Valentine's Day most often provokes images of the perfect romantic ideal portrayed in the movies. The dashingly handsome male with a stunning woman dressed in a glittering evening gown enjoy a candlelit dinner at a sophisticated restaurant where the perfect corner table is decorated with red roses, beautiful crystal glasses, china, silver and linen napkins. Frank Sinatra croons a love song quietly in the background during a passionate conversation of love-never-ending and dreams that are sure to come true.
The annual day to declare or rekindle love lands perfectly on a Saturday in 2009, offering an opportunity for a weekend celebration. There are plenty of possibilities to fulfill the romantic ideal at a Springfield restaurant, hotel or bed and breakfast.
For those who want to stay in historical Springfield, Tony Leone, the owner of Pasfield House Inn, a bed and breakfast, suggests a different kind of romantic night - the kind of evening where conversation, laughter and exquisite cuisine dominate in a group setting.
Chef Quentin Hampel will prepare a meal at the Chef's Table in the lower level of the Pasfield House. The Chef's Table is a bistro-style kitchen that was created for aspiring chefs to demonstrate recipes and techniques. The Lincoln Land Community College uses the facility for classes.
On Valentine's Day, guests will be able to observe the preparations and ask questions.
"Quentin prepares the meal in front of you so you can interact with the chef," Leone says. "It's a great communication exchange. You are not let alone. You are part of an event." The evening is for established couples, he says: "You have to think about what you will talk about. It's an elegant night you won't forget. It's romantic but fun."
The Pasfield House, 525 S. Pasfield St., was built in 1896, a Georgian-style residence with a distinctive antebellum flair that has been renovated and has six suites. The home is within easy walking distance of the state Capitol and downtown.
The Pasfield House doesn't have a restaurant but provides catering for events and parties, Leone says.
Hampel was the executive chef at the August restaurant in Springfield and prepared the Taste of Italy tasting for the Roman Cultural Society Columbus Day. He prepared the Valentine's Day dinner for the first time last year at the Pasfield House for about seven couples. Born and raised in Danville, Hampel has been preparing meals for more than 20 years, beginning at the age of 14, working with family and learning every aspect of the food service business. He has learned the trade from many renowned chefs specializing in many different cuisines.
The Valentine's Day meal will begin with an appetizer - crispy polenta topped with a shrimp, tomato, artichoke and cannelloni bean ragu.
The hors d'oeuvres will be a traditional antipasto with assorted meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables including the stimpirata.
Then, Hampel will prepare chicken breast sautéed with five-herb cream sauce, wild rice pilaf, sautéed asparagus bundled in a Parmesan cheese-crusted wrap. The meal will end with flourless chocolate cake with orange crepe. Wine will be served.
The Valentine's Day dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14 and costs $70 per person. The dinner is limited to 10 couples.
Guests who want more intimate conversation and rest after the dinner may stay in one of the Pasfield House's six suites. All the suites have double Jacuzzi tubs and a kitchenette. Continental breakfast is provided. The suites range from $125 to $150 per night. For reservations visit www.pasfieldhouse.com or call 525-3663.
A sampling of other possibilities for Valentine's Day celebrations:
The Inn at 835
The Inn at 835, 835 S. Second St. - Cupid's Getaway package: Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries complimentary on Valentine's Day. Wine and cheese and full hot breakfast provided. No dinner possibilities. Suites $115 to $225 a night. The most expensive suite has a fireplace, Jacuzzi tub and king bed. Winter Getaway: November through March, second night one-half price. Procrastinators Special: Any night after 6 p.m., no reservation; corporate rate applies. Call 523-4466 or visit www.innat835.com for more information.
The Henry Mischler House
The Henry Mischler House, 802 E. Edwards St. - suites and rooms from $95 to $125. Wine, cheese, breakfast provided. Call 525-2660 or visit www.mischlerhouse.com for more information.
The Crowne Plaza
The Crowne Plaza, 3000 S. Dirksen Parkway - Getaway package for Valentine's Day. Deluxe room, dinner for two, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries. $159. Upgrade to king bed and Jacuzzi bathtub for $100 more. Call (800) 589-2669 or visit www.cpspringfield.
crowneplaza.com. for more information.
Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Express, 3050 S. Dirksen Parkway - Getaway package for Valentine's Day. Deluxe room, dinner for two, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries. $159. Upgrade to king bed and Jacuzzi bathtub for $100 more. Call (877) 863-4780 or visit www.hiexpress.com for more information.
Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St. - Romance package includes a gift basket with wine, cheese and crackers. Breakfast buffet included. $258 for room with king bed, $298 for junior suite. No Jacuzzi tubs. Call 789-1530 or visit www.hilton.com for more information.
Ramada North, 3821 Northfield Drive - Romance package includes fresh flowers, $50 gift certificate for dinner at Chesapeake Seafood House, Kerasotes movie money and chocolates. Rooms have Jacuzzi spa. Starting at $239 a night. Call 523-4000 or visit www.ramada.com for more information.
Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center
Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center, 625 E. St. Joseph St. - Valentine's Day special good for Feb. 13 and 14. Two-room executive suite, complimentary rose and breakfast, $150. Jacuzzi suite, rose and breakfast, $175. Call 529-6626, ext. 608, or visit www.rt66hotel.com for more information.
Pasfield House Recipes
A traditional French recipe in the "payson" or "country" style used in Southern France.
Chicken with Five-Herb Cream Sauce
4 8oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts halved and trimmed
¼ bunch fresh parsley
6 fresh sage leaves
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 fresh sweet basil leaves
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup white cooking wine (preferably Chablis or Chardonnay)
¼ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons sweet butter
* Rinse chicken breasts and lay out on a flat surface between two sheets of plastic film wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound the chicken to uniform thickness. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
* Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the stems and discard stems. Finely chop all of the herbs together. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
* Add the butter, and when it slightly browns, lay the chicken pieces flat in the pan. Cook until you achieve a slight sear on both sides of the chicken, turning the pieces only once (about 1 minute per side). Turn the heat up to high and add about half of the wine.
* Using a wooden spoon for a nonstick pan or steel tongs for a shiny metal pan; deglaze the pan to loosen all of the browned bits from the pan's cooking surface. Add the chicken stock, heavy cream and half of the chopped herbs and bring to a boil. Continue to reduce the sauce until slightly larger bubbles begin to form.
* Add the remaining herbs and half of the remaining wine. The reserved wine can be used to correct the sauce if it becomes too thick. There's no need to remove the chicken - it will only become more tender and flavorful as the sauce cooks. Continue to reduce the sauce until it thickens. A good way to tell is when larger bubbles form and the sauce starts to pull away from the edges of the pan. Season the chicken with salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.
* Plate and serve by spooning the sauce over the chicken filets. Makes 4 portions.
The word stimpirata means "to infuse flavors." This Sicilian preparation method is also used for poultry and fish, especially swordfish. Fresh organic asparagus is outstanding this way because the acid counteracts the natural bitterness of the vegetable. Also, the color contrast lends a dynamic presentation to the dish.
Asparagi alla Stimpirata
1 large bunch fresh organic asparagus
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ cup capers
¾ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons sweet butter
* Bring about 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium-size pot - add about 2 T salt. Fill a large bowl ¾ full of ice water.
* Cut the fibrous root ends off of the asparagus, and cut the asparagus in half crosswise but at a diagonal to make spears of even length. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water, and blanch until bright green. Strain the asparagus and transfer into the ice water. Allow to cool thoroughly.
* Remove the rosemary leaves from the stems and discard stems. Finely chop the rosemary leaves.
* Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the pan and add the asparagus, rosemary and capers. Turn the heat on high and when pan sizzles, add the red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Reduce the liquid in pan just until asparagus is hot and becomes slightly tender, but still al dente.
* Cut the rest of the butter into squares and melt it into the asparagus and liquid gently so it doesn't separate and creates a sauce. Season the dish with salt and pepper to taste and serve. The sauce should have a rich pink color. If not, try using fresher vinegar.
Increasing emotional intimacy
Does your relationship need some communication enhancement before the Valentine's Day celebration?
Marilyn Stevens, a licensed clinical social worker, and her husband, Matt, a former pastor, offer a getaway weekend designed to enhance communication with practical tools in a safe manner than can increase emotional intimacy. The Stevenses use a curriculum called Connected Pairs.
"The main objective is to navigate communication that often is difficult," says Marilyn Stevens.
The Valentine's Day weekend getaway is scheduled for Feb. 6-8. The weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday and continues through noon Sunday. Couples have the option of participating in the workshop sessions and going home for the evening or staying overnight. The workshop is held at a private home in Sherman that has an indoor pool. Two of the bedrooms are for rent for an additional fee. The honeymoon suite has a Jacuzzi tub. Another room has a view of the great room. The fee for the workshop is $199 and includes three meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday.
For more information visit www.connectedpairs.com; write email@example.com or call 638-5545.
Story published Friday, January 9, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 1 )