BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
2020 is gone but the Weirds are definitely lingering on. As February rolls in and we congratulate ourselves on surviving the first full month of what could be another very stressful year, we acknowledge two things—one, we’re just past the one-year anniversary of the first publicized COVID-19 case in the U.S., and two, we’re definitely not going to be out of the pandemic by Valentine’s Day.
This should be pretty old hat by now. Use this opportunity … lemonade from the lemons … time to rethink, reposition, recalibrate… distancing doesn’t have to mean distant … yada yada. Rinse and repeat. And as ever, we at Southside Pride can only offer encouragement and tips. Maybe a few off-the-wall ideas.
Here’s the deal. We’re taking all the things that you associate with a romantic date night, and giving suggestions and links and so forth for you to craft your own celebration of love and the other things that St. Valentine is patron saint of—affianced couples, happy marriages, not fainting, beekeeping, draft-dodging, epilepsy and plague.
Plague? What a coincidence. Actually, one of those I made up. But it’s part of his legend, so if there were a patron saint of draft-dodging it would be him. He could also be the patron of anti-imperialism, Middle English poetry and the Grateful Dead, for obscure reasons you can find in an earlier Valentine’s Day piece, which you can read here: debrakeeferramage.medium.com/weird-world-of-deborama-2-7c40d8a879bc.
The elements of a romantic date to be covered are: films, music, food and drink, the beautiful outdoors and gifts. Now, you can do this with a romantic partner if you have one and feel so inclined. But also, with or without a partner, you can do it with a friend, a family member, or anyone you want to show love and appreciation for. If you’re a stone introvert like me, you can even do it for yourself.
Of course, you’ll pretty much want to stream, but perhaps you want to see a new film. One I plan to watch on Valentine’s Day is a new release called “Breaking Fast.” The title refers to the iftar, the meal eaten just after sundown each day during Ramadan, to break the fast. It combines two of my favorite sub-sub-genres of film: unlikely and unusual love stories, and films about the Middle East and Islam. (Although set in California, it features a “practicing Muslim” character.) This is available to rent and stream at Amazon Prime.
A more traditional romantic drama is “Sylvie’s Love,” featuring a story where a youthful summer romance ends and then over a decade later, the pair meet by chance and discover they still have feelings for each other. One half of the pair is an aspiring jazz saxophonist, so there’s music too. This one is also on Amazon Prime, but “free.”
Over on Netflix, there are also two great possibilities. First, “Carol” is a recent (2015) Todd Haynes flick set in the 1950s, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. That’s an alluring combination of talents.
The other is “Straight Up,” a 2020 movie exploring different solutions to complex conundrums of love and attraction. It stars James Sweeney (who also wrote and directed) as a gay man with OCD and a distaste for sex, and Katie Findlay as his newfound dilemma.
Making up for suggesting too many films, we only have one live music suggestion. The Hook and Ladder is streaming a fantastic show on Valentine’s Day. You can get tickets online for “A Vagabond Valentine’s” with Davina and the Vagabonds, 7 p.m. livestream (https://tinyurl.com/handl-2-14). Turn down the lights, crank up the sound, and serve drinks and snacks for that intimate performing space feeling.
Food and drink
There are two ways (at least) to go with this, not counting indoor restaurant dining, which you can risk if you want to but I’m not recommending. First is to take a break from all that cooking for yourself (I know! It’s exhausting) and order a full meal with drinks and dessert from your favorite local restaurant.
Several good eateries are offering Valentine’s Day specials, but maybe just choose one you like and that will be special enough. Pizza Luce, if that’s your thing, is now serving as a pickup location for crowlers (a 32-ounce can, which readers under 50 and beer aficionados will know about) from Fair State Brewing, a hyper-local brewery that’s not only a co-op but now also union-label. Seven Pizza Luce locations offer this service, as well as a pickup option on takeout from their extensive menu, which also includes Izzy’s ice creams.
