Friday, February 22, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Valentine's Day, Sticklen Style

OK, what could be more romantic than sunset on the beach?

Here’s a confession: I’m not a big romantic. I love my husband and kids, and I love hanging out with them, but I’m typically a very practical thinker and not overly-demonstrative when it comes to public displays of affection. So it always strikes me as a bit odd that my oldest child’s favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day. I have tried and tried to figure out what consistent Valentine’s family tradition provides her with a hint of nostalgia every time February 14 rolls around, but I just can’t think of anything special that we did. Was it the tedious task of filling out all those valentine cards? Maybe it was the way we taped a Dove chocolate to each card before placing them in the bag to head for school the next day (one for you, two for me)? Or perhaps it was the year that I was Room Mother and the class played Bingo using Red Hots as markers? I believe one year I even tried to make my mom’s famous Valentine cake. Basically you bake a yellow cake in two round cake pans. After the layers cool, you carve out a matching “V” from each layer then use icing to stick the “V” to the bottom end of the layers, creating a big heart. (Let’s just say we enjoyed a little cake with our icing that year, shall we?) Try as I might, the only thing I can think of that we consistently do for Valentine’s Day is give the kids a card and maybe a little memento telling them we love them. This year was no different: I visited The Candy House, a local candy manufacturer that makes the BEST candy, and created a little care package to send Sarah at school. She loved it, of course.
This holiday that asks us to stop and remind our loved ones about our affection toward them perplexes me. I love my family every day of the year, not just on February 14. And, believe it or not, I shower them with affection all the time (sarcasm is a form of affection, right?) I think that is one reason why it is hard to think of a special, unique activity that symbolizes what I feel every day for those around me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point behind setting aside a special day for love. And I’d like to think that on Valentine’s Day our family focuses on how much we love and enjoy each other as opposed to emphasizing the need for the approval of others to validate one’s worth.

Sometimes, though, I come up with some good ideas. When Charlie and I were dating, I collaborated with a friend who dated one of Charlie’s fraternity brothers to do something fun with the guys. We devised a scavenger hunt with clever clues that led them from one famous campus landmark to another until they eventually wound up over by the football stadium where we waited with a car to whisk them away to a fancy college-town restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately you can only do so many of those “surprise” events before they are no longer, well, a surprise.

This year, however, I knew what I wanted to do – attend a beer tasting. Nah, I don’t like beer very much (in fact, I’m not even sure if we currently have any in the house), but when I found out that one of my favorite downtown restaurants, Instant Karma, was hosting a special Valentine’s dinner and beer tasting, I knew I had to go. So, I contacted some other couples and off we went to Karma for dinner.
Duck soup & cherry chocolate ale. Yum!

Instant Karma, a local restaurant known for its gourmet hot dogs, expanded its menu last fall to include dinner specials beyond their usual daily fare. The restaurant’s owner, Jason Miller, is not only a savvy restaurateur but also a creative genius when it comes to food. Every few months Karma pairs up with a local micro-brewery, Piney River Brewing Co., and offers a seven-course meal, with each course accompanied by a different beer or ale. The food is artistic and eclectic. Take a look at the Valentine's dinner menu:

  • Appetizer 1: Caviar and crème fraiche tacos in blini shells
  • Appetizer 2: Potato with goat cheese tart
  • Salad: Frisee salad with wild boar lardons
  • Soup: Duck soup
  • Fish Course: Pan-seared halibut with fried artichokes and white bean
  • Main Course: Venison filet parsnip pu
  • Dessert: Blueberry puree soup with roasted pears, mint, and fresh whipped cream

Are you salivating yet? You should be. It was exquisite. The beer and food pairings complemented each other beautifully, but my favorite combination was the chocolate cherry ale with the duck soup. Oh, yes, it was amazing. Additionally, beer lovers will probably appreciate the fact that two of the beers were kegged the morning of the tasting. Apparently fresh beer is a big deal.

So, another Valentine’s Day goes down in the books as a successful celebration. How am I ever going to top this one?

What did you do for Valentine’s Day this year? What is your favorite Valentine’s Day memory? Do you have a family tradition? And, most importantly, do you like beer?


  1. Are you salivating yet?


    Fab photo of you 2 lovebirds! Xx

    1. The food was absolutely amazing!
      Hey, who can resist a little lovey dovey when on the beach at sunset? :-)