None of us need to be told that Canoe combines a stunning view and excellent food or that there are some up-and-coming gems of restaurants on Ossington, right? Instead of the usual top-five Valentine's Day dates we came up with some unconventional ideas.
Group of 7 Dinner
If you're looking for something a bit more unusual for this Valentine's Day, look no further than the Group of 7 Chefs dinner (hosted at Beast Restaurant) on February 13th. This 7-course menu will feature dishes from each of the Group of 7 Chefs (Scott Vivian, Rob Gentile, Mark Cutrara, Kevin McKenna, Matty Matheson, Chris Brown, Bertrand Alepee, & Marc Dufour), and is $140 with wine pairings and $80 without. Event details and tickets can be found here.
Gilead Cafe – Brunch
While it may not be the most romantic of locales, Gilead Cafe has a warmth and homey-ness that brings to mind classic winter cottages. The food is top-notch, and they also serve up cocktails if you want to toast the special day. Sunday brunch is served at 10am but be sure to get there early, as a crowd can quickly form. If you're looking for a more laid back experience, skip the Sunday brunch and head there on a Saturday (they start serving their à la carte offerings at 11am).
For the Home Cook
Valentine’s Day is a gruelling experience for diners and restaurant workers alike. Since that V-Day more than a decade ago when my date and I were shown to a table in an annex of Cafe La Gaffe’s barely-heated back patio, I’ve made a point of staying in on the fourteenth. I admit that upwards of 70% of men list “loves to cook” in their online dating profiles but a lack of exclusivity doesn’t make a home-prepared meal any less special.
Recognising that your signature four-bean chili won’t cut it, you might be asking: what should I make?
The true believer in those Internet lists of aphrodisiacs will get themselves a case of oysters and a bottle of bubbly. I guarantee you that if this is your first time shucking you’ll throw in the towel either in frustration before you crack that first dozen, or (worse) because you’ve implanted an oyster knife in your hand.
For the more sophisticated (and less Inter-gullible), a more prepared dish is the obvious choice. I know it seems a bit gimmicky at first but bear with me because I have a great recipe for…beef heart. I’ll eat anything (blood sausage was a key player in my breakfast this morning) and am all for exploring boundaries but eating heart is not crazy. It’s just a big muscle that tastes like steak, well slightly bloody, but definitely steak-y.
Jennifer McLagan’s Odd Bits is the unrivalled current guide for cooking those unconventional animal parts and this recipe is adapted from there.
Peruvian Heart Kebabs
- 375 g (13 oz) beef heart trimmed of sinew and other non-muscle bits
- 1 tsp whole cumin seed
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 serrano chiles, destemmed (use jalapenos if you can't find serranos and remove seeds if you want the dish to be less spicy)
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 TB red wine vinegar
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- Toast cumin seeds in a dry, heavy pan until you can definitely smell them. Place cumin, salt, and peppercorns in a spice grinder or mortar and grind. Next, add chiles and garlic and grind again. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in vinegar and olive oil.
- Cut the heart into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss the pieces in the spicy marinade until they are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Preheat your grill or a large cast-iron pan on high. Skewer the meat on wood (soaked to keep them from burning) or metal skewers. Cook over high heat for four minutes total, turning once.