Claudius had a problem. His desire to maintain a large and strong army was not working out, and he blamed the situation on the young population’s penchant for romance and marriage. Enlisting in the army was patriotic and noble, and all that, but the love of a wonderful woman was better.
Claudius, being the Roman Emperor, had certain dictatorial advantages available to him. It also did not hurt that he honestly earned the nickname, The Cruel. So, CTC banned marriage and engagements throughout the land.
A certain Christian priest, Valentinius, who enjoyed performing marriages and arranging romantic relationships, thought the new decree unjust. He decided to speak against Claudius II. Claudius, for his part, did not take kindly to having his decrees questioned by a Christian cleric, and remanded Valentinius to a proper beating, then torture, and then the old standby, beheading.
It is likely not true that Valentinius wrote his jailers a mash note and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” But that makes for a good story. It is also recorded somewhere at some point that the last act of this tragedy took place around February 14. Or as the Romans referred to it, the Feast of Lupercalia, Februarius XIV.
And this occurred in that wonderful year of 270.
From this tale of love, or a fanciful legend, you can see how we made the logical leap to flowers, jewelry, dining out, greeting cards, and long, loving glances over candlelight. You can see that, can’t you?
What I do know for a fact, as a guy and a husband, is that I had better not allow Valentinius’ Feast Day to slide by without an acknowledgement of my love for my wonderful wife. In our house, such acknowledgements are usually punctuated by fine dinners and good drinks. It’s a tradition I easily live with.
I’m going to leave the dining suggestions up to my friends here at www.myneworleans.com, Robert Peyton and Jay Foreman, who specialize in such experiences and whose knowledge is far beyond my understanding and appreciation of special restaurant offerings.
As for beverages, yes, thank you, I’ll step up.
Sparkling wine and Champagne are always appropriate. Always. Trust me on this one. If you and your honey are regular sparkling wine lovers, then move up to Champagne and on this day make it rosé. The real deal is just that, very real. Unfortunately it’s no deal. Prepare to spend some money on the good stuff. Minimum $45 a bottle. You can go pricier, but likely not lower.
Sparkling wine can come from America, Spain (Cava), France (Crémant), Italy (Prosecco), or any wine producing region in any country. Just remember that there is an absolute relationship between price and quality. Valentine’s Day is not a time when you should appear cheap. The message in that action will not take you where you likely want to go.
I am also a pretty big fan on this, or any day, of a good pinot noir. Pinot noir is very romantic with its garnet color and soft fruit notes. Pairs with lots of cuisines and the final floral aromas and strawberry tastes will have you reaching for another glass.
In America, good pinot noir comes from Russian River in Sonoma County, California; Santa Barbara, California; Willamette Valley, Oregon; and the Carneros region at the southern end of both Sonoma and Napa Counties.
In France, the prime red grape of Burgundy is pinot noir and wines labeled Cotes de Nuit are the way to go. Again, be prepared to shell out a few bucks but the rewards will, hopefully, be worth the cost.
You white wine fans should revel in Sauvignon Blanc, notably those wines from Sonoma County, Oregon, South Africa, New Zealand, or Washington State. These wines will likely be the least expensive alternative I have noted so far.
If you want to make Valentine’s a day of new discoveries, head to Spain and try Albariño, or its sister vine in Portugal, Alvarinho. Maybe a Vermentino from Italy, or a Muscadet Sevre et Maine from the western edge of the Loire Valley in France. All wines, particularly the last one, are excellent with oysters. You’re welcome.
Then again, maybe you want to make an impression by showing your deft touch with cocktails. Here are a couple that should get the evening moving in the right direction. No guarantees but I think so.
As created and served at Whiskey Blue, W Hotel, Poydras Street
Muddle 1 strawberry
1 oz Bacardi rum
0.5 oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
0.75 oz lime juice
0.75 oz honey
Shake. Double Strain into Flute. Fill with sparkling wine. Garnish with one strawberry half.
1 oz (25ml) Hendrick’s Gin (Note: Hendrick’s should be infused with rose petals, adding another rose-centric layer to this cocktail)
4-6 fresh raspberries
1 oz (25ml) lychee juice
½ oz (15ml) organic raspberry and rose cordial
Shake it all then double strain into a flute. Top up with Champagne. Garnish with a raspberry.
Rosé et Reims
A winking reference to the largest city in the Champagne region of France. Let me also mention here that the pronunciation of Jouët, is joo-ET. Same with Moët, pronounced mw-ET. Both families who founded those Champagne houses were originally Dutch going back along the family tree. So don’t be tempted to Frenchify the northern European family name by softening the final “t.”
2 oz. Lillet Rosé
4 oz. Perrier Jouët Champagne
Brut Grapefruit bitters
Serve in a Champagne flute. First, add four dashes of grapefruit bitters to Champagne flute. Add Lillet Rosé, top with Champagne. Garnish with long orange twist.
Cozy at Home
Hey, it could happen.
30 ml Belvedere Vodka
30 ml peach puree
Top Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label
Combine Belvedere and peach puree in a tin and shake with ice. Fine strain into a chilled flute and top with Veuve Clicquot.
Could work out just fine.
30 ml Belvedere Pink Grapefruit
20 ml Aperol
Top Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine
Combine Belvedere and Aperol in a wine glass over ice and gentle stir. Top with Chandon. Garnish with a pink grapefruit twist.
50 ml Belvedere Unfiltered
1 large black olive
Pour Belvedere Unfiltered over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a large black olive.