Nothing traditional about our special day

For our first dozen or so Valentine’s days as a couple — before and after rings — Julie and I would treat ourselves to an amazing dinner out. Always at one of our favorite restaurants, and always a few days before or after Valentine’s Day. (You do know better than to go out on Valentine’s Day, right?)

But for the second year in a row, there was no splurge. No crab cocktails with a rare filet. No whole grilled pompano with truffled risotto. You can’t really get that up here anyway. Leaving the New Jersey lifestyle and pay check behind in pursuit of a higher calling will bring about funny sacrifices at every turn, and I’m OK with that.

Our Valentine’s Day dinner was at Dragon City, a Chinese takeout restaurant in Northville that scares off dine-in customers by keeping the place about 50 degrees. We selected it because it’s across the street from where our daughter has church choir practice on Tuesdays. We ordered, ran to my brother and sister-in-law’s home a block away to drop off a gift, pet her fat cat, ran back to pick up the food, then fled to my mother-in-law’s house to watch Wheel of Fortune with her and one of my wife’s sisters while waiting for choir practice to end.

So instead of foie gras and rack of lamb in puff pastry, we had spicy pork (somewhere amid the vegetables), [chewy] cashew [tasteless] chicken, and crab (allegedly) rangoons. Instead of $150 like we might have spent a few years ago, our bill was $23. It would have been less had I noticed earlier they’d forgotten my shrimp toast.

I’ll live. Longer, probably.

And instead of a long, romantic night out, our hour away from home was sprinkled with friends and family. Today, it’s just what my wife and I needed.

Camp’s Valentine’s Day celebration will be a bit belated. We’re celebrating at 5:30 p.m. Sunday with a dinner and concert that probably will be a sold-out affair. The music will be wonderful, and the food will be a little exotic, a little comforting, and a whole lot of fun to make. I hope you’ll be joining us (Tickets are $12; call 883-3713).

The menu:

Sliced tri-tip steak with roasted garlic demi-glace
Moroccan-style chicken over couscous
Herbed rice (purely because some people will be scared of the couscous)
Roasted cauliflower dusted with cumin and coriander
Green beans in a creamy mushroom sauce with fried leeks
Field greens with chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta
Chevery rolls
New York-style cheesecake with raspberry coulis

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