We’re Celebrating February with 4 Weeks of Great Date Nights!

In honor of the “month of love” we decided a great way to celebrate would be to each share our favorite date nights with you readers. This week, Lisa will be sharing some ideas, next week Cheryl will be sharing her ideas, followed by Chelsea, then Caitlin will bring us home!

As we were discussing this series of blogs, some of us shared that we aren’t huge celebrators of Valentine’s day, my husband and I included. When we do want to have a special evening together, our first idea is to make a reservation at a nice restaurant, however we rarely go out to dinner on V-day, usually it’s just too crowded and forced for our taste, so I try to make something nice at home.

The first year we were married, I went with elegant steakhouse fare and made filet mignon with a red wine reduction, broccoli, and mashed potatoes (no garlic of course!) – see the recipe below. I grabbed a bottle of nice red wine to pair, and set the mood at the house. You don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant to feel fancy, mainly just get out of those yoga pants or jeans and act like you’re going out – put on a nice dress, and some earrings and you’re set! Also, actually setting the table goes a long way if you’re like us and tend to eat in front of the tv. I pulled out the fancy table cloth we got for our wedding and rarely use, along with candlesticks and a nice flower arrangement, and our dining room looked like the nicest restaurant in town, minus the crowd!

If you don’t mind a busy restaurant, or love to be out in the thick of things on a holiday like Valentine’s, lots of local restaurants offer pre fixe menus for Valentine’s dinner. We live in San Mateo, so below is a list of some of our favorite places to have a romantic dinner:

  • Kincaid’s – we go here for my birthday almost every year, it’s a great restaurant with classic food, lots of options in the steak and seafood varieties, not to mention a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay and SFO airport. They are offering a special Valentine’s Day Menu this year, which can be viewed here.  
  • Central Park Bistro – Another one of our favorites, with a wide range of delicious dishes. The intimate atmosphere and friendly wait staff make for a perfect evening. And if you like dessert, I can’t recommend their bread pudding highly enough, so tasty! Check out their menu here.
  • Three Restaurant – This is a new one on our favorites list after we went here a few weeks ago with some friends. It’s in downtown San Mateo at the base of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel (now Draper University), in what used to be Astaria Restaurant. The style has changed since its days as Astaria, but the quality has not. A little hipper, they feature a tapas-style menu that’s great for sharing with your loved one. They are doing a 4-course “aphrodisiac” menu for Valentine’s Day, which you can view here. 

Whether you decide to stay in or go out, it’s all about the ambience. Find a place where you and your special someone can enjoy each other’s company and remember why you’re together in the first place. Even if you aren’t a fan of Valentine’s Day itself, use it as an excuse to appreciate each other and take a break from your hectic lives to share some love!

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Reduction

2 (4 to 6-ounce) filet mignons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 cups dry red wine
Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper and drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Strain the sauce into a small bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the strainer and return the sauce to the saucepan and bring back to a slow simmer. Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into small 1/2-inch chunks and whisk in the sauce a little at a time. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Place filets on dinner plates. Drizzle the sauce over the filets and serve.