It's that amorous time of year again. If you're dating or coupled up on Valentine's Day, you likely feel compelled to plan something at least a little special. Luckily, there's more than one way to spend quality time together. Rather than scrambling to secure an obligatory reservation at a fancy establishment, why not instead team up with your sweetheart to cook a romantic dinner at home?
REVUE spoke with Jenna Arcidiacono, chef and co-owner of Amore Trattoria, who provided the details for a locally sourced meal (you'll find all the ingredients in Grand Rapids) that's delicious, elegant and best of all—simple to whip up.
Picking up the food and drink for the evening will be half the fun (maybe more). Think of it as an opportunity to expand your West Michigan culinary knowledge and experience together. Arcidiacono suggests starting out at The Local Epicurean (111 S. Division, Grand Rapids), where you can choose from an extensive selection of pastas, including unique flavors such as Artichoke and Black Truffle, Roasted Pumpkin and Chipotle Chili, and Cocoa. Gluten free and vegan options are available, too.
Because these pastas are anything but bland, you'll want some simple toppings that enhance rather than mask the flavors. Amish Country Butter, found at Art of the Table (606 Wealthy St., Grand Rapids), will make an exquisite brown butter sauce. All you'll need to do is cook the butter in a pan until it turns a light brown color.
Next, swing by The Cheese Lady (315 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids) for the Farmer's Cheese, a soft cow's milk cheese with a creamy texture. Toss it on top of the now-buttery pasta for some added richness.
This dish gets even tastier with the addition of ground lamb selected from the S&S Lamb booth at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market (1147 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids). Yep, it's still open—on Saturdays—during this wintry month. Arcidiacono's recipe calls for a pound of meat with the following additional ingredients:
Five leaves chopped fresh mint
Zest and juice from one lemon
One teaspoon of fresh garlic
One tablespoon of Dijon mustard
One egg white
A dash of salt and pepper
Mix everything together, then add a small handful of breadcrumbs to bind the mix. Roll the mixture into golf ball-sized balls and grill on both sides until medium or medium well.
For a light and healthy side to balance out the meal, select a bunch of local greens from the People's Food Co-Op (507 Harrison St., Kalamazoo). You can even make your own dressing. For something sweet and spicy, mix equal parts pure honey from Alamo Honey Farms (360 W. Orleans, Otsego and available online) and Mrs. Dog's Disappearing Mustard (also available online). Adjust amounts to personal taste.
Wine is lovely, but predictable. Mix things up with a growler (or two) of craft beer to share. You won't have to look far. New Holland Brewing Company (66 East 8th St, Holland) has plenty of options. Ask for pairing suggestions based on the above menu.
And don't forget dessert. Arcidiacono recommends Love's Ice Cream in the Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids), which sells organic gelato in deliciously gourmet flavors, both traditional and unexpected—from Tcho Chocolate to Lavender Blueberry Cardamom.
If you want to pick up an extra sweet for your sweet (sorry, it was inevitable), check out Sweetland Candies (5170 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids). Another option is The Chocolate Garden (2691 Friday Rd., Coloma), which features delectable handmade truffles.
Bon appétit! And enjoy from the intimacy and comfort of your dining room table.