Roses, jewelry, chocolates—there are some occasions when it makes sense to stick with the classics, and Valentine's Day is surely one of those times. If you're taking the date-night dinner into your own hands, you can't go wrong with a classic surf and turf, with some simple accompaniments and well-chosen white and red wines alongside. Unsure of how to proceed? Read on for foolproof recipes and a list of great wines to help impress your valentine this year.
There are a number of ways to enjoy freshly cooked lobster, but any recipe should start with a properly sourced and cooked specimen. Wine Spectator contributing editor Sam Gugino recommends finding a reputable seafood retailer that routinely sells a high volume of lobster. Examine their antennae before making your selection: the more intact they are, the fresher the lobster, since they tend to gnaw on each other as they bide their time in the store's holding tank. Also, as you might imagine, the more lively a lobster's movements, the fresher it is and the better it will taste. If you'll be serving lobster as the main course, plan on about 2 pounds per person; if it's a first course, around 1 1/4 pounds will do. If at all possible, buy your lobsters on the day you'll cook them; otherwise, store in the refrigerator in a partially opened paper bag, or one that has some holes poked in it. When you're ready to cook, hold the lobster by its rubber-banded claws to avoid being cut by the edges of a flapping tail.
For whole lobster preparations, Gugino recommends steaming the lobster alive in a steamer basket suspended over a few inches of boiling water, which helps preserve the lobster's flavor and is more forgiving if you happen to overcook by a minute or two.
Some people choose to save the lobster's light-green pancreas and liver, known collectively as tomalley, and use it to add rich lobster flavor to the classic melted butter accompaniment, though the fact that those organs serve as a impurity filter for the lobster may cause you to reconsider. A better bet for seasoning butter or a pasta sauce is the roe, or coral, which you'll find next to the tomalley in female lobsters. It's black when raw, and red when cooked.
To find a good white or sparkling wine match with lobster, the key is to find a wine with just enough richness that's balanced by good acidity. See our recently rated suggestions below.
When buying a steak, there is a lot to consider—how much marbling (intramuscular fat) is desirable to you and your dining companion? What are the flavor differences among different breeds of cattle? What has the animal eaten before slaughter, and how does that affect the taste of the meat? How long has it been aged, and by what process? What cut should you look for? A reputable butcher can walk you through the process and, fortunately, Sam Gugino also has you covered with his exhaustive Steak Primer.
And to complete your Valentine's Day dinner menu, here are a few simple, classic accompaniments for steak:
Full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet-based blends and Rhône reds are all natural choices to pair with steak. See our recently rated suggestions below.
If preparing the main meal is enough cooking for you, give yourself a break and pick up a few beautiful individual fruit tarts or other delicacies from your local bakery, or finish the rest of your red wine with some high-quality dark chocolate. However, if you feel like making your own dessert, give one of these romantic and elegant chocolate recipes a try.
Whether you tackle the whole menu or just pick and choose elements, we hope that you have a happy and romantic Valentine's Day!
|BODEGA CATENA ZAPATA Chardonnay Mendoza 2006||89||$18|
|Bright, with tasty fig, pear and hazelnut notes. There's ample toast, but also fresh acidity, keeping the finish elegant and lively. Drink now. 41,500 cases made.|
|LA CHABLISIENNE Chablis La Singulière 2005||87||$28|
|Shows a hint of seashell and ocean air elements, but there's more melon and tropical fruit notes. A broad white, this picks up a grapefruit peel finish. Drink now through 2012. 7,600 cases made.|
|DE LOACH Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2006||87||$16|
|Intense and vibrant, with fresh, tight and tart citrus-laced green apple flavors that are mouthwatering. Drink now. 30,000 cases made.|
|RODNEY STRONG Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County Charlotte's Home 2006||87||$14|
|Fresh herb and tangy grapefruit flavors are intense and direct, with bracing acidity, ripe fruit flavors and a lingering finish. Drink now. 63,850 cases made.|
|VIÑA CARMEN Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley Reserva 2007||86||$13|
|Nice and nervy, with mouthwatering lime, sea salt and sweet pea flavors. Bracing finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.|
|HARDYS Chardonnay South Eastern Australia Nottage Hill 2006||85||$9|
|Soft, polished and appealing for its vanilla-accented pear and citrus flavors. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.|
|GOSSET Brut Champagne Excellence NV||90||$47|
|This is expressive, exuding coconut, lemon, fresh ginger and toast aromas and flavors. Balanced. Builds to a long aftertaste of toast and hazelnut. Drink now through 2012. 28,000 cases made.|
|MAILLY Brut Rosé Champagne NV||90||$48|
|A mélange of citrus and dried citrus peel, ginger and strawberry highlight this delicate yet firm Champagne. It's distinctive and tangy, with a mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2009. 9,000 cases made.|
|DOMAINE CHANDON Blanc de Noirs California NV||87||$20|
|A festive bubbly that's crisp yet has ripe, succulent cherry, vanilla and spice aromas and racy apple, raspberry and toasty caramel flavors. Drink now. 100,000 cases made.|
|GRUET Brut New Mexico NV||86||$14|
|Appealing for its bold tropical fruit, toasty, buttery aromas and full-bodied pear and spice flavors. Drink now. 50,000 cases made.|
|CHÂTEAU DU TRIGNON Gigondas 2005||91||$29|
|Enticing layers of Black Forest cake, black licorice, fig sauce and linzer torte are harnessed by solid acidity. Long finish has a solid tug of earth while letting the fruit shine. Drink now through 2012. 8,000 cases made.|
|VIÑA LA RESERVA DE CALIBORO Erasmo Maule Valley 2005||90||$27|
|Sleek and focused, with a solid core of red currant fruit surrounded by sweet spice, toast and mineral notes. Long, pure finish has the flesh to match its sinew. Best vintage yet for this Italian-owned project. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Fran|
|DOMAINE DE LA RENJARDE Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2004||89||$15|
|Solid, with a focused beam of red and black currant fruit woven with subtle toast, cocoa and mineral notes. Nice bit of grip on the finish. Drink now through 2009. 10,000 cases made.|
|VIÑA ECHEVERRÍA Cabernet Sauvignon Molina Reserva 2005||88||$13|
|Nice loamy version, with fine-grained tannins carrying notes of dried currant, cedar, vanilla bean and coffee to an elegant finish. Drink now through 2008. 10,000 cases made.|
|BLEASDALE Cabernet Sauvignon Langhorne Creek Mulberry Tree 2005||87||$17|
|Lithe and juicy, with cranberry and currant fruit shaded with cedar and bay leaf, finishing with refinement. Drink now through 2011. 15,000 cases made.|
|HOGUE Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Genesis 2005||87||$16|
|Firm in texture, but open in style, with ripe currant and smoke flavors, lingering well. Drink now through 2012. 24,020 cases made.|
Lucy R Rogers — State College, PA — December 2, 2011 7:16pm ET
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