Some Lovely Valentine’s Day Ideas

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So Valentine’s Day is once again approaching, and once again people will be bumbling, stumbling and scrambling around trying to come up with a fun and romantic way to enjoy the day. Many restaurants in South Jersey will be doing something special for V-Day, so instead of compiling a laundry list of places, here’s some ideas to do something a little bit different.

Of course, one usually associates Valentine’s Day with chocolate. But why just have one day to indulge in the good stuff when you could have a whole week? Long Beach Island is having its annual Chocolate Week from February 12 to 20, and lots of fun little things are planned for the week. How about a 60-minute massage along with a chocolate bliss drink from Island Wellness Center? Or maybe learn how to make chocolate at the Tuckerton Seaport? Or even a bartender competition where the drink theme will be chocolate? All this and more will be happening that week.

If you like your chocolate with some wine, the Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail on February 12 and 13 at participating wineries throughout South Jersey will be just the thing for you. Swansea Vineyards in Shiloh will be offering wine tastings with chocolates for $5 a person. Valenzano Winery in Shamong will be offering a lunch buffet as well as pairing chocolate with their dessert wines. The buffet is $10, and just $5 for the tasting. Amalthea Cellars in Atco will have special wine tastings straight from the barrels for $10 a person. At Auburn Road, $10 will buy you a wine tasting, homemade truffles and soups and a chocolate fountain. Cape May Winery will warm you up with a bowl of chili in their tasting room that weekend. And wine bottles dipped in chocolate – yes, you read that correctly – will be offered at Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton.

Looking for some chocolate therapy? Sea Spa at Congress Hall in Cape May is offering just that all month. A chocolate massage sounds good right about now, truth be told.

Perhaps your significant other is into frozen yogurt. Really into it. In to it so much that getting a years’ worth of it would make them all a-tingle. Well, Jilly B’s in Cherry Hill is offering a year of small frozen treats for $150. That’s right: a years’ supply of froyo – a truly unique gift for the food enthusiast/love of your life.

For something chocolate-y you can have at home, Carriage Trade Cheese Shoppe in Medford is offering a number of different cheese and chocolate trays, including a chocolate fondue tray which includes strawberries, pound cake and pretzels all ready for dipping. You can also choose from a number of different chocolates in which you can do your fondue.

Or maybe you just want to impress your loved one with your cooking prowess. The chefs at Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College have some recipes that will taste lavish but without the price tag to match. Take a look:

What’s sweeter than preparing a romantic and budget-friendly Valentine’s Day dinner at home for the love of your life? Chefs Steven Serano of Northfield and Annmarie Chelius of Ocean City, educators at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts, share a menu that proves romance doesn’t have to be expensive.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Spicy Corn Cakes – $14
Chef Steven Serano

· 8 each, 10-20 size scallops
· 2 T olive oil
· 1 cup cornmeal
· 1/2 cup corn kernels
· 1 cup flour
· 2 tsp. baking powder
· 3 T honey
· 1 red pepper, diced
· 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
· 2 eggs
· 10 oz. milk
· 2 T butter

1.) In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
2.) In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, peppers, corn and melted butter.
3.) Slowly whisk the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
4.) Add oil into a heated non-stick pan and drop 1 T batter into the pan, and cook (like pancakes); repeat until the batter is gone.
5.) Place 3 corn cakes on each plate.
6.) Season scallops with salt and pepper.
7.) In a heated sauté pan, sear scallops on each side for 2 minutes.
8.) Arrange scallops on top of corn cakes.

Braised Short Ribs with Pommery Celeraic “Noodles” – $14
Chef Steven Serano

· 1.5 lb. slab, boneless short ribs
· 2 carrots, medium dice
· 2 ribs of celery, medium dice
· 1 large onion, medium dice
· 2 bay leaves
· 1 cup red wine
· 2 cups stock, chicken or veal
· kosher salt, to taste
· black pepper, to taste
· 1 celery root
· 4 oz. heavy cream
· 1 T pommery mustard (or Dijon)
· 3 T olive oil

1.) Cut boneless short ribs into two equal pieces
2.) Season generously with salt and pepper.
3.) Add olive oil to a heated sauté pan and sear the ribs on both sides until golden brown.
4.) In a roasting pan, add carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme.
5.) Place seared ribs in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables.
6.) Add wine and stock of your choice.
7.) Cover with aluminum foil, and place in a 325-degree oven for approximately 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and begins to fork.
8.) Strain liquid from roasting pan, discard herbs and vegetables and place jus into a heavy bottom sauce pan. Reduce liquid until it coats the back of a spoon.
9.) Place the meat on a plate and pour the reduced sauce on top of the braised short ribs.

Celeriac Noodles

1.) Peel outer skin of the celery root, exposing the white, fleshy part.
2.) Slice the celery root thinly on a slicer or mandolin, then julienne.
3.) Boil a pot of salted water and blanch the julienned celery root.
4.) Reduce the heavy cream in a sauce pan, add the pommery mustard,and the celery root. Cook slowly until the cream is reduced and the noodles are well coated.
5.) Place noodles on top of the short ribs.

Chocolate Ganache – $6
Chef Annmarie Chelius

· 1 1/2 lbs. chocolate, chopped to pieces the size of a pea.
· 1 pint heavy cream
· 1 T liqueur, any flavor (optional)

1.) Place chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl.
2.) Heat cream until it steams. DO NOT BOIL.
3.) Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes.
4.) Stir to combine. Finish by adding liqueur.

Presentation Tips: Use as a dipping sauce for fruit or pound cake, or pour over your favorite ice cream for a mouth-watering treat.

Note: The higher quality the chocolate, the better tasting the ganache. If ganache becomes cool, simply reheat carefully in microwave.

The ACA, located at Atlantic Cape’s Mays Landing Campus, has been training future chefs and food service professionals since 1981. For more information on the Academy, call 1-800-645‑CHEF, e-mail or visit

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