February is a short, cold month here in New England. It’s the perfect time to stay indoors and warm the house with the heat from the oven, and there are some fun themes this month to spice things up a little.
The Tuesday after Super Bowl is none other than Fat Tuesday! While many of us associate Mardi Gras with the over-consumption of alcohol and those iconic beads, there are food traditions. The celebration, on the day before Ash Wednesday, is to indulge in rich foods. Shrimp and grits, jambalaya and beignets are a few NOLA favorites that we can make at home, but the most iconic Mardi Gras food is the King Cake. The King Cake is a descendant of the French Gallette Des Rois, which was baked to honor the Three Kings. Hidden in the King Cake is a trinket, and the person that finds the trinket in their piece of cake is king for the day! Today the cakes are frosted and decorated with purple, green and gold to represent justice, faith and power.
Of course Valentine’s Day is on the 14th. There are a couple of theories on how this celebration of love came to be and they both date back to ancient Rome. The tradition began here in the states in the early 1800’s when, after receiving a Valentine from England, Esther Howland started designing and selling cards in her home town of Worcester, MA. Chocolate is what comes to my mind when I think of food associated with Valentine’s Day. Since oysters are said to be an aphrodisiac they are widely consumed on this special day as well. I think just about anything heart shaped, pink, or red fits the theme.
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, falls on February 16th this year. The festivities conclude 15 days later with the Lantern Festival. Celebrations will be held in many Asian countries, and if you have a Chinatown near you this would be a festive time to visit. The traditional foods are very symbolic; for example, a whole fish is always served because fish represents prosperity and leaving the head and tail on symbolize a good beginning and end to the year. Don’t cut your noodles, because they represent a long life! Oranges and tangerines are handed out because the words sound like luck and wealth, and if you want a baby make sure there are some seeds at the feast representing fertility.
There are so many fun reasons to cook something different, but if you prefer to celebrate by letting someone else do the preparation here are a few ideas from our Dinova partners. For Fat Tuesday, Shrimp and Grits are always on the menu at South City Kitchen, and if you’re in San Francisco, Brenda’s French Soul Food is the place to be for NOLA style food. Most of our partners have Valentine’s Day specials, but if you really want to splurge $500 will get you and that special someone a four-course dinner including Veuve Clicquot and a necklace at Flemings. In DC, Hank’s Oyster Bar will be hosting a “Lonely Hearts Club” celebration. At their festivity you’ll be welcome to write yourself a Valentine and you can even bring your ex’s clothing; they’ll donate them to a charity for you. Hakkasan has a special Chinese New Year Menu that looks amazing, but if you don’t live near one you can always get your pot stickers at Panda Express!