Surviving Valentine’s Day

I am so lucky to be alive right now. But let’s dial back the drama and start at the beginning.

Ben and I went to a Valentine’s Day party at our friend Tim’s on Saturday. Because of this, I decided I would make Ben a fancy home-cooked meal Friday night instead. Here’s the menu:

Soup Egg drop w/ tofu & shiitake mushroom  Salad Mixed baby arugula and baby kale, avocado, bell peppers, pomegranate  Bread Red Lobster cheddar bay biscuits  Entree Surf 'n' Turf: Steak and Maryland-style crab cake  Sides Garlic mashed red potatoes Roasted brussel sprouts w/ bacon  Dessert French-toasted PB&J w/ French vanilla ice cream & berry reduction
The finished menu I served! I had to drop the appetizer because I wasn’t able to get ahold of scallops in time. Also, I forgot to include that I served my steak with onions & mushrooms

Even though I still have kinks to work out with timing, I think dinner went really well. I got way too ambitious with the amount of food I made and we had most of what I cooked for dinner the next day for leftovers.

The spread… complete with sparkling apple cider because nothing says fancy like sparkling apple cider
Clockwise from top left: Steak w/ onions & mushrooms, Garlic mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts w/ bacon, Crab cake

I got so caught up with trying to make Ben a fancy meal that I realized I had lost sight of why I was doing it: to make him a meal that he loves. He was getting stressed by my constant grilling of “What is your ideal meal?” “What do you wish I would cook for you I’LL MAKE IT” “Name a fancy meal you wish you had more often!”. What he loves is PB&J, plain and simple.

So I jazzed it up by making it a stuffed French toast, drizzling a berry reduction over top, and serving with vanilla ice cream. Plain and simple.

Started with heart-shaped sandwiches, French-toasted, the berry reduction, and then ICE CREAM YES

On Valentine’s Day, we kicked off with brunch at La Malinche for all-you-can-eat tapas and bottomless drinks. (You have to get the drinks on the weekends; we usually like coming on weekdays for AYCE lunch because we don’t really drink.) Ben and I were committed to eating as much as we could for as long as we could. We held out for 2½ hours before throwing in the towel. When we walked out, it had barely started flurrying. We knew there was snow in the forecast and figured we could take a food coma nap before heading out to Tim’s party.

WHAT A MISTAKE.

By the time we finished the leftovers from the night before and were ready to leave, Tim was already urging people to park on top of the hill and not at the bottom of it. Many folks had already cancelled because of the weather.

Red flag #1: The garages in Ben’s community are all below-ground, and we saw a car struggling to get up the incline away from the garage. I reminded Ben to drive slowly and we mozied towards the beltway when Google Maps told us that it would take nearly 3 hours to drive the 20 miles to Tim’s house on the beltway and only 45 minutes to go through DC. It almost always takes longer to get anywhere by going through the District, so we figured there must have been a pretty bad accident on the beltway. (How bad the accident was… probably red flag #2.)

Red flag #3: As we were driving, Ben was weirded out by several blank road signs. I realized that they were not blank, but that the snow had been blown horizontally and immediately frozen over, resulting in whited-out road signs. Speed limits? Who knows. Exit numbers? Iono. Street names? No clue. The roads were nearly empty and the signs were blank. It felt like we were in some post-apocalyptic horror video game. I joked that every gust of wind that brought about powdery snow was actually a ghost. In hindsight, I think this just made me more tense.

Red flag #4: Cars were skidding EVERYWHERE. We were about a mile away from Tim’s house when Ben started skidding himself. It was pretty scary.

Then it happened.

We were already driving really slow (“10 miles an hour? What is this, Fast and Furious slow down, Tokyo Drift!” – my shrill voice) when we were trying to make one of the last turns to reach Tim’s. The car lost traction and we started skidding, unable to stop.

We hit a bus. Luckily, since we were going at about 3 mph at this point (less than 5 kph for my international friends). Ben was so freaked out that he just went into “what kind of damage was there we have to file an insurance report???” mode. I was like “WHAT IF THERE WERE PEOPLE ON THE BUS?!” Since we were going so slowly, we just got a tiny scratch and there was no damage to the bus or the people on it. (No damage to the people in our car either.) We walked away with no reports filed because it really wasn’t worth the trouble. But oh man, were we shaken.

We arrived at the party to find that all 100+ people who were slated to arrive weren’t there. Because of the insane road conditions. I mean, people usually flake anyway but Tim was stressing about fire codes and the police showing up. The Facebook event was full of “Tried to come over but there was standstill traffic, had to turn around” and “Couldn’t make it out of my driveway sorry!” so the party didn’t end up being as packed as anticipated.

Tim goes ALL OUT. There was a free raffle, 10 gallons of homemade sangria, so much alcohol I didn’t even bother to tally it up, karaoke with 5 microphones, bumpin’ dance floor in the garage, a live serenade, and so much more. It was easily one of THE best parties I have ever attended in my life.

RAFFLE TIME. (Do you see the giant chocolate heart in the back?)
Friends Tommy and Jeff nailin’ it at karaoke
Bumpin’ dance floor that was really cold (it was in the garage) but once you worked up a sweat, it was nice to just press your face against the literally-freezing garage door.

Even though it was about 11°F (~-11/12°C), my friend wanted s’mores so we headed out to the firepit on the patio. It was SOOOOOOOOOO COLD even after I put on fuzzy penguin slippers and threw blankets over myself. It was really nice in front of the fire but the wind was cuh-razy. We were on wind advisory and apparently winds reached about 50 mph Saturday night. I was very wary of this because a) the wind was blowing the flames dangerously close to everyone sitting around it and b) the wind was blowing the trees kind of all over the place. It was very cool in an eerie way, watching the trees sway violently against a clear night sky. As I was trying to point out how cool the trees looked, we heard it.

Toasty and warm! Even though all the s’mores ingredients were frozen solid.

SNAP! CRASH! A tree behind Tim’s house was just blown down. We watched a tree fall. TIME TO PACK UP we did not want to be under the next tree that fell. How many brushes with death were we going to experience on Valentine’s Day?

Instead of driving back to Ben’s when we left, we drove to my place because the highways weren’t treated yet and we didn’t want to be on the roads any longer than we had to. Plus, with the steep incline leading to the garage, we couldn’t risk it. Still, I live in a hilly area, so it was risky either way. We were relieved to reach my apartment alive, even though we had no phone chargers and dead phones.

But we were alive and we were together.

How was your weekend? (Hopefully way fewer near-death experiences. Hopefully zero of them.)

And I hope you take the chance to stop and smell the… just kidding, I won’t. 😛
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