It's February 14. Do you have a reservation for two at a charming bistro? A thoughtful, beautifully wrapped little gift in your pocket? A standing order with an extravagant florist? If so, then you can quit reading. Go smugly on your way, knowing that you win Valentine's Day.
For the rest of us -- the ones without a plan -- it's time to get to work. Let's face it: There are only a few good reasons for romantic procrastination and thousands of terrible ones. So quit working on an excuse and start working on a last-minute rescue. There's still time to put together a classic date: dinner and a movie.
You'll need an iTunes or Netflix account (or a Blockbuster card if you're old-school), some flowers, a few candles and a bottle of something nice (preferably bubbly). Pair the right romantic movie with the right local takeout and you will look like what you should have been all along: a person with a plan.
Here a few movie/food suggestions that will minimize your effort in the kitchen and maximize your reputation as a romantic.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Gyros (Zorba's or Tito's). For dessert: baklava (Antonio's Greek Bakery or Falafel King) and -- of course -- bundt cake. To drink: Two shot-glasses and a bottle of ouzo. Suggested centerpiece: A bottle of Windex. Opa!
When Harry Met Sally
A Pastrami sandwich on rye, obviously. (City Diner, Sara's Sandwiches, Urban Greens). For dessert: apple pie, (but the pie should be heated with the ice-cream on the side, not on the top -- strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it; if not, then just whipped cream, but only if it's real). Ideally, this date should inspire Meg Ryan impressions and is therefore reserved for couples who know each other well.
Lady and the Tramp
Spaghetti and Meatballs. Nosing the extra meatball toward your date would be a nice touch. Or really weird. Your call.
Get the good stuff from Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge, Cake Studio, the Flying Dutchman, Summit Spice & Tea, or the See's Candy's trolley at Bell's Nursery. Neither Johnny Depp nor Juliet Binoche would be impressed with a handful of M&Ms or a box of Mallomars.
Spaghetti. Drained through a tennis racket.
Sweet Home Alabama
Fried chicken (Lucky Wishbone). OK, this movie is not that great, but Lucky Wishbone's fried chicken is. It really, really is.
Steak ("You'll eat this one bloody -- to feed your blood," in the words of Cher), spaghetti, ravioli, or anything else that ends in "i" (get the good stuff at Originale). To drink: Champagne with a sugar cube dropped in to make it fizz. For breakfast (if you're, you know, married or whatnot), an egg in a basket topped with fried red peppers. Everything about this movie makes me hungry.
The Princess Bride
A bowl of peanuts. Offer them repeatedly.
50 First Dates
Hawaiian pizza (pick your favorite local) or spam musubi (Hula Hands, Shaka Shack, Kansha). Serve tropical drinks with umbrellas. Afterwards, you can watch "The Sixth Sense" again and pretend not to know how it ends.
Birthday cake. Oh, and wear a bridesmaid's dress.
Shrimp cocktail (Costco) and lobster (New Sagaya) -- to be eaten with your hands -- shell and all.
Wings of Desire
Hot wings (Winky's, Peanut Farm, Straight Out of Philly). Some might call this pairing tacky. I'm calling it avant-garde.
Like Water for Chocolate
Mexican food (Serrano's, Taco King). To drink: Something with tequila. Full disclosure: I haven't seen this movie but can't stand a list that doesn't include something with tequila.
Hot dogs (Alaska Seafood & Sausage, Indian Valley Meats, International House of Hot Dogs), popcorn (Alaska Corn Company), beer in plastic cups (Midnight Sun, Moose's Tooth). And go ahead and memorize Kevin Costner's "I Believe" speech. It might come in handy.
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast. Duh. Don't forget the mimosas.
Celebrate the old-school greasy spoon: Burgers and fries (Tommy's Burger Stop, Long Branch Saloon, Wee B's, Arctic Roadrunner, Lucky Wishbone), shakes, cherry Cokes, Eskimo pies (I honestly don't know where to get these, but wouldn't it be awesome?).
Serve whatever you feel like. Twice.
Carry a watermelon!
New York romances
"An Affair to Remember," "Annie Hall," "You've Got Mail," "Kissing Jessica Stein," "Enchanted," "Sleepless in Seattle": Bagels and lox (Alaska Seafood & Sausage), Manhattan clam chowder (Bar Harbor if you can get it, Progresso if you can't) and good hot dogs (Alaska Seafood & Sausage, Indian Valley Meats, International House of Hot Dogs). New York-style pizza will also do in a pinch. To drink? Manhattans, of course.
"Amelie," "Midnight in Paris," "Gigi," "Moulin Rouge," "An American in Paris," "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Something's Gotta Give": French cheeses and charcuterie (Fromagio's and Costco), crusty bread, some grapes and a nice Bordeaux. Tres chic, non?
Too much je ne sais quoi for your down-to-Earth date? Watch "Better Off Dead" and provide french fries, French dressing, French bread and Perrier (pronounced "Peru!"). Actually, I would totally eat french fries dipped in French dressing. Look, I just invented a thing!
"Four Weddings and A Funeral," "Notting Hill," "About Time," "Pride & Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility," "Bridget Jones's Diary," "The Importance of Being Earnest," "About a Boy": Buy some special tea and then brew and serve it properly (Summit Spice and Tea), serve scones and tiny pastries (Fire Island Bakery, Cake Studio) or just drink your Champagne out of fancy teacups. Make sure to raise your finger while sipping. Say "pip pip" during awkward pauses.
Alternatively, there's nothing more British than Indian takeout (Bombay Deluxe, Yak & Yeti, Namaste Shangri-La). Serve gin and tonics.
Movies that highlight creative quaffs are simpler still. Serve French 75s while watching "Casablanca." Watch "Once" while sipping on a properly chilled Guinness. "Groundhog Day" calls for a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. "Shakespeare in Love" could be just the excuse you need to purchase a local mead (Celestial Meads). And a viewing of "Some Like it Hot" requires a batch of Manhattans served out of a hot-water bottle.
Of course, you know your sweetheart best. He/she might prefer a "Dr. Who" marathon and a six-pack of PBR. And knowing that? Well, that's the most romantic thing of all.