Cooking for Love: A Valentine's Day Menu

This Valentine's, we asked 3 chefs to design a menu based on the stages of a relationship.

Ritu Dalmia, chef, restauranteur, and author of multiple cookbooks, charts a 3-course Aphrodisiac Menu for a couple at the very beginning of their journey together, on those fluttery, sweaty first dates.

Chef and restauranteur Gautam Krishnankutty of Café Thulp (and a soon-to-open barbecue smokehouse) has put together a riotous hands-on menu for a couple trapped in that loopy 'It's Complicated' phase. If that's where you're at, pull up his recipes and get to the kitchen immediately.

And finally, Gresham Fernandes, culinary wizard and Head Chef at Impresario, designs a breakfast menu for a couple that's been through the ups and downs of life together, lobsters in it for life. 

Because no matter where love has you, there's no reason to miss out on cooking up a storm.

Aphrodisiac Menu by Ritu Dalmia
The erotic power of food has been celebrated (and respected) through the centuries. Casanova ate fifty oysters every morning. The Romans had a special fondness for figs, meant to be consumed just before some bedroom frolicking. Onions were forbidden to Egyptian priests because they were believed to induce temptation too strong to resist. Combining food with love, though, is not just about its aphrodisiac properties. It is about the enhancement of the senses. Food should look as good as it tastes, and then taste better than expected. When preparing a meal for a date in the early days of the relationship, keep the meal simple; you don’t want to get flustered or have to keep running to the kitchen. You want to make an impression, yet be cool, (and definitely not reek of garlic). When two people are at the beginning of a relationship, food can break barriers and create a sense of intimacy. So here is my menu for two people getting to know each other, sharing  a meal, far away from the world. Now what is that, if not beautiful!

Warm Up
Winter squash and sherry soup with burrata and crispy sage
We spoke like Lovers & Laughed as Friends
Linguine pasta tossed in white wine, cherry tomatoes and prawn
Sweet Endings (or Beginnings?)
Chocolate fondue for two, with strawberries and pound cake

Valentine's Day menu by Ritu Dalmia

It’s Complicated by Gautam Krishnankutty
A 3-course menu to be cooked together

In the Beginning
The passage of periods of time fraught with uncertainty makes relationships complicated. Just waiting for something to happen can be half the battle. Or half the fun. This one will make you work and wait. And worry. And let things be. But it will pay off. Sometimes.
Beet-cured seer with dill
Staying the Course
Sometimes you just need a Hail Mary. Try anything. It’s probably going to be more than you can handle. And you will resent doing it. And you won’t have the time to do it. But do it. And do it well. Maybe it will help.
Confit of pork fillet with kecap manis, grilled Kerala banana and pickled watermelon rind and mint salad
The Big Finish
Mistakes happen. The results are often unexpected and not always bad. Every instinct is telling you that you have no clue what’s going to happen.  This one was born out of having no idea what I was doing. I don’t make desserts and I don’t like them. This was supposed to be a light-as-air chocolate mousse. It wasn’t. The result was a thick gloopy mess that I threw in the freezer. The chocolate was expensive. I wasn’t going to waste it. The next day it was this ice cream. Thick and creamy and just decadent. Things always look up in the morning don’t they? Wild honey chocolate mousse ice-cream and candied bacon strips.

Valentine's Day menu by Gautam Krishnankutty

Better Together by Gresham Fernandes
I'm not a Valentine's kind of guy, but this year, I'm definitely doing it. Life gets so crazy, the time we have together is precious. Getting dressed to do the wine-and-dine thing isn't for me, but if I'm cooking, it will be a super-cute breakfast in bed. Make sure her coffee is just right, breakfast with something seasonal, and all the things she loves. Give her a great start to the day and she'll have reason to smile all through. 

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
Vietnamese coffee
Breakfast of Champions
Overnight oats with fermented cream, apple and almonds
We'll Always Have Paris
Sourdough French toast with salted caramel and almond biscotti

Valentine's Day menu by Gresham Fernandes

Here's to making it count in the kitchen. Happy Valentine's!