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Eating Out For Valentine's Day? More's The Pity

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Feb 12, 2013 8:40PM

Restaurants’ clamor to the contrary, the payout for eating out on Valentine’s Day usually defies (s)expectations. Not only does sautéing the aphrodisiacs yourself almost always ensure greater potency, but dining in your own pied-à-terre typically proves more cost-effective. Less strain on the wallet, it must be said, usually translates to greater ease in other departments. And if it’s spaghetti we’re having, we’re personally not beyond coercing our beloved to nose a meatball forward Lady and the Tramp style and finishing off the rest of our plate sans cutlery in all our pseudo-canine glory. You just don’t have that kind of freedom where a white tablecloth is concerned.

Even Lady and Tramp had to eat outside in an alleyway, as we recall. They couldn’t get away with that cute wet nosy business in the main dining room under the watchful eye of a wandering violinist. Plus, waiters have a tendency to disrupt the flow of amorous conversation. And as with New Year’s Eve, far too many restaurants enforce a prohibitively pricey tasting menu on lovers looking to do more than wet their appetites, offering you less choice for more buck.

Only there is something about being served, isn’t there? Letting the ambiance do the wooing, if you will. But much as we relish some fine formal dining, we can’t help thinking that real romance rests on something more spontaneous than a four-course prix fixe menu. Great love stories get their hands (and possibly other things) dirty. The steamiest couplings, at least in our view, pivot on broken mufflers and loose drive shafts, not valet parking.

Of course, if Valentine’s is one of your only opportunities to savor a staid and luxuriant repast outside your own kitchen, then we fully concede its charms. We also dare to remind you of its price tag—and the fact that, for some couples at least, such tightly choreographed pleasures can work their wonders in reverse. By meal’s end, that shimmery scarlet dress could well bespeak red-hot rage, not passion, as in “The hell with this tarte flambée. I need a burrito.”

So all the heart-shaped hullabaloo over a dinner that your server will rush along anyway to clear the table for the next set of turtle doves often isn’t worth the investment, especially when you can have your oysters and truffles at home. And when you pour the vino within your own four walls, it tends to flow more freely. Cupid’s erotically charged arrows, we can’t help feeling, are quite sufficient unto themselves without bringing OpenTable into it.