Is cramming into a packed restaurant with 200 strangers and their paramours on Valentine's Day not sounding quite like the romantic evening you had in mind? Then turn your home into an intimate eatery (tips provided) and concoct a gourmet candlelit meal for two (recipes provided).



Set the Scene: Begin by moving the dinner table somewhere evocative: in front of a fireplace, outside by the pool, by a window with a view. Then, for a centerpiece, bring out all those red vases from the holidays and cluster them atop a white tablecloth or on a piece of sheer fabric. Fill them with a mix of flowers (think anything other than roses here - calla lilies, hydrangeas, peonies, something unique). Also, add candles - lots of candles. The occasion calls for the finest china and flatware available. Don't have it? Borrow it from a friend or splurge on two place settings, which will serve as an eternal reminder of the evening. Now sprinkle rose petals (we'll allow them here) and open the door for the violinist you've hired to serenade you.

The Menu
The perfect Valentine's Day dinner is one that's chock-full of aphrodisiac ingredients. Recipes made with lavender, peppercorns, oysters, crab, rosemary, ginger, chocolate, rose, and berries rev up the romantic rendezvous. We've supplied a couple of recipes to get you started.

The Toast
Pour some sexy bubbly, but make it pink. Try Dom Pérignon's 1996 Rosé Champagne or Chandon's perfectly pink sparkling Rosé.



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MAIN COURSE

Sweet & Spicy Duck
- from Walkerswood Caribbean Kitchen by Virginia Burke

2 duck breasts
½ teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon grated fresh root ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons marmalade

Assembly
Wash and dry the duck breasts. Mix together allspice, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Score the duck breasts, place in a baking dish, and marinate in the mixture for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Dump the remaining marinade; melt the butter and marmalade and pour over the duck. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300°F and cook for another 20 minutes. Serve on a bed of egg noodles or steamed rice.

Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus one hour for marinating and 40 minutes for cooking

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DESSERT

Chocolate Lovers' Lavender Fondue
with Champagne-Marinated Strawberries and Crème Brûlée Ice Cream
— from Dune, at the One&Only Ocean Club Bahamas

Marinated Strawberries
2 pints of fresh strawberries (stems removed, cut in quarters)
1 cup sparkling water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Champagne
Bring sugar and water to a boil; then add Champagne. Pour mixture over washed strawberries. Leave to cool at room temperature. Strain off juice carefully and chill juice.

Lavender Fondue
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups bittersweet chocolate (52 percent or more)

Bring cream to a boil with lavender; pour over chocolate and mix until a smooth, silky texture. Pass mixture through fine strainer; set aside.

Assembly
Take a giant martini glass and place strawberries in base; pour fondue over berries. Top with one giant scoop of crème brûlée ice cream (we like Häagen-Dazs) and sprinkle with dried lavender. Serve with chilled Champagne strawberry juice.