While love undoubtedly has couples feeling like they’re on top of the world and their hearts are melting – there’s also no denying that soaring heights — as in rooftop restaurants — and cozy fireplaces help create just the right mood for romance. If the plethora of drinking and dining options rendered making a reservation avoidable till the last minute, here is this Examiner’s suggestions to make Valentine’s Day one to remember. But hurry!
Monarch Rooftop & Indoor Lounge is perched 18 floors above midtown Manhattan, offering spectacular vistas of Gotham and cinema-esque views of the iconic Empire State Building (all the better to channel that Affair to Remember passion. For Valentine’s Day, Monarch’s Executive Chef Daniel Billheimer is introducing a Chambord Crème Brulee dessert. Chef Daniel is sharing the love, too. He says, “The recipe can also be prepared at home, as a simple way to surprise your sweetheart with a treat that is sure to impress.” Recipe is below.
If dinner is a bit too much on the relationship status (and the wallet) and if looking for a cozy fireplace to warm to, The New York Times provided five top spots: 5 New York Hotel Bars That Melt Away the Winter Blues. In addition, here are a few cocktail clubs and bars that offer a crackling fire to go with that drink: The Clover Club, Employees Only, The Bowery Hotel, and The Flatiron Room
On the other hand if looking for a romantic restaurant (while still allowing for a gift or flowers), then here are a few restaurant choices that will leave you both swooning.
Le Midi Bar & Restaurant is offering a sure-fire spoiler special consisting of a three-course French feast at the very affordable $59 plus sales tax and 18% gratuity. Check out the incredible, affordable offerings:
East Coast oysters (6) (yes, oysters are an aphrodisiac)
Escargots “Bourgogne”, garlic parsley butter
Seared foie gras, brioche toast, fig mousse
Roasted beet salad, watercress, honeyed nuts, goat cheese
Tuna tartare, tapioca caviar, avocado, wasabi, palm hearts
Long Island duck à l’orange, sautéed baby carrots, brussel sprouts
Sautéed wild red snapper, black truffle oil, celeriac root, lobster fume
Organic roast chicken, potato supreme, sautéed spinach, sun-dried tomatoes
Lobster spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil
Roast salmon, citrus beurre blanc, wild rice, ratatouille
Filet mignon, potatoes au gratin, spinach, peppercorn sauce
Ricotta ravioli, pesto cream sauce
Berry tart, strawberry, blue berry, pastry cream
Red velvet cake, pistachio ice cream
Fresh fruit salad
Valentine’s Day martini, Champagne, VDKA 6100, St-Germaine, Pama 14
Crémant de Bourgogne, Veuve Ambal Brut (Burgundy, France) 48
Canard Duchêne Brut Authentic (Champagne, France) 57
Champagne, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut NV (Champagne, France) 110
Crémant de Bourgogne, Veuve Ambal Rosé (Burgundy, France) 49
Canard Duchêne Rosé Brut Authentic (Champagne, France) 69
Stepping up the tab a few steps is Obicà Flatiron:
The restaurant advises, “Think Romeo e Giulietta and celebrate with a delicious couples tasting menu. The $120.00 prix-fixe meal includes four-courses of Obicà’s mouthwatering, contemporary Italian fare, paired with hand-picked wines for an extra fee of $25.00. “Pepper” a loved one with delicious Carciofo – artichoke flan with pink peppercorns, peppermint and Parmigiana. Indulge in the melt-in-your-mouth risotto with lobster, followed by Dentice – a red snapper atop chickpea puree, Taggiasche olives, and fried sage. And, to finish the evening dining – select a little dolce, a Semifreddo with white chocolate, vanilla, and red currant.
Hakkasan New York:
Stepping it up yet another notch, this Valentine’s Day guests can celebrate two holidays in one night by treating themselves to the ultra-luxurious $138.88 prix-fixe Chinese New Year menu at the dramatic and stunning Hakkasan New York. The restaurant claims “The decadent menu showcases dishes that spread joy, luck, and prosperity amongst friends and loved ones – perfect for both holidays and celebrations.” The menu begins with a double-boiled fresh ginseng and chicken soup followed by diced Wagyu beef and pine nut golden cup and a dim sum platter. A variety of main dishes include wok-fry lobster in spicy truffle sauce, Pipa duck, grilled Chilean sea bass in honey and a Hericium mushroom stir-fry with lotus root (lotus root is heavenly, if you have not yet experienced this treasure), asparagus and lily bulb in black pepper and dried scallop and crab meat fried rice. Hakkasan offers a sweet dining climax. “Guests can write their wish on a red card and hang it on the restaurant’s ‘Wishing Wall,’ a perfect and romantic way to end the evening.”
STK New York City:
If throwing caution to the wind and adventure is what fires up the romance index and prix-fixe is so not in the stars, then opt to splurge. STK Midtown or Downtown is where one can indulge. At STK Midtown opt for the Sea Scallop in the Shell with Sea Urchin and Tobiko Caviar, or flirt with a classic Surf & Turf with a robust, 16 oz Chateaubriand and Tempura Lobster. STK Downtown diners will revel in Crispy Fried Oysters with Caviar and Champagne Cream Sauce, and Wagyu Beef Dumplings with Bone Marrow and Red Wine Sauce.
If “nesting” with one’s love-bird is on the menu for Valentine’s Day, here are a few recipes from the doyenne of domesticity, Martha Stewart. While Martha claims her favorite date restaurant cuisine is Japanese, she has most graciously shared some of her Valentine’s Day tips and recipes for those cuddling closer to the home fires.
