Heavy Table’s 23 Paths to Valentine’s Day Victory

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Valentine’s Day is largely a mound of garbage covered in a thick layer of treacle and sold at a premium to the desperate or dutiful. That it occurs in the middle of the year’s shortest and worst month pours emotional lemon juice into the wound.

That said, if you’re feeling compelled to cast an offering upon the altar of Eros, you might as well give some love to the local food scene. What follows are our 23 paths to Valentine’s Day Victory — a collection of local foodstuffs, multi-course meals, events, and other Upper Midwestern gastronomic salutes to the concept of amorous bliss.

Good luck, godspeed, and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always Febgiving.

This guide was compiled by Maja Ingeman and James Norton with underwriting support from St. Croix Chocolate Company and 1919 Root Beer.

1: “Love & Chocolate” Pop-Up Shop by Chocolat Céleste
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon-Sat, Victoria Crossing, 867 Grand Avenue, St. Paul

Are chocolates a Valentine’s Day cliche? Without a doubt. Are they still inevitably welcome and popular? Ditto. Local chocolatier Mary Leonard of Chocolat Céleste has opened a pop-up shop at Grand and Victoria in St. Paul, slinging fancy chocolate gift boxes just in time for V-Day. The shop runs from now through the holiday.

Courtesy of Askov Finlayson
Courtesy of Askov Finlayson

2: Marvel Bar Old Fashioned-Scented Candle
$40; available online

Nothing says romance like a fire hazard. Like a candle, romance is alluring, enticing, potentially dangerous, and often messy. But a booze-scented fire hazard — could anything be more apt? This Marvel-Bar-inspired Old-Fashioned-scented candle conjures up sophisticated late-night trysts at a rural Wisconsin tavern, with just a hint of DUI (if that’s not redundant).

Crystal Liepa
Crystal Liepa

3: Mississippi Market Chocolate Tasting & Gift Fair
Feb. 7, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 1500 W 7th St, St. Paul

We score meta-points on this one: we put a gift guide in our gift guide so you can be guided to gifts while you’re being guided to gifts. The West 7th location of Mississippi Market is hosting its fifth annual Chocolate Tasting & Gift Fair this Saturday, Feb. 7. It includes B.T. McElrath, Belle Amour Macaroons, and Buddy’s Nut Butters as well as gifts from SunLeaf Naturals, Valentina’s Home Brewed Body Care, and more. And you can craft something Valentinesy in the classroom if your heart hasn’t already withered into a blackened, cynical chunk of carbon.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

4: Free Sweet Science Ice Cream Tasting at Five Watt Coffee
Feb. 13, 5-8 p.m., 3745 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis

Some would say that celebrating Valentine’s Day on Feb. 13 is the height of folly, tempting the fates to strike with furious triskadecaphobic vengeance at the bold souls who would thumb their noses at centuries of superstition. To that we would counter: But ice cream! Great local ice cream! And coffee! Great Wisconsin-roasted coffee! If that’s not a flavor romance worth courting the wrath of Yog-Sothoth for, what is?

5: WholeMe DateMe Bar
$2.99; Sold at Golden Fig, Seward Co-op, and other locations

Headed out for dinner? Invite your partner before work with a romantic note and a protein bar. This is one of the rare moments the cheesy name on this date-and-walnut-loaded paleo bar will do you good, and the taste reads more as a moist, indulgent treat (thanks to former Sweets Bakeshop and Bachelor Farmer pastry chef Krista Steinbach’s magic touch) than a dry energy bar.

6: Heart-Shaped Pancake Mold
$5.99; Kitchen Window

You can (almost) never go wrong with breakfast in bed … but why give your partner misshapen heart-like pancakes when you can do better? Asymmetrical Valentine’s pancakes are for amateurs. Now you can create perfect cordate symbols of your love, every time.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

7: Cupcakes
$3 each; Cocoa & Fig

A box of cupcakes adds a celebratory feel to any occasion, but add a touch of bubbly and you’ve got a romance-worthy treat. The effervescent, lightly fruity, pale pink icing and crunchy, iridescent “bubbles” finish off an effect that’s fitting yet slightly less cliched.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

8: Trout Caviar: Recipes from a Northern Forager
$27.95; Moon Palace Books, Magers & Quinn, Common Good Books, and other locations

There’s something romanticized and idyllic about the way Brett Laidlaw describes foraging at his cabin in Western Wisconsin that makes you want to head to the country, too. If you find yourself similarly inspired, hole up in a cabin somewhere with his cookbook in tow — many of the recipes are portioned for two and perfectly attuned to rustic cooking. In the dead of February, the grouse (or chicken) with cider cream would likely hit the spot.

