Valentine's Dinner Final Touches
If you think preparing a romantic meal is tough for some guys, how about setting a romantic table? Maybe you settled on a simple cheese plate, the fish with a salad and some chocolate fondue. Maybe you've decided to go all out with cheese, soup, salad, fish, meat and dessert.
No matter what special meal you have decided to create for your Valentine, know that you will be appreciated as much, if not more, for your efforts than for the food itself. Taking the time and going that extra mile to cook for someone special speaks volumes. This is especially true when it comes to setting the atmosphere.
With your menu squared away, there are still some issues to address. The finest meal in the world loses a bit of luster if you're eating at a bare card table with plastic knives and forks. (Not that there's anything wrong with eating at a bare card table, but for this meal, let's throw a tablecloth over it.)
Now is the time to round out the mood: pick the right music, set a lovely table, maybe even pick a romantic movie to watch together after dinner. Your attention to detail with the finishing touches will serve to complement and complete the romantic Valentine's Day dinner you have planned.
If you have a song that you consider "your song," Valentine's Day is a great day to play it. With music, there is a fine line to walk here. You want the music to be romantic and to set an intimate mood, but you don't want to cross the line into overt cornball cheesiness or something that will distract from the food and moment.
Play the kind of music you enjoy listening to together. I don't recommend listening to commercial radio. Nothing says mood killer like hearing a loud commercial for an antacid during the soup course! Stick with CD's or the music channels you can get with digital television. You could also download a nice mix of music to your personal MP3 player.
Here are a few of my favorite all time romantic albums that I think you might enjoy:
- Chet Baker - The Best of Chet Baker Sings
- Marvin Gaye - Let's Get It On
- Frank Sinatra - Greatest Love Songs
- Sade - Lovers Rock
If you check out my post: A Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner you'll find several more and can vote on your favorite in my poll.
Guys, let's be honest here. We might be able to grill a great steak or even toss together a mean salad. We can install a dimmer switch for the chandelier and maybe even change the oil in the car ourselves. But, give us forks and knives and expect us to know where they go? That may be asking a little much for some of us.
It has been my experience that women tend to think we are incapable of setting a table, and not without reason. So, on this Valentine's Day, I share with you how to set a basic table. I used to work as a set dresser in the film industry and worked on a lot of movies and commercials where I had to know how to set a table, both formal and informal. I want you to look good, and your Valentine will appreciate the fact that, at least for this meal, you knew where to place the salad fork!
Before you can set the table, you will want to use a tablecloth. A simple white one is the most elegant way to go, here. For Valentine's Day especially, you will want to be able to look at each other and sit close during dinner. Don't set the places at opposite ends of a long table. If you have a small square or rectangular table, set the plates on adjoining sides. If you have a small oval or round table, set the places next to each other. Leave about 18" between the seats, though. You will need room to serve and to set the table, and it will be easier to talk to your Valentine if you leave a bit of space between the seats.
If you are going to put candles or flowers on the table, do not use scented candles or buy flowers that have any scent. The perfume can interfere with your enjoyment of the meal. The candles and the flowers should enhance the meal, not compete with it. There is no need to go crazy with the centerpiece. Two red tapers in simple candle holders and an unscented orchid are more than enough. Many grocery stores and even drug stores sell Valentine's bouquets and centerpieces. Pick up one of those. If the flowers are scented, though, don't put them on the dining table. Just place them somewhere in the room.
Guys, if you don't own cloth napkins, now is the time to get some. Red or white would be appropriate. Cloth napkins are easily found in any store that sells home goods. Make sure that you wash the napkins before using them. If you do not want to invest in cloth napkins because you know you will never use them again, buy some of those nice, thick paper napkins available at the grocery store. I found a video that will show you how to fold them in a very cool way that will be sure to impress your Valentine.
Setting the Table
The main rule to remember when you set a table for multiple courses is that we eat from the outside, in. This means that the silverware that you will use for the first course will be farther away from the plate. The silverware that you use for the last course will be closest to the plate.
If you intend to serve all the courses I've covered, you will need silverware for the soup, salad, fish, meat and dessert courses. That's a lot of silverware! (Serve the cheese course away from the table and before the main meal. For example, it's fine to place your cheese platter on the coffee table). If you have enough silverware, go ahead and go all out. If you don't own enough, don't panic, and don't run out to buy extra forks and knives. Use what you have, and arrange them in a way that makes sense for the meal you are serving. Your Valentine will not be upset by having to use the same fork for her fish course and her meat course.
I've looked through some etiquette books and read a lot on the Internet about place settings. There are many, many ways to set the table. I'm going to give you a fairly straightforward way to set the table. I know you have enough to worry about with all the courses you are serving.
The rule seems to be that you place the utensils for the first courses farthest from the plate and the utensils for the later courses closer to the plate. You should place the utensils so you use them from the outside of the setting to the inside of the setting. So, from left to right, you will need a salad fork, followed by two dinner forks. These will be for the salad, the fish and the meat course. Then, put the plate on the table. To the right of the plate, put a dinner fork with the blade turned toward the plate, another knife, and a soup spoon. These will be for the salad, the fish/meat course and the soup course.
If you are serving bread and want to put it on a separate plate, place it above the forks to the left of the plate. Place the water and or wine glasses to the right of the plate above the knives and spoon. The water glass should be closest to the plate with the wine glass next to it. Last, fold the napkin and place it either in the water glass or on the plate. As far as dessert goes, bring any necessary utensils to the table with the course. You don't need to pre-set for dessert.
And that is really all there is to it. For those of you visual learners out there, I've put together a small library of links to helpful videos:
How to Fold a Napkin Into a Heart
Learn how to fold a paper napkin into a "love knot."
How to Fold a Bird of Paradise Napkin
How to Set a Neat Table
Here's another good video on setting a formal table