If you've been frantically scrolling OpenTable or Resy.com to hatch a Valentine's Day dinner plan to no avail, let us stop you right now. It's probably (definitely) too late to get in anywhere good and even if you do, that jacked-up tasting menu is going to hit you right where it hurts. Ouch.
Psst, over here. We've got a secret weapon and we're willing to share it, especially if it gets you out of the dog house -- at least for this year. There are countless incredible cooking and dining experiences hosted by local chefs and food experts in almost every city in the US and one of them just may be the key to an exciting Valentine's Day for once.
Airbnb and Eatwith are just two of the online travel- and experience-booking platforms offering one-of-a-kind culinary classes, food tours, and immersive or interactive dinners. Many of them take place in people's own homes, avant-garde spaces or out on the streets of the cities we live in and love to travel to which only adds to the run and romance of it all. Unique, informational, and just the thing to break up the regular humdrum Valentine's Day dining routine.
From Mexican chocolate 101 in Brooklyn to a Spanish feast in an LA loft or secret bar crawl through Austin, there are legitimately thousands of cool food experiences dotting the map from coast to coast. So no need to settle for Applebee's or an egregiously overpriced tasting menu this year. Check out our favorite intimate food and drink experiences to book for Valentine's Day this year.
Forget buying a boring box of chocolates for your special person. How about learning to make the darn stuff? At this hands-on workshop in trendy Bushwick (Brooklyn), you'll be immersed in cacao beans from their raw form all the way through roasting the beans (can you smell that?) and processing into edible treats -- all made by you, of course -- like hot chocolate, chocolate truffles and more to be taken home and devoured.
I don't think there's a sexier cuisine on the planet than Spanish food. All that saffron and silky Jamón (Spanish ham) is enough to get anyone in the mood for love, and having a few great tapas in your cooking arsenal is key for hosting a killer party. Kill two birds with this Airbnb experience in which your host teaches all how to make Spain's national dish, paella, along with a few other decadent tapas dishes. Then sit down to enjoy the meal together and drink wine up on the roof overlooking the city at sunset.
If you loved New York's long-running immersive theater experience Sleep No More, chances are you'll die (sorry) for this interactive murder mystery and dinner theater set on a train in London's hip Shoreditch 'hood. Nibble on a four-course meal courtesy of Master Chef Louisa Ellis and tip back classic cocktails while the harrowing plot unfolds all around. You'll definitely have to cuddle up for comfort during this somewhat stressful dinner affair. Now, how romantic is that?
Take your little dumplin' to a hands-on dumpling-making class in the heart of Manhattan. Your host will begin with a history of dumplings in various regions of China and then it's time to get down to business: making the perfect bite-size pocket foods from scratch. You'll learn to roll them like a pro (very important) and eat them with a family recipe for spicy Szechuan sauce.
If you love Japanese omakase or kaiseki tasting menus, you'll dig this unforgettable evening of fresh Bay Area seafood prepared by award-winning seafood chef Geoff Reed. The multi-course meal happens within the walls of San Francisco's only sake producer, Sequoia Sake. You'll dine in a traditional Japanese manner -- that means no shoes but lots of incredible and meticulously prepared seafood, much of which has been pulled from nearby California waters. Sake pairings will be available for purchase too.
Read more on Chowhound: Omakase: the Japanese tasting tradition explained
Once you get your hand in there and start working the dough, you'll realize why people become obsessed with making pasta from scratch. It's work, to be certain, but there is something so rewarding about taking a few basic ingredients -- flour, eggs, water -- and turning them into one of the world's great foods in just a matter of minutes. But there are important skills to be learned, and this class led by chef Phillipe (MasterChef finalist) will teach them as you make two types of pasta from scratch, accompanied by a tasty sauce.
Read more on Chowhound: The ultimate guide to pasta types
I live in New York, but I still contend there is no greater city than New Orleans for walking aimlessly and eating everything in sight. I love doing it without a plan, but if it's your first time, this Airbnb Experiences walking food tour is the perfect way for you and your favorite person to get your bearings (plus a belly full of amazing Cajun and Creole chow). Native New Orleanian Butch will take you to neighborhood haunts, hidden gems, and some of the more iconic spots, too, all while dousing you with a little local history and lore.
Start at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel and then wind your way through the city, hitting some of its coolest and most historic bars, including an old brothel, a 19th-century fire station-turned-speakeasy and a few bars so exclusive you'll need a special code to get in. You know, the type of place you roll your eyes at but secretly totally want to go to? Don't worry, they've got the code.