1919rootbeer-vday-guide

9: Mr. Fuzz’s ‘Nero Red’ Nuclear Nectar Hot Sauce 
$6.49; Sold at Local D’Lish, Seward Co-op, and other locations

If you’re the type of couple that interpret Valentine’s Day as a saccharine-sweet non-event, add some heat and humor to your relationship with this double-duty hot sauce. Yes, it claims heat — plenty of habanero heat does come through in the slightly viscous, carroty liquid. But it’s accompanied by a ridiculous backstory on the packaging and a website highlighting the “heat and beats” of hot sauce producer Dr. Fuzz.

10: Saffron: Valentine’s Day Menu
$65 per person / $10 foie gras supplement
Feb. 14, 123 N 3rd St, Minneapolis

Saffron is presenting an array of classy-as-hell fancy food for Valentine’s Day, including a so-called optional foie gras supplement that clearly is mandatory for anyone who eats meat and likes delicious things. The menu includes smoked steelhead; coal-roasted heirloom carrots; duck breast with parsnips, dates, apples and orange; optional foie gras and figs; roasted lamb; white chocolate panna cotta; and wine pairings.

Courtesy of St. Croix Chocolate Company
Courtesy of St. Croix Chocolate Company

St. Croix Chocolate Company “Wild at Heart” Chocolates [Sponsored]

Minneapolis artist Cindy Lindgren and St. Croix Chocolate Company collaborated to create a limited edition “Wild at Heart” box of chocolates. The box includes two of Lindgren’s original illustrations on Madagascar vanilla truffles, and two bright raspberry-orange heart truffles. Sales from the boxes, available at www.stcroixchocolateco.com, benefit the Wildlife Science Center near Forest Lake.


11: Stanley’s Sugarbush Maple Candy
$3.95; Golden Fig

It’s wholesome, it’s sweet, it’s literally sappy — you can’t really go wrong with this simple Valentine’s-ready hard candy. While it’s a little awkwardly sized (without a lollipop stick, your fingers are bound to get a little sticky), we’d gladly consume this treat any time of year.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

12: Jar of Champagne Candies
$11.95 / jar; Sugar Sugar Candy

Sugar Sugar is the place to go if you’re looking for beautiful presentation of old-school treats. We were particularly struck by this jar of champagne-flavored gummies rolled in crunchy nonpareils, but whether you prefer Jordan almonds or sea salt caramels, options abound. Too sweet for you? Maybe real champagne’s a better bet.

Courtesy of Pinstripes
Courtesy of Pinstripes

13: Heart-Shaped Pizzas at Pinstripes
Feb. 13-15, Lunch and Dinner at Pinstripes, 3849 Gallagher Drive, Edina

If a piece of dough shaped like a human heart and covered in a viscous layer of melted, coagulated cow’s milk doesn’t put you in the mood for love, you’re hopeless. Just give it up. Heart-shaped pizzas cost $12-$13 and come with a complimentary champagne toast and a slice of flourless chocolate cake. Unless you’re under 21. Then you just get the cake. Welcome to America, kid. The good news is that you can fire high-powered rifles and handguns just about anywhere.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

14: Heart Rosette Iron
$6.99; Kitchen Window

If you’ve made rosettes once or twice — just enough to know what you’re doing, but not enough to be really good — this should truly impress your partner. Maintaining the right oil temperature to ensure a crisp (not soggy!) finished product can be tricky for the uninitiated — especially since you have to fry one to two at a time. Not only will the rosettes (hopefully) taste good and look pretty, you really have to work for this one.

Courtesy of Mill City Farmers Market
Courtesy of Mill City Farmers Market

15: Mill City Farmers Market
Feb. 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Mill City Museum, 704 S 2nd St, Minneapolis

There’s nothing specifically romantic about cruising around an indoor farmers market on Valentine’s Day, which may be what makes it one of the most romantic items on our list. It’s totally unforced, relaxing, and a swell way to connect with local purveyors including Gorkha Palace (fresh, ready-to-eat momos), Heathglen Farm and Kitchen (award winning preserves and beverage syrups), Kiss My Cabbage (krauts and kimchi), and many more.