New York-Style Crumb Cake, featured in her Martha Stewart’s Cakes cookbook is ideal for breakfast in bed, especially given the long holiday weekend. It’s a rich buttermilk cake topped with a thick layer of sugary, buttery cinnamon-spiked crumbs. Serve it to your special Valentine with a warm, homemade cappuccino.
New York—Style Crumb Cake
Reprinted from Martha Stewart’s Cakes. Copyright © 2013 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.
Serves 10 to 12
For the crumb topping
3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
For the cake
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large whole eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1. Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture; using your hands, mix until medium to large clumps form.
2. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, line with parchment with overhang on both long sides, and butter parchment. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk; beat until well combined.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle crumb-topping mixture evenly over batter. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Transfer cake, with parchment, to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored at room temperature, covered, up to 5 days.)
Active Time: 20 min.
Total Time: 2 hr. 15 min.
1/2 cup chocolate ice cream
1/2 cup pistachio ice cream
2 maraschino cherries, preferably Tillen Farms
5 chocolate wafer cookies, finely pulsed in a food processor
2 1/2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
2 ounces semisweet chocolate (61 percent cacao), chopped
1. Line a small domed glass bowl (ours was 4 1/2-inch-diameter with a 1 1/3-cup capacity) with plastic wrap, leaving a 4-inch overhang on all sides. Pack 1 ice cream flavor into each side of bowl. Make an indentation in each flavor; place a cherry in each and cover with ice cream. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
2. In a bowl, mix together cookie crumbs and 1 teaspoon oil. Fold back plastic and press crumb mixture onto ice cream; smooth with an offset spatula. Rewrap and freeze at least 15 minutes.
3. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil.
4. Fold back plastic from ice cream. Invert bowl onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet. With a hot cloth, wipe outside of bowl to loosen. Lift bowl and completely remove plastic. Pour chocolate over top, starting in center and working outward, in one stream.
5. Freeze tartufo on rack to harden, at least 5 minutes. Serve, or wrap loosely in plastic and keep frozen up to a week. To serve, transfer to a plate with a thin metal spatula (if it sticks, dip spatula in hot water and wipe dry).
When you pour the chocolate over the top, don’t worry about making the coating flawless—a few imperfections give the dessert a handmade charm.
Easy Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake
Bake two 8-inch cakes, placing part of the batter in a round pan, the rest in a square pan. Let them cool, level the tops, and cut the round cake in half. Arrange as shown, leveled sides down, then frost to finish.
One Bowl Chocolate Cake: (After all, what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate?)
Makes: One 8-inch Double Layer-Cake
Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup low-fat buttermilk
¾ cup warm water
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep); dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
2. Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.
3. Spread 2 cups chocolate frosting onto top of 1 cooled layer. Top with remaining layer; frost top and sides with remaining 2 cups frosting.
Yield: Makes about 5 cups
Martha Stewart Living, February 2010
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened
Gel-paste food coloring, in Tulip Red
1. Whisk sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water until sugar dissolves and syrup registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Transfer bowl to mixer, and whisk sugar syrup on medium speed for 5 minutes. Raise speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes.
3. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in food coloring.
Chambord Crème Brulee – courtesy of that love-bug Chef Daniel Billheimer, Monarch restaurant
Yield: Nine 3.75 oz. ramekins
Crème Brulee Ingredients:
7 egg yolks
24oz. heavy cream
3/4 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
7 Tsp Chambord cordial
Blackberry or black raspberry
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. If convection, turn to low fan.
In a small pot combine cream, vanilla and salt and heat gently on medium high. Keep an eye on cream mixture so it doesn’t boil over. Separate egg yolks into a medium mixing bowl and whip in sugar until creamy. Once cream mixture is gently simmering, remove from heat and temper it into the yolk/sugar by whisking the two together slowly, so as not to scramble the yolks. After the cream mixture is totally combined with the yolk mixture, whisk in the Chambord.
In a half hotel pan, place nine 4oz. ramekins and fill them with the crème brulee mixture leaving 1/2 inch. Add boiling water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Gently place the pan in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. The cooking process might take a little more time depending on the oven, but remove the pan when the custard is set up and just barely jiggles when the pan is shook. Remove the ramekins from the water bath on to a sheet pan and place in refrigerator to cool, about 2 hours.
When ready to serve, apply a layer of raw sugar to just cover the custard. Gently caramelize the sugar with a hand torch rotating the crème brulee slowly to caramelize evenly. **As an alternative to a hand torch, set your oven to broil and place the rack just underneath the element/flame. Make sure the creme brulees have set (preferably overnight) and the ramekins are cold before placing them under the broiler for 10-15 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelize.
Garnish with mint sprig and one berry for accent and serve.
If cooking seems a stretch, have fun mixing up these frisky cocktails:
2 dashes Fernet Branca
½ oz. Dry Gin
½ oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with an orange.
1 1⁄2 oz Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
1 cube of sugar (or a splash of simple syrup) 2 dashes bitters
2-‐3 ice cubes
Twist of lemon
In an Old Fashioned Glass, place a sugar cube or use simple syrup as a substitute. Add bitters and just enough water to help dissolve the sugar. Crush or muddle the sugar in the glass and coat the bottom of the glass. Add 2-‐3 ice cubes and Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon. Garnish with a twist, or if you’d like, a slice of orange and a cherry.
Sweet, delicious, romantic dreams…. Happy Valentine’s Day.