Like travel, the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest-hit by this pandemic. Once one of the most coveted reservation dates of the year, February 14 was formerly filled with exchanges of sweets between classmates and family, happy hours with friends and coworkers and evenings, dressed to impress, with budding romances and longtime loves at the hottest local spots and white-tableclothed institutions. In our home city of New York, indoor dining is scheduled to reopen at 25 percent capacity on Friday, February 12, in anticipation of the holiday—but whether you’re hoping to secure a last-minute table, or you’re planning your own festivities at home, here are some of our favorite ways to show the love to restaurants this Valentine’s Day, in NYC and beyond.
1. Have an indulgent date night—delivered.
Many of our favorite restaurants have curated delicious Valentine’s Day tastings and meal kits, to-go or for delivery, that feature top dishes as well as wine pairings and festive themed cocktails. In New York, Il Buco’s limited-release Valentine Dinner requires advance reservation and includes a wintry charred little gem salad, lobster risotto and seared duck breast among its courses. Dante is a must-order for anyone who is missing a proper cocktail: in addition to their beautiful presentation of classics like the Martini, the Old Fashioned and the Negroni, they are serving two concoctions in honor of Aphrodite—the Rose and the Heart of Gold, which come wrapped with hand-illustrated coasters, playlists, recipes and other delights. For an evening that is sure to impress, the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park has created an eight-course at-home dinner for two, which must be ordered a minimum of 48 hours in advance—and with every purchase, the restaurant will donate 10 meals to New Yorkers suffering food insecurity.
2. Host a virtual Valentine’s or Galentine’s.
Restaurants are there for us in good times and in bad—and if you can’t see your loved ones in person this season, they have a solution for that, too: private virtual cooking classes, on 2/14 and beyond. With the object(s) of your affection, join Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria’s executive chef for a hands-on pizza-making class (with a wine pairing and biscotti), or make plans to master eggplant parmesan with Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony, dumplings with Mimi Cheng’s Hannah and Marian Cheng and three Harlem-grown recipes with The Rooster’s Marcus Samuelsson.
3. Get creative with your gifts.
This year, replace the chocolates, roses and trinkets with gifts that will make an impact. Instead of buying brand-name candies and truffles, celebrate your sweet-toothed beloved with a treat from a local bakery, like Flour Shop by Amirah Kassem’s impossibly moist and creamy, sprinkle-filled Conversation Heart Cakes. Rather than cards and candles and cashmere, consider donations to organizations like ROAR and the James Beard Foundation, or gift cards to your neighborhood eateries for future outings. Plus: many top New York City restaurants have established wine cellar and pantry subscriptions and digital mercantiles, selling goodies ranging from cocktail kits, tote bags, hats, homewares and cookbooks to organic produce, artisanal cheeses and homemade spices, sauces and sauerkrauts. After all, for some of us, nothing says, “I love you,” like a well-aged gouda or a jar of pickles.
Related: Food Matters: How You Can Help
4. If you dine out, dine out safely.
Outdoor dining is still available in New York, and we’d like to think that bundling up to enjoy Michelin-starred cuisine surrounded by a foot of snow (and pigeons, and bikers and pedestrians with curious dogs) has become a bit of a rite of passage in the city. For a romantic night out, outside, a few of our favorite spots that are currently open and fairly warm include Lafayette, Scarpetta, Don Angie, the NoMad Rooftop, BABS, Olmsted, Miss Ada and Sunday in Brooklyn (and email us with your tips at firstname.lastname@example.org!). If you are comfortable eating inside, we recommend returning to one of your pre-pandemic favorites, where (hopefully) you’ll be able to reconnect with familiar faces (and order without considering the time it will take for your entrée to grow cold). As always, be sure to follow all of the restaurant’s safety guidelines—and putting your mask on at your table when speaking with waiters is generally appreciated.
5. Book a last-minute staycation.
A staycation at one of our favorite properties (in New York, such as the Lowell, the Carlyle, the Mark, the Whitby, and the Crosby Street Hotel) offers a romantic weekend escape and the chance to support local dining in a more intimate setting. A visit to the hotel restaurant can feel like a grand adventure—and if you’re not quite ready, there’s always room service.
Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning a New York City or local staycation—for Valentine’s Day and the future. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on coronavirus travel safety, destinations that are open to travel, Covid-19 hotel policies, transportation options, private villas and charters and more.