16: Belle Amour Macaroons
$4.50 for four; Sold at BP on Lyndale Ave & 36th St, Surdyks, and other locations

If you’ve proactively planned to forget Valentine’s Day, and then try to save face with a last-minute treat, swing by the BP on Lyndale and 36th. Your premeditated failure will get you cheap gas AND a bargain on lavender or chocolate-flavored macaroons, and you’ll almost — almost — look like you made an effort.

Courtesy of Mademoiselle Miel
Courtesy of Mademoiselle Miel

17: Mademoiselle Miel Spring 2015 Morocco Collection
342 Kellogg Blvd W, Open Fridays 3-9 p.m. Sold at Golden Fig, Seward Co-op, and other locations

The press release on these artisanal honey bon bons ran about 400 words, but we had to condense it a bit for this guide: It’s a box of locally made, honey-kissed chocolates including apricot-cardamom, lemon-pistachio, cherry-almond, and pure rose. We tried ’em. They’re good. They will amuse your loved one for a reasonable price. Up to you if you think you can sell them as the whole gift experience or you need deploy them as sort of tactical opening maneuver.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

18: Vincent A Restaurant Open Sunday, Feb. 15
Reservations at 612.630.1189, 1100 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

If you’re looking to have an intimate French dining experience near — but not necessarily on — Valentine’s Day, Vincent has you covered. The restaurant is doing a rare Sunday service to accommodate the throngs of love-struck gourmands seeking escargots, cassoulet, or one of the best burgers for many zip codes in any direction.

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table
Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

19: Tasting Menu for Lovers at Libertine
$100 per couple (not including tax and gratuity)
Feb. 13-15, 3001 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

Scallop a la Plancha! Goat Milk Panna Cotta! Rabbit Terrine! Parmesan Ravioli! Black Cod! Something called an Onglet! Valrhona Custard Cake! A bottle of prosecco! This seven-courser will be available from Friday through Sunday nights on Valentine’s Day weekend and looks to be one of the beefier fine dining deals ranging around the area.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

20: Valentine’s Day at Wise Acre Eatery
$150 per couple; $25 more per person for optional wine pairing
Feb. 14, at Wise Acre Eatery, 5401 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis

This six-course, farm-to-table Valentine’s Day feast sounds like serious business. We don’t have a lot of details beyond that.

21: Box of Truffles
Individually priced, $2.50-$2.95 each; Golden Fig

We’re huge advocates of cutting the gross, nougat-y land mines out of otherwise decent chocolate boxes. Head to Golden Fig, and you get a completely local choose-your-own adventure, spanning BT McElrath, Mademoiselle Miel, Indulgence Chocolates, and more. We sought a warm-weather-evocative tropical assortment, including the coconut-kaffir lime, passionfruit-ginger-caramel, and ginger-chai-honey options each enrobed in dark chocolate. The plus side: you can navigate away from the universally weird chocolate-box standards (waxy milk chocolate + too-sweet jam? Ick.) The minus? If your partner doesn’t like your choices, the blame’s on you.

22: Barsy’s Spiced Almonds: Sweeties (chai spiced) and Hotties (hot & tangy)
$3.99 / 4 oz, $7.49 / 8 oz; St. Paul Cheese Shop, The Wedge Co-op, and other locations

Whether you think your partner’s a sweetie or a hottie, you’re in luck — you can tell him or her with a bag of aptly named spiced nuts! (Note: they make Naughties, too — we didn’t want to go there.) If you’re afraid of sparking some kind of broader discussion on objectification or gender roles, stick to a more innocuously named flavor (we’re particular fans of the Smokies, a salted, hickory-smoked version). Regardless of names, though, these nuts hold up — pair them with beers or munch them plain.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

23: Valentine’s Day at Terzo Vino
$60 fixed price menu with optional $40 wine pairing — reservations at 612.925.0330

We think Terzo Vino is tops; it seems likely that if anyone can slay the V-Day prix fixe (pardon us: prezzo fisso), it’ll be the Broders, who are bringing a five-course gantlet of flavors including ricotta gnudi, braised lamb neck, and vanilla bean semifreddo.

By James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.