Now that most of us, except those who love or live in Philadelphia, have recovered from the Super Bowl’s food, commercials, halftime show and game, we face the ultimate of Hallmark holidays.
According to the Greeting Card Association, of the 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards sent in each of recent years, 85 percent are purchased by women. I am guessing that includes all the little kids’ cards bought to give to schoolmates, and probably those colorful little sugar hearts.
How did St. Valentine’s Day start?
One popular story runs that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from harsh Roman prisons. Just before his execution, Valentine sent a greeting signed “from your Valentine” to a young girl with whom he had fallen in love, rumored to be his jailor’s daughter.
Another legend is that Christians decided to celebrate Valentine ’s day of death in mid-February to counter the pagan Roman priests’ festival of Luperci, which originated in a cave where infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were supposedly cared for by a lupa or she-wolf.
The priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility, cut the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into sacrificial blood, and run down the streets slapping women with the strips of hide. The ritual supposedly made women more fertile, so they endured the brutality, hence the association of red with the holiday.
In the Middle Ages when many people in France and England believed that Feb. 14 was the beginning of birds-mating season, the day suggested universal romance. The oldest known existing Valentine is a poem written by the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was behind bars in the Tower of London.
In the 18th century, friends and lovers exchanged tokens of affection or handwritten notes. Printed cards surfaced in the early 1900s.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, some of us like to just pick a flower and put it in a pretty vase, give someone a plant to suggest long-term connections, buying packaged or locally made candy, cooking a special meal, or going out for a little romantic food.
Here are some offerings by Sonoma Valley restaurants and bakers, alphabetically.
Aventine offers a slightly aphrodisiac à la carte menu of oysters on the half shell, lobster salad with blood oranges, red beet risotto, red heart shaped ravioli with ricotta and rock shrimp, 40-ounce grilled prime rib-eye steak with red chunky mashed potatoes, a dark chocolate cupcake, and even dark cherry butter, plus their regular menu. 14301 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 934-8911.
Breakaway Café serves a three-course prix fixe dinner of endive salad with arugula, walnuts and apples, sautéed lemon sole with cauliflower puree, cauliflower and fingerling potato chips or New York strip steak with potato strudel, followed by a chocolate fondant. $45, $15 additional for paired wines. 19101 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma. 996-5949.
Crisp Valentine’s Pop Up Shop and the Girl & the Fig will host a Valentine’s Day Pop Up at the Rhone Room next to Fat Pilgrim and Harvest Home on lower Broadway on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 13 and 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Della Santina’s will have an à la carte menu to include burrata speck (smoked cured ham), crab cake, green salad, faro soup, Caesar salad and quail as antipasti. Try gnocchi with tomato basil sauce, lasagna, wide noodle pasta with wild boar ragu, porcini mushroom risotto, chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and fontina, rotisserie half Petaluma Duck with wild rice risotto, filet of beef, and Chilean sea bass with baby artichokes and capers. 133 E. Napa St., Sonoma. 935-0576.