It's a Date

Shaun and I aren't big on Valentine's Day. Though a great excuse to celebrate during the post-Christmas season filled with bitterly cold days, there's something so...unromantic?...about forcing romance. Since this will be our tenth Valentine's Day together, we've moved past the over-the-top dinners and instead, use the day as a great reason to do something fun together; something we've been wanting to do but just haven't set aside the time to get 'er done.

Last year, Shaun and I headed into Manhattan for a relaxed day of strolling on the Upper West Side, eating Shake Shack burgers, fries, and milkshakes, and catching a showing of Gran Torino at Lincoln Square cinema. Greasy food and a nitty gritty Clint Eastwood flick - romantic, no? We topped off the night with a trip to the grocery store and a dinner at home for two. In fact, it was the first of many, many appearances of my Shrimp Sautee with Orzo. And the consensus of the day? A resounding 'yes, this is the best way to do Valentine's Day'. No stuffy restaurants, no spending a fortune on a fancy steakhouse dinner. Instead, just a day of things that we had wanted to do for months - see a decent flick at my favorite New York City movie theater and test out the highly touted chic fast food at the Shack.

Since it was such a success, we decided that this year should follow suit. And since Valentine's just so happens to fall on a three day weekend, we can have a mini-vacation without ever leaving a 5 mile radius. Here's what's on tap:

1. Visit the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA
2. Revisit Shake Shack or somewhere equally as delicious and inexpensive for a seriously decadent lunch
3. Make dinner together at home and enjoy while watching one of the many films on our To See list (this includes but is not limited to: Inglorious Basterds, The Big Lebowski, I Love You, Man...)
And since the specifics of the day are not set in stone, it got me thinking of some fun and relaxing things to do on any day, let alone Valentine's Day. And the best part? You don't need a significant other to enjoy any of it! Whether with a significant other, your mom, a friend, or even solo, here's some low key Vday ideas:

 

Early morning movie sesh. And by early, I mean first showing of the day early. Not only will you pay half price, but you're likely to have the theater to yourself! (tested and proven!)

 

Cook together. Fortunately, Shaun and I have found a mutual love of all things food which include preparing it and, of course, eating lots of it. Is your man or lady kitchen-deficient? No worries. Put on a fun iPod playlist and divy up the tasks. If one of you makes a mean pasta, but the other can't even boil water, hand over some simple tasks to the culinary-challenged, like setting the table or slicing up cheese for a wine & cheese aperatif. Are neither of you kitchen-savvy and don't care to learn? Set a pretty table and order in!

 

Drink delish cocktails. If you want to get out, but don't want to break the bank, head out for an early evening cocktail before heading home for dinner. Places like Sweet Revenge in the Village offer wine pairings with, wait for it, cupcakes. One drink can really be a fun and special treat. (And yes, I do plan to hit up Sweet Revenge in the very near future so stay tuned)

 

Make a list of fun things to do together over the coming year, not just on a special occasion. Why only make the effort on Valentine's Day? By making a list of things that you want to do together, it keeps the fun going all year long. Shaun and I recently created a list of places we've been wanting to go and restaurants we want to try. Our list ranges from visiting the Statue of Liberty (yup, both born 'n bred in Jersey and currently live in the same town as Lady Liberty, and neither of us has been since we're kids) to enjoying fondue at Artisinal to exploring the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA (which we hope to scratch off the list this weekend) to testing out Bobby Flay's burgers at Bobby's Burger Palace in Paramus (a place I've yet to venture). 

 

And now, in the spirit of the season, check out a major throwback image of Shaun and me...

So what are you doing this Valentine's Day? Getting gussied up for a night on the town? Staying in with your besties? Continuing a special tradition?

Jamba Juice Gives Away Free Summer Smoothies


Smoothie fans rejoice! This week, everyone's favorite over-caloried smoothie joint (I say this with love) is giving away a free smoothie with every purchase of another smoothie. I have not yet tried this out, but certainly plan to this week. I'll be heading to the Columbus Circle/Whole Foods location in hopes that this fabulous offer will include the Peanut Butter Moo'd, an ingenious concoction consisting of fro-yo, chocolate, frozen bananas, and peanuts. Though I'd really rather ignore the caloric intake, I can't help but wonder why it has to be almost 500 calories per 16 oz. Since it's summer time coupled with the fact that I generally deny myself the Juice, I will likely give in to this fantastic deal...possibly more than once. The catch? Download, print, and bring this coupon.

Any other Jamba fans out there? What are your fave flaves?

Gourmet Garage Offers Cheap Eats on UWS

I am constantly trying to find reasonably priced lunch on the Upper West Side. While there are some fabulous restaurants, the ones offering affordable lunch on a regular basis are few and far between. The options typically range from street meat to pizza to a meager salad. As I left the office to grab a slice, a man on the corner was handing out flyers for the new Gourmet Garage on 66th Street. While I typically bypass the flyer-hander-outers, when it's hot out I just feel bad for them and therefore accept the paper as it's thrust in my face. Even more typically, I automatically throw the flyer in the nearest trash receptacle. But this time, I was intrigued. A new lunch option? I'm all over it.

After inspecting the new digs, bypassing the Olive Bar and cheese counter, I settled on a Black Forest Ham and Cheese sandwich. For $6.99 I got a huge sandwich that could easily feed two people for lunch. Instead of devouring the entire thing, I saved half for lunch the next day. It remained in deliciously edible condition and I rejoiced at my new found lunch bargain.