff.

And a big bowl containing four pounds of mussels. Of course.

The appetizer was Steamed Mussels with White Wine, from America’s Test Kitchen. The salad and dressing were a Mark Bittman recipe. The entree, Ziti with Eggplant & Ricotta, was from Lidia Bastianich’s Favorites cookbook. And there was bread. Of course. There must always be bread!

I thought I’d spied a pizza when I walked in, but Sam was coy about it. He did say that dessert would be a show-stopper… and he was right. It was pizza, dessert-style (from the Pizza cookbook I gave him for Christmas)!

Whoa.
Whoa.

The crust had honey and cinnamon in it, among other things. And the sauce involved ricotta and chocolate chips. And obviously there were strawberries. And not so obviously, there was hot chocolate fudge on the side (not pictured). It was really an ideal combo of dessert-things — chocolate, sweet fruit, bread-y goodness, and a bit of spice.

One interesting fact — the crust still had a bit of mozzarella on it, because if you bake it without, it will poof up too high. Also, the crust had these sort of interior layers to it that you don’t often find in regular pizza. I’m not sure why, but I liked it.

It was a great meal, made even better by the knowledge that it was planned out just for me. If you’re hoping to create a special meal but you’re not as game about spending a day over the stove, remember that in these situations it’s the thought that counts. Whether it’s cooking, nabbing a great reservation, or gathering some key foods for a nice picnic, food is definitely a great way to show you care — and that you know what your partner likes. And — best of all — you get to share in the eatin’!

And I must say, it’s always nice to be surprised! Mystery is a spice that you can’t find on any rack. (Oh God, did I just write that?)

And in case you’re wondering what I got for Sam — it’s that gift sitting on the table… the 36 Hours book. Because we have many cities to visit over many weekends, if we want to get our travelin’ snack treks on.

I hope you all had a great Valentine’s, Galentine’s, Palentine’s, etc. It’s a holiday that I think we can all manage to appreciate no matter the relationship status… because it involves candy.

xoxo…

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