Food & Drink
Esquire's Valentine Dinner Hacks for the Lazy Gentleman
For the man who won't attempt to brave the V-Day traffic, you can turn fast food into fine dining. Here's how.
IMAGE Mike Chua
ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano
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Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day. For being supposedly the most romantic day of the year, chances are you’re going to waste away the hours waiting. You and your partner will be inching your way to the mall for an hour or two. Then you’ll be going round in circles, looking for a parking spot. And when you finally do manage to score a slot, you’ll find yourself in a long queue for a table at the loveliest—or at any—restaurant. Assuming there's still space for you.

Let's be totally honest here. No one wants to go out during Valentine's Day. It's one of those "holidays" where we wish we didn't have to go to work so we wouldn't have to endure the road apocalypse outside.

So, why not spend Hearts' Day this year at home where you could get it on straightaway. There's nothing sweeter than giving your wife a break by setting up the loveliest meal for her, right in the comfort of home. But do away with the vinyl tablecloth. We're showing you how to create a picture-perfect dinner using things you already have and food you can get anywhere, say, the fast-food joint around the corner?

THE MENU

Not everyone knows how to cook and not everyone can follow a recipe. But you can cop a high-end-looking meal with a quick trip to your favorite fast-food joint and convenience store and a little ingenuinity. Observe. 

FIRST COURSE

Before: KFC's Mushroom Soup, Chili Flakes from Yellow Cab (hey, we all save those), flat-leaf parsley, paprika sea salt, croutons


After: Smoky Mushroom Cappuccino with Sea Salt and a Hint of Spice; Served with Fresh Croutons


SECOND COURSE

Before: Fast-food spaghetti, flat-leaf parsley, hard cheese (Parmesan is recommended) available in local supermarkets


After: Al Dente Spaghetti Classico in Fresh Tomato Sauce with Parmesan Shavings


THIRD COURSE

Before: Supermarket roast chicken (we used Chooks-to-Go), spinach, fast-food mashed potatoes, cashews


After: Pepper-Rubbed Roast Chicken on a Bed of Fluffy Mashed Potatoes Topped with Sauteed Spinach; Toasted Cashews on the Side


FOURTH COURSE

Before: Supermarket marshallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, one green apple


After: Deconstructed S'mores with Torched Marshmallows, Graham Shards, Shaved Chocolate Wafers, Chocolate Chunks—Stunningly Contrasted with Green Apple Slivers

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Price tag? Less than P1,000. Memories? Priceless.

THE TABLE SETTING

1. Go with take away romance. 

Best for: the no fuss girl who loves her fast food 

Arguably, this is the easiest of the lot.  The first thing to do is order take-away from her favorite fast food joint. If they currently sell meals with a free toy, grab some of those too. When you get home, cover the table with a bright table cloth—perhaps red or yellow—and then proceed to set up the table with your goodies. Lay down your take away in their primary-colored packaging—paper plates are optional—and then place the toy right in the middle of the table as a centerpiece.

2. Make it a shining, shimmering, splendid table.

Best for: the glamour puss

Ask your mom if you could borrow her finest china and charger. And her silverware. And crystal stemware. And her linen. The whole nine yards, my friend. If your mom asks what they’re all for, tell her the truth—you’re setting up a romantic dinner for your partner. If she turns all warm and gooey, try asking her to teach you how to set it all up. You never know, she might even give you a hand.

3. Spell out your feelings. 

Best for: the bibliophile

They say when you feel it, you got to say it. But if saying it out loud is still beyond your mortal powers, get help from the scrabble game. Spell out your feelings right in the center of the table using the scrabble tiles. For the rest of the table, make everything rather neutral—beige table cloth, white plates. Inject a shot of romance with baby’s breath—those delicate white little flowers—in small mason jars.

4. Bring in the outdoors.

Best for: the nature lover 

Succulents are your best friend here. On a table covered in plain white or beige table cloth, pack the center with these potted cuties. Put together at least five of them right in the middle. When done, flank it with candles. Get pillar candles and place them in little terracotta pots. Then finish the setting with white plates and cloth napkins in either beige or green.

5. Be simply romantic.

Best for: the romantic

Give in to expectations—flowers and candle light. Cover your table with a white tablecloth and set down white plates, silverware, and stemware. Right in the center, place candles: two tall ones or three tea candles. And instead of decorating with a dozen red roses, why not scatter red rose petals around the candle holders instead. If you have more tea candles in hand, place some more on the table—everyone looks better in candlelight—but be sure there’s enough space for the both of you to hold hands.

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