A quick online search yields tons of New Jersey restaurants offering special Valentine’s Day menus, prix fixes, buffets and more. That’s not a surprise: considering the obligatory emphasis on drinks, marquee proteins like steak and lobster (not to mention aphrodisiac oysters), multiple courses and the like, Valentine’s Day is among the most profitable in a restaurant’s calendar year.
While we fully encourage you look for something special near you, we also wanted to showcase the variety of ways (even days) you might celebrate this year. There’s everything from a group-hang food fest to couples cooking in Atlantic City to a port and chocolate pairing that doesn’t even happen on the 14th (for veteran couples, a welcome change). Take a look at what Jersey has to offer and get some inspiration for your own Valentine’s Day.
Foodie Love Fest in Jersey City
No couple ever spends Valentine’s Day at restaurants “alone” (there’s always that tipsy/angry/far-too-physical couple at the table right next to yours). Why not lean into it this year and celebrate love among fellow foodies at Midnight Market’s inaugural 2020 celebration? As ever, Midnight Market is a gathering of great food vendors, all of them offering up tapas-style bites that top out at $7. Among vendors scheduled for V-Day: Lucky Dumpling Burger, Angry Archie’s, Amazona Cocoa, Nukkad Indian Soul Food, and El Lechon de Negron, who we recently interviewed about the Christmastime glory of Pernil. There will be music from local area DJs and alcohol (to buy) from sponsors like Babe Wine, Bulleit and Ketel One. Bonus points for the single crowd: there’s a dedicated “Cupid’s Corner” area, with promise of special drinks, ice breaker games, and maybe a successful flirting session or two. If you’re not sure what to expect, here’s a good video of what Midnight Market looks like. Tickets are $10, unless you go for the aforementioned “Singles” option or opt for a ticket-plus-T-shirt, which is $25. Midnight Market, Harborside Atrium, 210 Hudson Street, Jersey City; 551-227-7022
Belly Love in South Orange
It’s a $65 four-course prix fixe at the Fox & Falcon in South Orange (add $35 for wine pairings). Think snug, low-key, masculine digs with added warmth and a V-Day menu with dishes like Steamed Mussels with Apple, Fennel, and Rosemary; Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Brown Butter Chili Sauce; and Pork Shank Ossobucco with Sweet Potato Mash and Fried Capers. Get your obligatory cacao fix with the Flourless Chocolate Cake, but the Petit Fours plate has us intrigued with options like Yuzu Curd Cream Puffs and Passion Fruit Pate de Fruits (the most beautiful French fruit gel candy you’ll ever see). No word on exact wine pairings, but based on the menu you can assume some care goes into the selection. You can reserve online here. The Fox & Falcon, 19 Valley Street, South Orange; 973-419-6773
Post V-Day Port and Chocolate in Cape May
There is no rule that obliges you to shuffle through Valentine’s Day crowds to celebrate the one you love, and since Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year, you can easily take advantage of the weekend feel and do your outing on Saturday. And lucky for you, Cape May Winery is serving up the perfect kind of low-stress, high-luxury experience with this port and chocolate tasting on February 15. There are three tasting times, so you can make it a midday outing or use it to start your Saturday (who said a 3:30pm port flight doesn’t count as an aperitif?). You’ll go through four vintages of Cape May Winery Port, including their Governor’s Cup Award Winning 2011 Vintage Port, alongside four dark chocolates. If you’re unfamiliar with port, this is a very sweet way to get to know it—dark chocolate acts as a sort of guide through port’s richer and darker fruit flavors, with the chocolate’s bitterness acting as a foil to port’s varying degrees of residual sugar. A deal at only $25 per person, plus Cape May Winery’s charming, rustic vibes, make it a good holiday alternative. Cape May Winery, 711 Town Bank Road, Cape May; 609-884-1169.
Bucolic Vibes (Plus “Valentine’s Bacon”) at the Ryland Inn
If you’ve been planning a trip to the Ryland Inn, Valentine’s Day isn’t a bad option: the five-course prix fixe tasting menu is a reasonable $79, the surroundings are romantic and green, and if you can’t make Friday night itself, it’s not a problem—they’ll be offering both their regular a la carte menu and the special Valentine’s Day menu from February 13–16. Of course, the main reason to hit up the Ryland for your Valentine’s Day isn’t a happy marriage of logistics and affordability. It’s the food, and chef Christopher Albrecht’s menu succeeds at elevating the elemental, primal appetites of a romantic meal without veering into glamor or heavy-handedness, e.g. Grilled Focaccia with Local Ricotta, Sweet Sopressatta and Hot Honey; Butter-poached Lobster with bitter Belgian Endive and creamy Uni; Chanterelle and Truffle-steamed Flounder; and Spiced Venison Loin with Wild Rice, Pomegranate, and Bleu Cheese. Actually, the Ryland might win for “Best Valentine’s Day Dish” this year with their “Valentine’s Bacon” with Cayenne Cocoa and Strawberry-Rose Jam. Make your reservations by phone, quickly, and don’t be afraid to make it a Sunday thing, either. Less traffic, more focus on your butter-poached lobster. The Ryland Inn, 115 Old Highway 28, Whitehouse Station, 908-534-4011
“Lovers’ Gnocchi” Cooking Class in AC
For some of us, cooking in the kitchen with our significant other is a surefire recipe for bickering disaster. And maybe those are the ones who need this cooking class the most—a romantic, Valentine’s Day Couples Cooking Class at the Claridge in Atlantic City. It’s the second annual class offered by the Claridge, with husband-and-wife cooking team with a buffet dinner at the end at the Claridge’s Twenties American Bistro. But the main event is the day’s recipe, which this year is “Lovers’ Gnocchi.” Register on the 6th floor of the Claridge, at the Twenties Bar. The class runs from 4–8pm. Tickets are only $65 per couple. (For couples looking to make a night of it, the hotel is offering packages that include a room, complimentary drinks at the rooftop bar, and even breakfast.) The Claridge Hotel, 114 South Indiana Avenue, Atlantic City; 844-224-7386Click here to leave a comment