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Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a fancy dinner might have to take place in your kitchen this year: a study by the National Restaurant Association found that 17% of restaurants are permanently closed due to Covid-19, and concerns about the Omicron variant have been driving a wave of reservation cancellations since New Year’s Eve.
But planning a gourmet dinner at home is easier than you’d think. Even if you never become a master bread-maker or conquered kombucha in the past two pandemic years, you can still learn how to make restaurant-quality dishes at home that will impress.
While the CDC says that the safest way to enjoy and support restaurants and bars is to “pick up curbside meals” or “get food delivered” — but you don’t have to just settle for takeout. As the latest variant has seen many people staying indoors for safety, a number of companies have pivoted to products that can be easily ordered and redeemed online. Tools like online cooking classes and meal delivery kits can help you create a meal — and a night in — that’ll be truly memorable. These days, you can get favorite books and booze delivered to your door too.
What Are the Best Ways to Cook at Home?
Stumped for how to have the best dinner at home? We’ve rounded up ideas here for culinary essentials that will add some spice to your Valentine’s Day — or any day for that matter. Order these items online and get them delivered in time for the weekend, to help you celebrate a special occasion, or just to help you pass the time with your significant other.
1. Try An Upscale Main Course
What’s more classy than a lobster dinner? Being confident enough to crack one open yourself with The Chef & The Dish’s Everything Lobster online course. There’s no need for amateur chefs to be intimidated by this premium protein. This course will lead you through a 2-1/2 hour class where you’ll learn all the basics for breaking down a live one, then incorporate it into delectable dishes like Lobster Pie and Lobster Bisque.
2. Prep a Meal Together
If you want to skip the energy of picking the perfect recipe or grocery shopping, and get straight to the fun part, meal delivery kits come in handy. Hello Fresh has plans that serve two or more people, and there are even gourmet meal selections like Pan-Seared Scallops and Lemon Butter Sauce that you can custom add to your kit for upscale dinner options.
3. Take the Prep-work Out of Having Fun
No recipe needs to take a hundred steps and a sink full of dirty dishes at the end of the night to be good. Sur la Table has online cooking classes, including Date Night Picks for a fun-filled, hands-on experience you can do together. We like their Italian Steakhouse class, which takes a twist on the usual meat and potatoes date night staple. Each class is also fully-interactive and includes a prep guide, so you can take any guesswork out of the process.
4. Learn To Cook For Two
If you’ve done mental math trying to modify a recipe for just two people, The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook makes it look easy. Coming out from America’s Test Kitchen, they’ve scaled down 650 of their most popular recipes, so you can be sure that everything from lasagna to skillet dinners for two comes out perfect.
5. Become A Master Mixologist
Compelled to take your drink-making skills to the next level beyond “Rum and Coke?” Let James Beard honoree Lynnette Marrero and owner of award-winning bar Dandelyan, Ryan Chetiyawardana, teach you the essentials of cocktail making in their MasterClass Mixology course. With four hours of video content, you’ll learn how to create boldly crafted drinks enviable of any night on the town.
6. Choose a Health-Conscious Option
Dining out can be difficult with dietary restrictions, but there are meal kits that make it easy for home chefs to have customizable gourmet-quality meals. Snap Kitchen has plans that give you that between 6 to 12 meals for a week ($10.50 to $12.67 per serving) that are made-to-order by expert chefs and arrive fully-cooked. Choose from a variety of dietitian-curated plans with meals like low carb Chicken Piccata, keto Chimichurri Beef, and more healthy options that fit your needs.
7. Get Wine Delivered Straight To Your Door
Speaking of drinks, what if you just want to pop open a bottle and pour a glass without thinking? Winc is a wine subscription service that can bring high-quality, affordable bubbly straight to your home. You can fill out a preference quiz, or make selections for yourself based on various expert-rated options, and they’ll send you four bottles per month. Can’t get enough of a particular vino? You can reorder your favorite bottles any time.
8. Make Your Takeout Favorites
From Thai curries to Japanese noodle dishes, Udemy features a variety of courses that will make you put away your delivery apps and pull out your pots and pans. One of their highest-rated courses lets you tackle the authentic flavors of the Italian Riveria with a full five-course menu from scratch, including dishes like Basil Pesto and Genoese Ravioli.
9. Build Your Own Charcuterie Plate
Any Instagram-worthy cheese board deserves some good quality cured meats to go along with it. If you want to build one yourself, The Carnivore Club is a subscription box that features 4-6 different small-batch artisanal meats delivered each month. The Classic Box gives you an array of salamis, prosciuttos and more that are perfect for plating, but they do also offer a bouquet of salami sticks if you’re feeling especially romantic.
10. Craft Your Own Signature Cocktail
Don’t drag yourself to the liquor store to grab some last minute mixers you forgot you needed for evening drinks—get them delivered instead. With one of the biggest selections of on-demand alcohol in the country, Drizly can deliver beer, wine, liquor and mixers, along with a selection of specialty beverages (such as limited edition IPAs). You can schedule a delivery up to two weeks in advance if you want that bottle of bubbly to show up on your doorstep at the perfect moment. Stock up on bar cart essentials so you’re ready to shake and stir on date night, and if you need recipe ideas, these cocktail books can be your guide.
11. Go Plant-Based For a Night
For vegan meals that will satisfy health-conscious chefs and discerning foodies alike, Plant-Based Gourmet: Vegan Cuisine will give you some new ideas to switch up your dinner menu. The colorful guide gives you 150 recipes brimming with creative vegan plays on high-end dishes like roasts, sushis, and even charcuterie.
12. Recreate Fine Dining Recipes at Home
Your Valentine’s Day dinner can be worthy of a five-star meal with the right guidance. In this course the Hell’s Kitchen master chef himself, Gordon Ramsay, will show you that dishes like Crispy Duck and Rack of Lamb are just as accessible to make at home as anything else. Ramsay’s 13 restaurant-style dishes have been adapted with everyday ingredients in mind for home cooks everywhere.
13. Splurge on Good-Quality Ingredients
If you’re going to be recreating a fine dining experience, why would you waste your coin on budget ingredients? This is the perfect time to splurge, to indulge a little, so set aside your coupons and go for the good stuff for one night. Or at least, focus on the few key portions of your meal that you want to upgrade, like meats, cheeses, and wine. For the meats, we recommend you go with Holy Grail Steak company. They’re your one-stop butcher shop for getting exclusive cuts and varieties delivered straight to your door, like real Kobe and Hokkaido Wagyu beef. If you don’t want to go too overboard, their own Santa Carota carrot-fed beef has excellent marbling and flavor at a reasonable price.
13. Don’t Forget Dessert!
Number one rule of dinner: always save room for dessert. Give your sweet tooth what it’s craving with Goldbelly’s plethora of dessert subscription offerings. Our personal recommendation is the Ice Cream Monthly Subscription, with features all the chocolate-y, gooey, fruity flavors of the finest creameries. They’re also pros about nationwide shipping available, so don’t worry about your pint melting before it gets to your door.