Create the perfect romantic dinner: Recipes from 5 DINE inns for Valentine’s Day and beyond

romance at Distinctive Inns of New EnglandFebruary is for lovers. February is also for lovers of food.  And for those who love love and food, this blog post is for you!  Ask anyone what they’re doing for Valentine’s Day, and at least 50-percent will respond that they’re planning to cook a special meal for the one they love. Of course ask them what they’d like to be doing, and 100-percent will respond that they’d love to spend Valentine’s Day at one of the 12 Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE).  What could be a more perfect romantic way to spend the day of love but at any of the DINE inns.  Fear not, many DINE inns are planning Valentine’s offers that last all month. If you didn’t see our blog about Valentine’s Day offers at DINE inns, be sure to click on the link and explore romantic getaways in DINE country.

Yet, for those who can’t get away (after all, Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday) we’ve culled through our recipe box and created the ideal special romantic dinner with recipes from four DINE inns.  Get ready for a day of cooking. These recipes are extra special, but not for the faint of fancy.

We’ll start with a healthy roasted beet and spinach salad, filled with red beets to get the heart beating.

Beet & Spinach Salad from Deerfield Inn

Ingredients

1/3 cup candied pecans, chopped

2 bunches small colored beets (8 to 16 beets)

Handful washed chilled baby spinach leaves

3 tablespoons orange poppy seed vinaigrette

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces feta cheese, cubed

orange supreme sections to taste (the central sweet spot w/o pith)

Method

 Directions for candied pecans

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  • Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl.
  • Whisk egg white and water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Toss pecans in the egg white mixture. …
  • Bake in the preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned, 1 hour.

Directions for vinaigrette

4 teaspoons cornstarchBeet and spinach salad from Deerfield Inn

6 tablespoons cold water

1-1/3 cups orange juice

1/4 cup white vinegar

4 teaspoons honey Dijon mustard

4 teaspoons honey

1-1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

  • In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Stir in the orange juice, vinegar, mustard and honey. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Stir in poppy seeds and salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Yield: 1-1/2 cups.

 Directions for Salad

Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Step 2: Trim greens and long roots from beets. Spritz with Evo and wrap in 2 to 3 aluminum-foil packets, dividing beets according to size. Place in oven, and roast until tender, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size of beets. Wipe the skins from the beets. Cut into slices and squares, and transfer to a serving bowl.

Step 3: Drizzle vinaigrette over beets; toss to coat. When ready to serve, lay on chilled baby spinach leaves, add feta, pecans, orange Supremes. Garnish with nasturtium flower, if still out in the herb garden.

This is enough for an entrée sized salad for two.  You can half the recipe to create more of an appetizer salad.

Next up: A spectacular entrée filled with all the tastes and sensations to keep the heart beating and the taste buds excited.

Cocoa, Cinnamon & All-Spice Crusted Beef Tenderloin from Rabbit Hill Inn

in Syrah syrup and accompanied by a white bean & autumn vegetable cassoulet.

Ingredients & Method

For the Beef Coating:

1 part each of allspice and cinnamon to 3 parts of cocoa powder.

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Roll the edges of each steak in this mixture.
  • Sear in oil for 1 to 1½ minutes each side.
  • Place in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

For the Syrah Syrup:

2 cups Syrah

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup orange juice

1 cinnamon stick

1 Tblsp whole peppercorns

  • Bring all these ingredients to a boil.
  • Reduce to 2/3 its original volume.
  • Strain.

For the Cassoulet:

2 cups cooked white beans

2 tsp thyme leaves

1 tsp chopped garlic

½ lb cooked sausage

½ cup cooked mushrooms, diced

3 cups veal stock

½ cup each sautéed onion, celery, carrot

3 Tblsp minced parsley

salt & pepper to taste

3 bay leaves

½ cup diced tomato

½ cup red wine

¼ cup olive oil

 Directions

  • Put olive oil in a hot 4 quart stock pot.
  • Add in vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, and herbs.
  • Sauté for 3-5 minutes; then add red wine.
  • Reduce wine by half at a simmer.
  • Add sausage and white beans.
  • Add veal stock.
  • Reduce over medium heat until thickened.

popovers from Captain Jefferds Inn, Kennebunkport, MEPopovers from Captain Jefferds Inn

Ingredients

2 large eggs

¾ cup milk

¼ cup water

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 cup minus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt.

Method

  • Preheat oven to 365F Convection Oven F.
  • Generously grease six 2/3 cup popover tins or nine ½ cup muffin tins.
  • In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and water; add butter in a stream, whisking.
  • Add flour and salt, whisk mixture until combined well but still slightly lumpy.
  • Place 1/3 cup of batter in each tin and bake in lower third of oven 45 minutes.
  • Cut a slit about ½ inch long on top of each popover with a small sharp knife and bake 10 minutes more.

Note: May need to reduce baking time slightly to avoid browning too much. Serves 6 large or 9 medium.  Save some for the next morning.

And for dessert, we have two fabulous chocolate treats to end the perfect night of grazing.

Chocolate Marble Mousse from Grafton Inn (The Grafton Inn’s The Old Tavern Restaurant)

Chocolate Marble Mousse recipe from Grafton InnIngredients

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup superfine sugar (not powdered)

1 cup heavy cream

¼ T bourbon vanilla extract

3 ½ ounces of shaved dark chocolate (we use 60% dark)

Method

  • Melt chocolate over a double boiler and allow to cool slightly.
  • Whisk eggs and sugar in a mixer until pale and fluffy and the mixture triples in volume.
  • Fold chocolate into eggs using a rubber spatula.
  • Whisk cream with vanilla to medium peaks and fold half into chocolate mixture completely. Finally, fold remaining whipped cream partially to for a “marbled” effect.

Serves 12 – this recipe can be cut in half.

Serve mousse with these chocolate cookies that will enhance the specialness of the evening’s meal.

Chocolate Digestives from Captain’s House Inn

Chocolate Digestives from Captain's House InnIngredients

1 Sleeve (16 oz.) Plain Digestives (sweet meal biscuits)

3/4 Cups Butter

4 tsp.Light Brown Sugar

4 tsp. Cocoa Powder

2 Tbsp. Golden Syrup or Honey

3 Bars  Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate

Method

  • Place the digestive biscuits in a sealed plastic bag and crush with rolling pin; set aside.
  • Melt the butter, sugar, cocoa and syrup in a saucepan. When melted, remove from heat and add crushed digestives.  Fold until crumbs are fully coated.
  • Place into a greased 9×13-inch baking tin and refrigerate until hard.
  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler until smooth and pour over biscuit mixture. Refrigerate until set.
  • When set, cut into squares and store in refrigerator.

Makes 24 digestives – save some for later.  They freeze well too.

There you have it. The perfect combination of romantic dishes to get the heart pounding and the taste buds excited.  If the way to his or her heart is through the stomach, you’ll accomplish what you wish with this dinner.

Keep the romance going throughout February.  Plan your February getaways at the 12 Distinctive Inns of New England by clicking below on links that will take you directly to each of their websites.

In New Hampshire:  Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield

In Vermont:  Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton

In Massachusetts:  Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Gateways Inn & Restaurant in Lenox, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod.

In Rhode Island: Cliffside Inn in Newport

In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic

In Maine:  Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport & Camden Maine Stay Inn in Camden.