Monday, February 21, 2011

Valentine's Day Part 1...a Couple's Culinary Adventure

Happy Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week!  Hope everyone made plans to enjoy the events planned around town from tastings, to $30 prix fixe dinners, or $15 prix fixe lunches.  Since last week, I have decided to split my Valentine's Day recap into two separate posts so I can do each one justice and since we had two separate celebrations.  Finally, an advantage to my boyfriend's crazy work schedule.  Last Monday, we stayed in a decided to cook dinner together.  Sunday night was spent making M&M chocolate chip cookies and putting together his gift.  Instead of the traditional box of chocolate, I took a more personal spin on it and went with a box of chocolate stout, which included Southern Tier Choklat and Mokah, a four pack of Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, and (for laughs) Stone Double Bastard.  

LaBella Cupcakes and
HIC cookies
Valentine's Caprese
Monday evening waiting for me, were two La Bella cupcakes, Cookies and Cream and Sealed with a Kiss.  we have ran past LaBella numerous times while training for half-marathons, and I have mentioned it on quite a few occasions.  I decided out menu would be Italian inspired since finding a Vodka Cream sauce recipe.  For starters, we did a simple caprese salad of tomato, mozzarella, and basil drizzled with balsamic and a touch of olive oil.  On the side, we made our own garlic infused butter to put over ciabatta bread, which we lightly toasted.  Now, on to the entree.  The sauce is very simple to make.  First, sauté 2 shallots and garlic both minced.  Once they are carmelized, add in basil and parsley along with fresh black pepper and sea salt.  If you want an extra kick of heat, add crushed red pepper.  Then, add the tomato paste and stir until all of your herbs and aromatics are incorporated.  Now add the vodka.  FYI, we used Three Olives, since it was we had in the liquor cabinet.  Much like cooking with wine, only use a vodka you will drink.  Finally, add heavy whipping cream and bring to a simmer.  We served it over whole grain penne pasta.  For thicker, creamier sauces, I prefer pastas such as penne.      
Penne with Vodka Sauce
The whole meal came together perfectly.  The candles and Frank Sinatra playing in the background were  perfect additions to this romantic meal.  Now, on to the cupcakes.  My boyfriend bought for himself  cookies and cream complete with half of Oreo on the bottom.  My "Sealed with a Kiss" was a chocolate covered strawberry in cupcake form.  The cupcake itself was a very moist and flavorful chocolate cupcake.  The strawberry buttercream on top was the right balance of sweetness and strawberry.  Some buttercreams have tendency to be too sweet, not sweet enough, or too thick.  LaBella found the perfect balance of sweetness with a silky smooth texture I love in a buttercream.  Overall, a perfect night with the perfect Valentine...or so I thought until this past Friday.  Stay tuned for Part 2!!  

Until next time...follow your heart, fulfill your hunger!


  1. I love the frosting at LaBella, too!! It's one of my favorites.

  2. I am newly addicted to those cupcakes.

  3. thanks for the recipe, can't wait to try it!