There’s at least two ways of looking at Valentine’s Day.
Maybe you think it’s a Hallmark holiday, contrived by candy makers and greeting-card writers. The softer view, however, is that it’s a gentle suggestion to do something sweet for someone you love. It’s license for romance, or at least some chocolate.
The coronavirus complicates the day a bit, but Philly still has options for everyone, whether you’re diligently isolating or enjoying indoor dining again.
» READ MORE: 2021 Valentines' Day Philly events guide
When it comes to planning a romantic dinner, takeout has never been more acceptable — or more widely available. Inquirer critic Craig LaBan has rattled off favorites multiple times during the pandemic, but there are seasonal specials worth considering.
Try Remi Ricotta, a new takeout shop running out of Oloroso in Washington Square West. Chefs Jason Peabody and Christopher Godfrey are boxing up a $35 three-course dinner on Friday and Saturday that includes butternut squash bisque, wood-fired turnips, the Remi burger (dry-aged beef, pimento cheese, pickles, crispy onion, and Alabama BBQ sauce on a Hawaiian roll), and crab agnolotti. Chocolate mousse is for dessert. Order at remiphl.com.
Center City’s Oyster House is open inside and out, but for those who’d rather enjoy at home, the “Shell-A-Bration Platter” comes packed up with eight Oysters, four littleneck clams, four jumbo shrimp, a one-pound lobster, scallop crudo, and two splits of champagne for $94. Or for two bucks more, pick up a “Shuck Buddies” kit, with two dozen oysters, a shucking knife, an Oyster House towel, and instructions. Order at (215) 567-7683 by Feb. 11.
Chef Chris Kearse’s Forsythia in Old City has also reopened inside, but scoring a table may be a challenge. Instead, pick up his $75 tasting menu of chestnut bisque, crab salad, whole-wheat rigatoni with duck heart ragout, filet mignon, black truffle bordelaise, and chocolate and speculoos crepe cake. Upgrade the meal with wine pairings, charcuterie, champagne, or a Love Potion cocktail. Order at forsythiaphilly.com.
Passyunk Square spot Fond’s Valentine’s menu is seafood-centric, with shrimp cocktail, jumbo lump crab salad, and crab cakes. But chef Lee Styer will also have white bean and sausage soup and beef bourguignon, plus burgers and sausage sandwiches grilled street-side on Feb. 14. Add sweets from chef Jessie Prawlucki-Styer, including chocolate layer cake, heart-shaped sugar cookies, and cocoa nib-hazelnut brittle. Pre-order by emailing email@example.com or call 215-551-5000.
Make (or buy) something sweet
Sweets are traditional for Valentine’s, and they hold all the more love when they’re homemade. Inquirer food editor Jamila Robinson recommends three straightforward recipes: chocolate pot de crème, ricotta pie with a chocolate-cookie crust, and a fudgy brownie that’s perfect à la mode or on its own.
If you’d rather skip the baking, Philly’s bakeries have you covered. Swing by the Reading Terminal to pick up a pairing from two beloved vendors: Famous 4th Street Cookies and Bassetts Ice Cream. They’ve teamed up on ice cream cookie sandwich kits that feature various flavors, including 4th Street’s new ruby chocolate cherry cookie and Bassetts’ raspberry truffle ice cream.
For slightly more sophisticated fare, head to Washington Avenue’s Small Oven Pastry Shop, which is offering a raspberry tart encased in a giant chocolate conversation heart as well as an assortment of chocolates in an edible heart-shaped chocolate box. Perfect for your zero-waste sweetheart.
