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Valentine’s meal takes many forms

As we come to the end of a collective year of pandemic firsts, Valentine’s Day is next up. And showing love and gratitude can feel more important than ever.

During a regular year, you and your dearest might have gone out for a romantic dinner. Or maybe you’d have chosen to stay in and have a quiet evening … but this year we’ve all had a lot of those.

If food is your love language, however, there are ways to make this Valentine’s Day feel special without putting your health at risk or spending a lot of cash.

You could order in — many restaurants are offering Valentine’s Day specials — or you could do it yourself by planning a home-cooked dinner for two. (Or more. If you have kids, Valentine’s 2021 may well be a family affair.)

Is there a place you’ve vacationed that holds a special place in your hearts? A honeymoon in Thailand, an escape to New Mexico? Let that inspire your dinner. Plan a menu featuring your favorite dishes from that region.

Or maybe there was a trip you were planning to take, and still hope to. Think about the meals you want to eat once you do get there: callaloo from the Caribbean, paella from Spain. Dive into a cookbook or a reputable website and make that your dinner mission.

Another idea: Treat yourselves to a new kitchen appliance, and make Valentine’s Day the day to play with it. It could be an Instant Pot, say, or an air fryer, sous-vide machine, pasta maker. Homemade pasta for Valentine’s Day? That seems pretty romantic to me.

Or get yourself a kit and unravel the mystery of a new kind of food together. Uncommon Goods has a kit for Chinese soup, Brooklyn Brew Shop has a bunch of beer-making kits, and MMTum Shop has a molecular gastronomy kit, if you really want to geek out with your partner in the kitchen.

Williams-Sonoma has kits for making everything from the famous Rainbow Explosion Cake from Flour Shop, to cocktails, to a mozzarella and ricotta-making kit. Internationally focused Takeout Kit will send you the basics for making everything from Japanese tonkotsu ramen to Vietnamese pho to Peruvian chicken with spicy, creamy aji sauce.

Finally, breakfast in bed is a very pandemic-proof way to celebrate, though you may have to flip a coin to see which one of you gets to lounge around waiting for the hot coffee to arrive.

Classes from Cupid

Online classes geared toward Valentine’s Day:

>> Sur La Table: Choose from classes themed “Sushi at Home,” “Italian Steakhouse” and “Cooking with Wine.” Or learn to make Pomegranate Kir Royales and rack of lamb with polenta from celebrity chef Terrance Brennan. You’ll need to download the prep packet and purchase ingredients to cook along.

>> Murray’s Cheese: Virtual classes include one on making cheese boards, and one on creating a “Most Decadent Valentine’s Day.” All classes can be taken live or bought to view later. Cheeses and pairings such as sweets and preserves will be sent to you ahead of the class.

>> Counter Culture Coffee: Fun classes are dedicated to making coffee experts out of coffee lovers. One, “Cupping at Home” helps participants develop their palate and learn differences between processing techniques, varieties, origins and even brewing variables. You’ll need some equipment, and they’ll send you the cofees and other items., click on “learn”

>> MasterClass: Classes are taught by the likes of Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay and Gabriela Camara, so you are getting the definitive experts in their fields., click on “food”

Fees vary for classes and some may be sold out for Valentine’s Day, but later classes may be scheduled.

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