Another local favorite is the Birchwood Cafe. In addition to their healthy, organic and delicious menu items, they offer a selection of “provisions” ranging from eggs and flour to salsa, jam, or pickles. So you can get an excellent ready-to-eat meal and also stock up on things. Order from their website; ordering closes at 7 p.m. and pickup closes at 7:30 p.m.
If you want a variety of vegan options, consider Reverie Cafe and Bar on 35th Street just steps from Powderhorn Park. Since Valentine’s Day is a Sunday, you can opt for either brunch or dinner (www.reveriempls.com/menus-1). Reverie also has a full coffee menu, a great selection of local brews from Fair State, Indeed, Eastlake and more, a great wine list, and further non-alcohol options such as a ginger-turmeric steamer, kombucha, switchel, Wisco Pop and Maine Root. For dessert, there is vegan ice cream from Crepe+Spoon.
If you’re doing a family-style or double-date celebration, or just want leftovers, consider one of the Nacho Meal Kits that serve four. And finally, you can spread your love with a pay-it-forward donation to support customers in need who use pay-what-you-can.
The other food and drink option is, of course, to prepare something extra special at home. The possibilities for meals are too overwhelming for me right now, so I’m going to suggest a cake. Nigella Lawson’s famous Clementine Cake is wildly popular, very unusual, gluten-free, and amazingly fun to make. (Warning—you need a big blender or food processor, though.) Check it out at www.nigella.com/recipes/clementine-cake.
Here we will recap some of the nature walk suggestions from previous pieces earlier in the pandemic. These are all romantic places in the Twin Cities that won’t be ruined by light snow if that happens to feature. Dress warmly and wear good boots.
• Lake Harriet, the Rose Garden and the Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary
• Wood Lake Nature Preserve in Richfield
• Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul
• Minnehaha Falls to Lake Nokomis via Minnehaha Parkway trail
• Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, including the Swedenborgian Church
Here is a suggestion list featuring some long-distance online options (move fast!) and some of our favorite local retail establishments.
• Fair trade chocolates and other food gifts—You can get Alter Eco, Divine, Endangered Species, Tony’s Chocolonely and more at your local co-op. You can get the first three, plus Evolved, via Thrive Market (thrivemarket.com) and you can also get Divine chocolates plus Lobooko or Five North chocolates, plus gourmet mixes, oils and spices, at Serrv.org of Madison, Wis. (www.serrv.org/). If you have time, consider the fabulously beautiful candies at EMVI Chocolates of NYC (emvichocolate.com/). Also check out this all-fair-trade “pantry” company from NYC, Hive (www.hivebrands.com).
• Books—I always give people books. Good local bookstores to use include The Book House in Dinkytown, Boneshaker, Moon Palace, Dreamhaven, Black Garnet, Birchbark and Irreverent Bookworm. Most of these are online ordering only, with delivery or pickup options. For e-books, I use Kobo; for gift cards, use bookshop.org and tell it which indie bookstore to credit the purchase to.
• Spa Day—this is a great traditional Valentine’s Day gift. See if your favorite local spa or bodywork therapist has gift certificates so your giftee can choose their own day and time.
• Lovely things for the home—if your giftee is a homebody, cook or craft enthusiast, consider gift certificates or actual stuff (if you know them well enough to choose) from local artisanal, crafting, import or upcycling shops, such as Flotsam + Fork, StevenBe, the Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market, or carousel + folk.
• Flowers are a good gift for Valentine’s Day, but what about a live flowering plant? Check out Fractal Cactus or The Greenery. Or the plants and flowers at the Seward Co-op. Carousel + folk also has potted plants.
• Finally, maybe you can save money by making a handcrafted gift. It might be an edible (a jar of kimchi, or some fair-trade chocolate truffles), a drinkable (your own switchel, or a nut milk cultured with kefir grains) or a wearable (a painted silk scarf, or a knitted hat.)
Don’t fear the holidays and especially not this one. It’s all about love and friendship, and connecting in any way you can.