If you just want some good old-fashioned chocolate, consider Shane Confectionery, whose Old City takeout window is open all weekend. The old-school candy store has assortments of bonbons, buttercreams, caramels, jellies, fruits, and nuts in milk, dark, and white chocolate; heart ice cream cakes; and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
» READ MORE: 12 places to buy chocolates in and around Philly
Take a virtual cooking class
If you and your Valentine work well together in the kitchen, consider a virtual cooking class. Chef-couple Jen Carroll and Billy Riddle are hosting a two-day class that kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m. with prep — you’ll be butchering, marinating, and whipping up pastry cream — and resumes on Sunday evening for cooking and plating. On the menu: roasted beet and winter citrus salad, lemon pepper chicken, and an almond-berry vanilla trifle. For those worried about keeping up, the sessions will be recorded so that you can cook at your own pace. Sign up for the class via Instagram @chefjencarroll.
Other virtual options include Caputo Brothers Creamery’s cheese-making classes (now in mozzarella, burrata, provolone, and — special! — cannoli), Argentine chef Jezabel Careaga’s empanada-making class, and Manatawny Still Work’s virtual cocktail-mixing class, featuring its port-barrel-aged gin. For something more hands-off, try chef Jose Garces’ free Cooking Space videos, which teach recipes like tortilla española, spicy crab pasta, and fish tacos and elote.
Book a table
Itching to eat in a restaurant? Plenty have reopened inside, and still more are still making outdoor dining work, even in this snowy winter. Lots of restaurants are fully booked, but check Resy, Tock, and OpenTable to look for reservations and get on waiting lists. A couple suggestions:
For a daytime outing, take in some paintings at the Barnes Foundation, then stop for lunch at the museum’s Garden Restaurant, whose Valentine’s brunch specials include avocado toast with smoked salmon, chicken and biscuits, and a flatbread take on shakshuka. Flourless chocolate cake and strawberry bellinis make it romantic.
If you’re adventurous, book a table at Ember & Ash, the long-awaited replacement to Brigantessa on East Passyunk Avenue. Chef David Feola’s nose-to-tail Valentine’s menu features beef heart tartare, braised lamb neck, halibut cheek, beef tongue, and chocolate pig’s blood pudding, among other dishes.
Get a room — and dinner brought up
If Valentine’s Day seems worth a true splurge — something more than just a fancy dinner — Philly’s hotels are here for you. There are packages and deals aplenty, for a range of prices. On the most affordable end, there’s en-suite dinners at AKA University City and AKA Rittenhouse Square (serving three-course meals from Walnut Street Cafe and a.kitchen, respectively). Dinner prices vary, but the room rental is just $50 for three hours. Book through the restaurant’s reservation pages on Tock; upgrade to an overnight stay through the hotel.
Another reasonable option is the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia’s “dinner with a view” package, which gets you a three-course meal and wine from Red Owl Tavern in a room overlooking Independence Hall. The room rate includes your choice of on-demand movie. Rates start at under $200. Book at monaco-philadelphia.com.
On the pricey end of the spectrum, there are lots of packages to choose from,, including “Night Spa” at the Four Seasons Philadelphia at the Comcast Center, an hour-long, late-night couple’s massage with champagne; “Date Night in Philly” at the Logan, which includes dinner en-suite from Urban Farmer and a view of the Basilica on the Parkway; and “PHL Romance” at the Dwight D. boutique hotel, which includes wine, snacks, late checkout, and a $50 credit for brunch at Parc. Call the respective hotels, or check their sites, for availability and pricing. Keep in mind: Many packages extend through the month.
Grab some hot chocolate and take a walk in the snow
Valentine’s Day need not break the bank, especially now. It could be as simple as writing a love note and spending some quality time with your person. The forecast is calling for snow, so why not grab a hot chocolate and trudge around the neighborhood together?
National Hot Chocolate Day was Jan. 31, but some places are still selling. Most of these options are available with or without booze. There’s peanut butter hot chocolate at Assembly Rooftop Lounge on the Parkway; Thai-spiced hot chocolate at Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville; Mexican-spiced hot chocolate at Cafe Ynez and Cantina Los Caballitos in South Philly; hot chocolate bombs at Favors and Flavors and oat-milk hot cocoa at Manatawny on East Passyunk; and even more options at Jet Wine Bar, MilkBoy, and Rex 1516 on South Street.