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Food & Drink

DIY Valentine's Day: Because nothing's sweeter than home-cooked romance

Photo: Josh Huskin, License: N/A

Josh Huskin

Love is in the air: Pork tenderloin, roasted asparagus, gulf oysters and Gruet Brut Rosé from Central Market.

1 Tbs coarsely ground white or black pepper
½ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbs finely chopped shallots

Combine all ingredients and chill. Can be made ahead.

Those not fond of shellfish (or unwilling to risk potential mutilation) can consider this simple option: buy a slice or two (or a package) of thinly sliced cured salmon, a small head of endive (thinking of it as ahn-deev as you do) and a small package of fresh goat cheese, not too tricked out with extra ingredients. Separate out a few washed endive leaves, spread on a dab of goat cheese on each, cut the salmon into strips and fold onto the cheese. You can stop there or add chopped chives or capers and a grind of pepper.

Even simpler — and good with bourbon: Buy a container of dates, slit lengthwise on one side and remove the pit, stuff with a sharp blue cheese such as Stilton or another Brit from Neal's Yard. Feed to one another.

The Main Course: Tenderloin
The choices here are beef or pork. The prepared foods section at CM has beef tenderloin but it didn't look all that great (looks count here). Perhaps if you called ahead and asked them to supply an unsliced piece… The deli section has an herbed pork tenderloin pre-cooked. Cooking either of these at home is a breeze, however. At CM's meat counter, there are several pre-marinated pork loins, including lemon rosemary (keep it simple); ask the counter assistant for cooking directions. The beef tenderloin you'll have to season yourself, and I suggest googling a recipe if you don't already have one — a few herbs, a little olive oil, it doesn't take much. A sauce helps with the beef, however — something as simple as crème fraiche with either a little horseradish or lemon juice and mustard.

Accompaniments should also be simple. You can find grilled/roasted asparagus at both CM and Whole Foods, though they too are sensationally easy to prepare. If the oven is already going for tenderloin, just trim a handful of asparagus, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a cookie sheet in the top of the oven. Roast until done, turning over once. (If doing this on its own, crank the temperature up to 400 degrees or so.) There are some good looking pilafs at CM, along with rosemary potatoes, but consider saving your carbs for dessert; it's a doozy.

Of course, bubbly, and for this dinner one that will take us through from start to finish, a rosé sparkler. At the budget end, consider the widely available Gruet Brut Rosé from New Mexico; it's highly rated and only around $17. Heidi at CM suggests the Bugey Cerdon Rosé ($24), a French sparkler mostly of gamay, as a true "surf and turf" bubbly with enough fruitiness to work even at dessert. If there's any left. Splurging? She points to the Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé ($72).

Finally. For this I'm sending you to the CIA Café at Pearl and suggesting you go straight for the sleek, chocolate-covered dome that is the XS cake; it's the very definition of seduction. But if a full-size cake seems more than you need (though other, creative uses could surely be found), there are individual portions of the XS, a passion fruit cake, and the chocolate pots de crème in fancy plastic containers. Make sure there are candles. A living, blooming orchid will set you back about $25 at CM or Whole Foods and will further enhance the mood. Good luck. •

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