Sunday, February 10, 2013

CUPID CATCHER: Chicago Pros Share Easy Ways To Tip The Romance Scale This Valentine's Day (Part 1 of 3)

Valentine’s Day is on the horizon and love is in the air. While the world’s most famous matchmaker, Cupid, is organizing his singles hit list (are you on it?) for the big day, Luxe File Chicago compiled a love rolodex of the town’s sweetest party planners, fashion stylists, lingerie designers, illustrationists and pinup photographers to get the inside peek on how to maximize every sumptuous second of the most romantic day of the year.

Hide the chocolate truffles and check out these hot tips – from DIY aphrodisiac dinners to sigh-inspiring gifts – to really show how much you love the one you’re with.

First up! Two of Chicago’s most creative caterers, Marina Birch and Rachel De Marte, each contributed an inspired Valentine’s Day concept that will surely heat things up at home.

Marina Birch
Principal Event Designer

The Concept – Gastronomic Bouquet: A Floral Inspired Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two

Marina’s take: A home-cooked meal is truly the most romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I would embrace the spirit completely for your date by creating a warm and inviting ambience but without seeming like you tried too hard.

Love Potion #9: Prepare an aphrodisiac-inspired elixir like La Violette. Fill two chilled glasses with Billecart-Salmon Rosé and a splash of Crème de Violette (violet liquor).

Love In 4 Courses

Course 1: Spring Vegetable Pot Au Feu in Chrysanthemum Broth 
(Adapted from Naturally Peninsula Tea Flavours cookbook)

2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 oz chrysanthemum tea flowers
baby turnips
baby yellow beets
thumbelina carrots
asparagus tips
sugar snap peas
broad beans
red capsicums
new potatoes
(Vegetables should total about 1 lb)
salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot.
  3. Remove from heat and add chrysanthemum flowers.
  4. Allow to steep for 2 minutes, then strain.
  5. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Peel and wash vegetables as necessary.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt.
  8. Cook each vegetable separately until just tender, then plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process.
  9. Drain well and pat dry.
  10. Arrange vegetables in oven-safe serving dish.
  11. Pour stock over vegetables and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes until hot.
  12. Serve immediately.

Course 2: Lavender Fettuccine with Lemon and Burrata
Click HERE for recipe. Pappardelle's Lavender Fettucine may be purchased online HERE.

Course 3: Hibiscus-Marinated Leg of Lamb
Click HERE for recipe.

Course 4: Tea-Braised Rhubarb with Plum Sorbet and Rose Hip Syrup
(Adapted from Naturally Peninsula Tea Flavours cookbook)

Rose hip syrup
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 oz rose hip tea
1 2/3 oz sugar
1 pinch of agar powder
1 coffee filter
1 pinch of rose hip tea
3 oz sugar
1/3 lb rhubarb, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
plum sorbet and plum slices

Rose hip syrup:
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat. Add tea and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain through a coffee filter back into the pan.
  3. In a bowl, combine sugar with agar powder.
  4. Add rose hip infusion and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  1. Sprinkle tea and sugar over rhubarb and allow to stand for 2 hours. Place rhubarb on a baking tray and pour grenadine syrup over. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  2. Serve rhubarb with sorbet and rose hip syrup.
  3. Garnish with plum slices.

Chic Tip: Champagne may be cliché, but I love how celebratory it feels. When you serve dessert, pop open a bottle (or half-bottle) to add a festive flair to the end of your meal. My favorite is Billecart-Salmon Rose because it’s pink and perfectly bubbly.

Music Tip: I would go one of two ways: “Duets” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong because the songs are classic or anything by Carla Bruni. She is a modern-day crooner and her music is very romantic.

Lighting Tips: You need to have functional light in the kitchen for cooking but here’s a trick you can use in any room: replace your usual light bulbs with pink ones. Pink light is softer and gives the skin a pretty glow.

Candlelight cannot be overstated and adds a heightened intimacy to any space. On the dinner table, set out masses of candles in varying sizes. For a sophisticated look, intersperse tea lights with small floral groupings in a single color.

Heavenly Scent: Instead of floral arrangements, I prefer to mix up herbs and place them in a vase in the kitchen. They smell great and you can casually toss them into the sauce while you are cooking.

Setting the table: Use whatever dinnerware you have on hand. Glassware should be spot-free and crisp cloth napkins always make a lovely touch.

Rachel De Marte
Principal Planner & Stylist

The Concept - Hosting a Valentine's Party For Friends and Loved Ones at Home

Rachel’s take: Valentine’s Day is a bit of a Hallmark holiday so why not have fun with it and host one big celebration for your lover AND your friends?

Décor Tip: While the go-to colors are clearly red, white, and pink, I always include some metallics. Gold or silver branches work well. Buy them as-is or spray paint yourself. Go old school and cut hearts out of paper and hang from branches or make garland out of heart-shaped doilies and Christmas lights. Lots of candles, of course, and don't forget Cupid. He's gotta go somewhere.

Entertainment Tip: Rachel’s recommends Valentine's Day-themed charades; t-shirt making with love stamps and lover lingo; and tag team cooking efforts in the kitchen.

Food Tip: Incorporate aphrodisiacs into your dishes like figs, honey, arugula, oysters, garlic, pine nuts, truffles, fennel, mustard, and blackberries - there are many to choose from.

Love Potion #9: Prepare something sweet, like Lover Lay Down!, which pairs honey vodka, honey syrup, and muddled blackberries (see recipe below).

Lover Lay Down!
(Makes 1 cocktail)

3/4 oz honey syrup
2 oz honey vodka (or regular vodka)
3 blackberries
3/4 oz lemon juice

  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Pour into a rocks glass. 

Party Favors Tip: Surprise your female guests with a bottle of pink or red nail polish. Guys can score major “Romeo” points by painting her toes. For the guys? They take home the girl, of course!

Photo Credits: 
Marina Birch, part of Burberry's Art of the Trench campaign, was photographed by Tim Klein
Rachel De Marte photographed by Christopher Free

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