By Cal Virgilio
The first meal I ever cooked for a female was on Valentine’s Day. I must have made a good impression because five years later that female, thankfully, became my wife.
In February of 2008, I had just started dating Lisa. I wanted Valentine’s Day dinner to be great. I didn’t have a car when I was in college at Richmond, so two weeks before the big day I took the bus downtown and walked the streets looking for the best restaurant to take her to dinner. I must have walked five miles that day looking for restaurants. I saw a few good places, but all were booked for Valentine’s Day.
On to plan B: cook dinner for Lisa. My sophomore year, I lived in a dorm on with nothing but a refrigerator. The atmosphere was not exactly a romantic setting. Fortunately, my friends allowed me to use their apartment for my special meal. Let the planning commence!
I wanted to WOW Lisa with this dinner, but I knew my friends who had the apartment didn’t cook and wouldn’t have much kitchen equipment. I was going to have to keep the meal simple, but elegant.
When it comes to simple and delicious food, there is nothing better than steak, especially Filet Mignon. It’s a beautiful cut of meat that I think is best cooked by searing on the stove top and finishing in a high-heated oven. I knew of a great butcher shop in Richmond, Belmont Butchery, that would cut steak to my liking and had incredible grass-fed beef. The perfect Valentine’s Day dinner was coming together!
I called my mother, Suzanne, to get her thoughts on making the meal special. She had the great idea of shipping me her silverware, candles, placemats and pewter plates to use for the dinner.
Everything was set for the big night. When Lisa arrived, I began searing the steaks. After searing, I put the pan into the oven at 450 degrees. Now remember, this was the first meal I had ever cooked for a girl. It was also one of the first meals I had ever cooked for anyone! A mistake was bound to happen, and sure enough it did.
When I went to grab the pan from the oven, I forgot to wear an oven mitt. After two seconds of holding the pan handle, the burning sensation set in. Lisa was sitting at the table in the other room when she heard me scream and let go of the pan.
Luckily, I was able to play it cool through the rest of the evening. Sure, the burn hurt like hell and left a nice blister on the palm of my hand for the next week. But the steak turned out great and Lisa loved the evening. I’d say that was a mission accomplished!
We’ve been together ever since that night, and while we’ve celebrated many Valentine’s Day dinners at restaurants, that first evening and home-cooked meal stands out above the rest.
So if you’ve waited too long to make a reservation for Valentine’s Day, I recommend cooking Filet Mignon along with an easy appetizer and a few simple sides. Cooking at home will also allow you to splurge on a nice bottle of wine, something like a Napa Cabernet or rich Bordeaux. The meal will be delicious and more memorable than any table for two at a restaurant.
Just remember to wear an oven mitt when pulling the pan from the oven.