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Dinner for two

  • Lisa Lavagetto, prepares beef wellington with a scallop potato, broccolini and a red wine reduction sauce as her husband Lawrence Lavagetto watches at Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma, Thursday, January 31, 2013.

    (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Like New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day offers diners a dilemma. Should you risk going out and being disappointed by so-so service and overpriced food? Or stay home and cook, then face a messy kitchen at the end of a long day?

Chef Ambassador Lisa Lavagetto of Ramekins in Sonoma offers up a third option: Work ahead on a romantic dinner for two.

"Every year, I do a special, intimate dinner for my husband," said Lavagetto, who is teaching a "Feast of Love" class tonight at Ramekins. "I think it's really something special, just the two of us at home."

Lavagetto, who recently celebrated her 45th anniversary with her husband, Lawrence, relies on a few tricks of the trade to prevent this elaborate, multi-course meal from stressing her out.

"You don't want to be a crazy woman in the kitchen," she said. "You want to bring these things out, using all those little chef tricks that people at home don't think about."

From Mini Beef Wellingtons with Potato Gratin to the piece de la resistance, a Chocolate Orange Tart with Chantilly Cream for dessert, the menu is prepped and prepared a few days ahead, then heated and finished off at the last minute.

"I serve and plate the food just like at a catering, and we sit down," she said. "There's no clean-up, because the pots and pans are already done."

That also leaves the chef plenty of time to create a romantic ambiance, with a vase of fresh flowers on the table and candles.

"I make my husband disappear for the day, and I clean," she said. "I pull out the good dinnerware and linens and my grandmother's silver."

This year, Lavagetto's menu will include a savory first course of Smoked Salmon and Crab Custards on Mixed Greens with a Champagne Vinaigrette.

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