This Valentine’s Day, or really any time you want to turn up the heat a bit, skip the crowded restaurant and cook up some romance at home! Not sure where to start to pull off an elegant dinner? Here are some tips to help you amp up the ambiance and impress your Valentine:

1. A Sweet Soundtrack

One of the quickest ways to get in a romantic mood is with a perfect playlist for the evening. Try Spotify or Pandora for a great selection. Opt for every charming oldies, or choose artists and music styles that evoke a special memory for just the two of you—be it your wedding song or a memorable concert.

2. Crystal & China

Pull out the step ladder and get down the fancy stuff from the top shelf. This is the perfect occasion to use fine china, crystal stemware, and your prettiest serving pieces. You can get everything clean and ready up to a week before to save time.

3. Tablecloths & Linen Napkins

Turn your dining room into a fine restaurant when you bedeck your everyday table with luxurious linens and cloth napkins in napkin rings for a more formal feel.

4. Dim the Lights

Create ambiance by putting lights on dimmers or using low wattage bulbs. If you have your own fireplace, consider setting up dinner near a cozy fire or if it’s warm, use candles. Think pillars grouped on the table and flameless votives lining a hall. Bonus: Romantically low lights save you from worrying over an immaculate house! Just hide the clutter in a closet for the evening.

5. Beaucoup Bouquets

It’s really tough to go wrong with fresh flowers. Just group several small bouquets on or near your table and, if you like, scatter rose petals down a table runner. It’s not overkill, it’s Valentine’s Day!

6. Dress Your Best

Just because you’re eating at home, that doesn’t mean it’s jammie time. Tell your date you’ll be wearing something special for them so they can dress up as well.

7. Set-the-Mood Food

Create a menu that includes dishes that say romance like champagne, oysters, chocolate, or pretty much anything French-inspired. Don’t feel pressured to handle all the details yourself … we’re going for sexy you, not stressed out you.

Get some inspiration below and fill in menu gaps with a quick stop at your local gourmet shop or bakery. Don’t forget: it’s your special night, too!

The Perfect Romantic Menu

A Classy Cocktail: Welcome your honey with a rose-hued drink such as a Gin and Campari Old Fashioned, Pink Negroni, Kir Royale, or just a simple glass of bubbly.

A Sexy Starter: Tease their appetite with sensual finger food like Oysters Mignonette, or toast points with foie gras and apricot-ginger sauternes jam.

Get Cozy: Channel your sweetest “Lady and the Tramp” vibe, and share a pasta for two like my Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

Make a Statement: Go for a grand gesture with a statement dish like rack of lamb or my French Bistro Steak au Poivre.

Share a Sweet Finish: Have them literally eating out of your hand with my deliciously decadent yet doable Mini Tartlets with Dark Chocolate Ganache & Sea Salt, or traditionally romantic Strawberries w Dark Chocolate Drizzle.

Enjoy your special night and trust me … the dishes can wait until the morning.

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