Today was, of course, Valentine's Day. Normally, I find the notion of Valentine's Day to be pretty cheesy and uninspiring -- the one day of the year people are rushing around looking to buy a quick, cheap, trite way to express affection for somebody. If you ask me, "romance" means spontaneity and unexpectedness, it means doing things from the heart -- which means it can happen at any time, not on one set day of the year. And it should happen far more often than on a "once annually" basis.
Mostly, I just resent the unoriginality of it all, and the mad dash and crowds that happen to make many experiences (like trying to go out to dinner) decidedly unromantic. Today was no exception -- I decided, unoriginally, that it might be nice to do a "typical" V-Day gesture: a box of chocolates for Sarah. I swung by See's Candies, the local storefront for See's, a California brand of candies and chocolates (Overall I do not find them to be amazing, but they have the hands-down best dark chocolate bars I have ever had.)
Unsurprisingly, the place was a mad house, a sardine can of unimaginative sheeple herding into the chocolate corral to very unromantically fulfill a tacit obligation. To top it off, the one type of assortment I would actually be interested in buying -- the truffle centers -- were completely sold out (and it wasn't even 5 pm yet.) What a horrible, unpleasant experience.
Sarah was not expecting any gifts from me, aside from the dinner I had planned to cook, but I wanted to get a little surprise anyway... and I didn't have a dessert planned, so something sweet would be good. What to do?
I remembered that just around the corner is a bakery/diner I had heard of (and passed on numerous occasions -- it is candy-striped bright pastel pink and white. Kind of hard to miss.) called ButterCream Bakery, near the intersection of Jefferson and Lincoln. So I headed there.
To my pleasant surprise on this gray and misty day, they were open and practically empty, to boot. I had never been here before, and this was a perfect excuse to visit. The server girls were polite and unpushy, letting me take my time and look around and take photos. I didn't realize that this is not only a bakery (specializing in the sweet stuff -- mostly cakes and donuts) but also a diner, a typical old-fashioned place I would imagine seeing plenty of blue-hairs eating eggs and sipping coffee on Saturday mornings. That portion was closed (only open for breakfast/brunch/lunch), but I am almost 100% certain my imagination pegged the scene spot-on, but the only way I'll find out is to return at some point.
Being Valentine's Day, I just had to go for the enticing little spongy, confectioner's sugar-coated cakes with red jelly hearts on them. I wasn't quite sure what they were, but they looked like wonderfully fluffy and unhealthy sugar bombs, so I pointed and said "I'll take two of those, whatever they are" and also requested two red velvet cupcakes*.
They made for a very eye-widening and lip-salivating surprise for Sarah, and the two little confections for each of us were just the right dessert for the meal I whipped up of crab-stuffed flounder, broiled asparagus with meyer lemon confit, and whole wheat couscous.
* Ever since I attended college in North Carolina, I've been a big fan of red velvet cake. However, I'm not a big fan of how trendy it has become -- it is such a fad for the past couple of years it is ridiculous. And a lot of people do it just plain wrong, not realizing that genuine cream cheese frosting is half of what makes it so good. But at least on a positive note this trendiness means that I can still find it and eat it without having to live in the South.