Free V-Day Plans. If You Must.
By The Editors / January 25, 2016 9:00 am

Valentine’s Day: it tends to happen this time of year.

We strongly advise against ignoring it. Instead, play the hero. But even heroes need a blueprint.

Thusly: three step-by-step St. Valentine’s Day itineraries for the stumped but willing lothario.

Where to take her. What to buy her (besides fancy underpants). What to do.

One in the home, one in the city and one long weekend nearby. Mix and match, or follow one in its entirety.



You’re going to …
Cabo: where the sun still sets on the Pacific, the whales are spawning and the flights are short, direct and affordable on short notice.

You’re staying at …
The Cape. Book the Panoramic Corner suite. It lives up to its name with 180-degree views from the bed, the bathtub and the private deck with private pool.

You’re dining on …
Manta for dinner. It’s in the hotel and helmed by Chef Enrique Olvera, one of Mexico’s best toques. Here, he does a fusion of traditional Mexican and Japanese. After, before or both, hit the rooftop bar for mezcal cocktails.

Also on the itinerary …
Aside from getting massages, walking along the beach and swimming in an infinity pool that kisses the ocean, make some time for sea kayaking and a whole lot of nothing. Do try to take a day trip to Todos Santos, a quaint beach town 40 minutes away on the Baja Peninsula. While there, grab some tamales at Alma y Manny’s café and then hit Catalina, a boutique shop with high-quality pottery and David Luna bags, the designer that did the hand-tooled leather bags Ralph Lauren used for an ad campaign last year.


You’re going to …
Beachwood Canyon then Hollywood. Because the stiff-collared and stuffy romantic night out is a bad cliché. Here’s a casual evening that’s light on white tablecloths and heavy on carpe-diem-inspired juvenilia.

Step 1: Cocktails
Start at the tiny Mini Bar, hidden inside the Hotel 101. Inside the oaky, brass- and leather-clad main room, grab a Harvey Wallbanger and a This Old House. Do your best Don Draper impression.

Step 2: Dinner
Papilles is a French Bistro that’s been operating out of a funky strip center beside the 101 on Franklin for four years. Chef Tim Carey is the Elmore Leonard of food, cooking a limited, rotating menu of items that are an exercise in simplicity. The last time your correspondent went, he dined on housemade foie gras, a cauliflower velouté with shaved black truffles and pomegranate seeds, and a grouper with sunchokes and little dollops of puréed carrots and mole. Papilles is small. A third of the room is the kitchen. It feels like home and you can hear your dining partner speak without dipping your tie in your soup bowl, which is what you should be doing on Valentine’s Day. It’s casual, not fancy. The food and wine list will impress. And be sure to save room for dessert or their cheese plate. Do make a reservation. 

Step 3: Adults Only
After dinner, you’re heading to another stripcenter, this time off of La Brea in Hollywood. Destination: Adults Only, a dimly lit cocktail bar hidden in the back of an adult video store. If the cocktails don’t suggest enough of a mood, maybe rent a video on the way out.


Step 1: Cook
It’s debatable whether your lady likes your recipes. It’s not debatable that she likes Gjelina, Gjusta and GTA. So let Chef Travis Lett steer your menu. He recently published a book containing all of his rustic recipes, including pizzas. Do a little plate-sharing over a bottle of Brunello.

Step 2: Gifts for the Kitchen
Seeing as Chef Lett’s pizzas are masterpieces, we can’t promise you’ll recreate them to perfect effect. But before you toss that ‘za into the oven, consider this: most pizzas made in restaurants these days are set ablaze at 700+ degrees. Your oven can’t do that. The Pizzeria Pronto is a compact outdoor oven that’ll get the job done. Here are several more worth considering.

And because homemade pasta is easy to make and actually a fun couples activity, grab an Imperia Pasta Machine. Made in Italy, this nickel-plated tank lets you hand-crank linguine, fettuccine and lasagna. For ravioli, you’ll need to buy an attachment.

Step 3: Netflix and Chill
No Making a Murderer on Valentine’s Day. You’re watching Training Day. It was just released to stream. Just kidding. Save that one for a rainy day. Go with culinary docuseries Chef’s Table — it’s a perfect complement to the evening and each episode is a masterpiece. The chill is all you, gents.

Nota bene: Gifts? You need more gifts, you say? Right this way to our Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, courtesy of our National bureau.