Rob Gentile, Stephanie Audet, Rick Mace and Emma Cardarelli are all lovers of fine dining, but what are these acclaimed chefs craving on the most romantic day of the year?
From simple spaghetti with meatballs and a bottle of red made to a multi-course aphrodisiac tasting menu, here are their suggestions for the ultimate Valentine's Day recipes and meal.
Rob Gentile – Refined Romance
The chef of Toronto’s Buca empire is all about ingredient-focused Italian fare. At his latest hotspot, Buca Yorkville, octopus soppressata with preserved lemon, shrimp mortadella with pistachio and saffron-brined, hot-smoked scallops come before exquisitely unadulterated spaghetti pomodoro (the tomatoes are from the Calabrian coast) and innovative pizza bianca with local, house-made pickerel bottarga, sweet red onions from Tropea, sea asparagus and spring artichoke.
But for romance, he sticks with the classics:
“Valentines Day is all about making your partner feel special. A luxurious, decadent, and romantic meal is a must. Champagne always, and any combination of lobster, caviar, truffles, foie gras, and of course, chocolate – in no particular order.”
Stephanie Audet - Plant Based, Healthy and Aphrodisiac
Vegan chef Stephanie Audet spends as much time preparing raw feasts for yoga retreats in Costa Rica and Brazil as she does fending off the Montreal winter with comforting vegan potages. Her Valentine's Day menu is a mix of exotic fruit, spices and organic, mood-lifting ingredients.
The menu she’d cook for the special occasion features off-the-beaten-path herbal Damiana Licor from Baja, California followed by more standard love-inducers: vanilla, figs, honey and raw chocolate.
“I basically gave myself the challenge of putting the top 10 super aphrodisiac plant foods in one menu.” The green appetizer is full of vitamin E to help your body churn out love-inspiring hormones that rush through your bloodstream.”
Voted one of Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2012 and still beloved by Montrealers, Nora Gray is a temple of exquisite Northern Italian fare. Al dente chestnut ravioli with braised rabbit, stuffed rabbit loin with parsnip and carrot jus and veal piccata with roasted squash and sage grace the seasonal menu – a hymn to local ingredients cooked and plated with an elegant touch.
Cardarelli doesn’t specify whether she’d be cooking or being cooked for, but her menu choice sticks to Italian tradition – with a tip of the hat to an old favourite.
“I recommend spaghetti and meatballs 'Lady and the Tramp'-style with and a nice bottle of Dolcetto d'Alba wine.”
Rick Mace – A Touch of Spice
At the Café Boulud in Palm Beach, located in the newly renovated Brazilian Court Hotel, Ohio native Rick Mace incorporates local seafood into the refined French and Italian dishes he mastered while helping develop db Brasserie’s menu in Las Vegas. He serves up the famous CBPB burger at lunch but the foie gras with gingerbread and cranberry, the hand-cut tagliatelle with chanterelles and slow-cooked egg, and the house charcuterie platter (he ran the charcuterie program at the Wynn) aren’t to be missed.
"I like good, simple food with sensuous textures and flavors for Valentine's Day. For me, hand-rolled pasta has beautiful simplicity. Start with a fresh pasta dough made with good eggs and olive oil. When that texture is paired with caviar you have something extraordinary that is exceedingly luxurious but simple. Roll the pasta quite thin, to the point where it’s challenging to handle. This will give you a finished texture that’s delicate and light. Cut the pasta on a chitarra or pasta cutter into thin noodles like capellini or linguini fini. Enjoy this dish quickly, while it is very hot. The richness of the creme fraiche gives way to the brininess of the caviar and is followed by the bracing heat of the espelette. The Meyer lemon brings a punctuation and the needed brightness.”
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