8 Alternatives to Dining Out on Valentine’s Day

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Heading out to a dazzling restaurant for a lovely meal is certainly one option for a memorable Valentine’s Day. Contrarily, it’s often disappointing. Stress can stem from reserving a table weeks in advance, only to find that the atmosphere is too busy, then get rushed out because they’re turning over tables on a tight schedule. Luckily it’s not the only option for treating yourself or your valentine on February 14th. Here are eight alternatives to going out to a restaurant for Valentine’s Day dinner.

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Cooking can be meditative solo activity, or a fun project to do with a companion. (Plus, you get to eat the project at the end). The beauty of a meal kit is that every step is mapped out, so even novice cooks have a fighting chance at making a restaurant-level meal, and the ingredients are portioned to the recipe, so if you’re a once-a-week sort of cook, you don’t end up with a fridge full of leftover ingredients destined for the trash. Tons of companies offer different types of kits for differing palates and varying interest levels. For those who’d like to try cooking scallops for the first time, try Blue Apron. For couples looking for a satisfying, yet simple pasta dinner, try a DIY ravioli kit from Williams Sonoma.

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According to the internet, dinner-and-a-movie is terrible and horrible for Valentine’s Day, and I agree. Why waste time doing two separate things when you can do them at once? (Clearly everyone is thinking practically, like myself.) The moment I set foot in an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, had a cocktail, buffalo cauliflower, and a “carnivore” pizza all while watching a movie, I deleted other “normal” movie theaters from my mind. Even if you don’t have an Alamo Drafthouse nearby, select locations of AMC, Regal, and other theaters offer a dine-in experience. My advice, take your date to Magic Mike’s Last Dance, order an I Want All of You Pretzel, and get trashed together on some signature cocktails.

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Grazing as a meal is a valid choice, and a selection of meats and, ahem, nuts might be all you need for a romantic Valentine’s Day. Harry and David offers many a meat and dip kit, as well as a charcuterie bouquet that you can slice and arrange with your special salami. For those who don’t enjoy indecisive moments in the wine store, try a kit that includes it already. Most of these kits include the pieces, but rarely are they presentation ready. Try your hand at artistically arranging the sliced meats, tapenade and crackers, and get ready to snack for the evening. (Read here for more ways to give the gift of meat.)

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A restaurant date isn’t in the cards, and you’ll be damned if you have to turn on the stove. Get a little bougie and hire a chef to come and cook for you. You can receive the ultimate food pampering without having to do any work yourself, so you can spend quality time with your valentine. There is a great range of pricing when it comes to bringing in a professional, so do a bit of research.

You can cut costs by offering to gather the ingredients before they arrive, search for individual chefs who run their own catering, or try companies like Cozymeal. If your budget is real tight, hit up the local culinary school. Schools, like the Institute of Culinary Education, will offer job postings for their students to respond to for extra work and real-life experience. You can post the opportunity and rate, and see if you get any bites.

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For more of a shared experience, sign up for a cooking class. You get the guidance of a chef instructor, top-notch ingredients, and maybe you’ll even learn something new. One-time classes, especially themed ones, are usually fun, light-hearted, and low-pressure events. It’s an opportunity to work as a team with your significant other, or yell at them in public if that’s your thing. Introverts, worry not, you can even keep things cozy at home and do an online cooking class instead. This isn’t a cooking competition show, (unless you want it to be) but you will get a food prize at the end.

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Wine used to be grapes, and grapes are food, so you can do a wine tasting as dinner with no argument from me. Fine, you can do a wine pairing; after all, wine can taste even better with snacks. It can also taste god-awful if you pair it wrong, and that’s where the professionals come in. Check out your local wineries or wine stores to see if they’re hosting any Valentine’s Day tastings. (And again, similarly to cooking classes, you can do a virtual pairing class at home.)

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Preserved fish is having a moment (or, ya know, a couple centuries). Why leave all the fun to cured meats? Go to the local fishmonger for advice, raid the canned fish shelves of your supermarket, or order a spread of specialty sardines, cockles, mackerel, and salmon to put together your own board. I respect keeping things protein-forward, but add a smattering of crackers, bread, and vinegar-pickled items to keep the oils from overwhelming your palate.

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At the risk of seeming obvious, ordering delivery needs to be on this list. It’s the go-to option because it’s brilliant. You pay a fair price for a host of people to create and deliver exactly what you want, straight to your door. No need to make reservations, unearth charcuterie boards, see other people, or even put on pants. To some folks, nothing is more romantic than that. Some date night-worthy restaurants even offer delivery so you can have a beautiful, perfectly prepared, three-course Valentine’s dinner, and not the same delivery wings that you’ve been living on for the last three weeks. Be a real hero, and use a service like Goldbelly to secretly have your mate’s favorite NYC ramen shipped to them (even though you both live in LA now).