With the exception of getting dumped on Valentine’s Day, I may win the title for V-Day disaster stories.
Actually, this was worse than a breakup.
I waivered about whether to tell this gruesome tale, but in the effort to make this a full-disclosure website, it would be wrong not to tell.
How could I lyricize my love for Valentine’s Day when the mere mention of the name sends shivers down my newly limber spine. (thank you yoga)
It all began innocently enough….my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were in town for a few days last February. It’s rare to get the teams together, so when we do, there’s always cause for celebration. The morning of February 14 was glorious with fresh, still-white snowfall from the previous evening.
My sister-in-law had booked us a table at a new local restaurant. I’m reserving the details around when and where. That quaint little restaurant doesn’t need to get dragged through the mud.
Our plan was to meet Kelly and Keith first for a drink at their hotel. They were staying at the Soho House, a swank hotel located smack dab in the middle of the Meatpacking district. It’s the kind of place where your outfit is never respectable enough for the front desk crew. Somehow these gatekeepers are always several feet taller than me, giving them the advantage of what I’ll call “nose-peering”, making me feel infinitely smaller than my size would suggest.
Where I come back in spades is my ability to orchestrate an immediate cocktailing session. Nobody gets down to business faster than I do. Thus, nobody can out-drink me in the first hour of an evening. Perhaps I could go toe-to-toe with the fictionalized James Frey, but aside from him (it?), the competitive landscape is pretty slim.
Fortunately, my second secret weapon is that after an hour, I swiftly dial back the drinking and enter a self-imposed maintenance mode where chatting becomes the priority, and booze is all but forgotten.
I wish that I could say that it’s intentional; I’d make a fortune peddling self-help books and safe consumption podcasts. The world would be a better place, filled with happy drunks and fewer injuries.
But something went terribly wrong last Valentine’s Day and my body’s normal tailoring response was nowhere to be found. Perhaps it was partying with the front desk crew.
I fault the Soho House for messing with my usual program.
This hotel knows how to ramp up the excitement for an evening. What other hotel sends you a bartender, plucked from America’s Next Top Model central casting, with a drink cart, straight to your room?. So while we were sitting there on velvet couches, surrounded by opulence and exposed brick, our very own She-Nymph was mixing up custom Moscow Mules. Right before she opened a bottle of champagne. Because hey! It’s Valentine’s Day! We’re all celebrating!
At this point, it’s crucial to add one small but important detail: I was so eager to feast at our dinner that evening, that I’d eaten very little in the way of lunch that day.
At last, it was time for dinner. For the first time since college, I stumbled to the restaurant. What was only half a mile on foot felt like climbing Everest three times with improper footwear.
Finally, we arrived at the restaurant and were ushered to our table. We sat down, scanned the menu, and someone (who didn’t realize how falling over drunk I’d become) promptly ordered Martinis. Because hey! It’s Valentine’s Day! We’re all celebrating!
I took one sip, noticed that the room was starting to spin, and headed downstairs to the restrooms for a quick time out. If you were to rank the 10 stages of inebriation, sitting in a stall with the walls pulsating in and out would probably come in at 11. Warning bells should be ringing: DO NOT LEAVE THIS PLACE. LIFE-THREATENING EMBARRASSMENT TO FOLLOW. BETTER FIND A TEA TOWEL AND SETTLE IN FOR THE NIGHT.
Unfortunately, I didn’t heed the warning bells, and although my stomach wasn’t feeling too snazzy, I clawed my way back up the stairs. The first course for the evening? Oysters! Yes! Let’s add some raw shellfish to our already tempestuous digestive issues.
Should I eat one? Might be strange if I didn’t. Let me ponder this for a minute. And hmmm….what is that strange sensation arising from my gut? Am I hungry for oysters? Can I pull this off and fake my way through this dinner? Or am I…..(please excuse me while I hiccup into this dainty napkin)….oh no….no that wasn’t a hiccup at all.
And that, my friends, is how Valentine’s Day dinner ended for this chipper 38-year-old, mother of 3. There would be no oysters. There would be no steak frites. There would be no dessert. The others (so I’ve been told) were able to clean off the table and move on in semi-stunned silence. Rodney’s pants were dry-cleanable. In other words….it all turned out JUST FINE.
Except for my self esteem which still takes the occasional hit. “Did you really throw up on Valentine’s Day?”
“Yes, yes I did. And I accept myself. We all have flaws.”
And you know what? I bake darn good heart-shaped brownie cookies.
So happy Valentine’s Day everyone. May your holiday be filled with love, affection, and plenty of chocolate.
And a last piece of advice: though Valentine’s day falls on a Saturday this year, stay far away from those booze-toting She-Nymphs. There is nothing good that will come of it. At best you won’t remember your evening. At worst, everyone else will.
That is all.
- 2/3 cup flour (3 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2/3 cup ounces unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 2 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
- 10 tablespoons (1 and 1/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon Kahlua
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place oven rack on lower third of oven.
- Line and 9x13 sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat gently until the chocolate and butter has melted completely.
- Remove bowl from heat and stir in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time, whisking completely after each addition. Add the Kahlua and whisk once more until combined.
- Stir in the flour mixture until blended.
- Scrape the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and with a spatula, as if you’re spreading frosting around, make an even layer with the brownie batter. You may not come completely to the edges, but try, as much as possible, to make an even rectangle.
- Bake for 20 minutes, checking towards the end of the baking time with a toothpick to make sure you don’t over bake. Remove the pan when a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the parchment paper.
- Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut hearts out of the brownies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy!