If you look at it from a certain point of view, this should be the easiest Valentine's Day ever. That pressure you usually feel to plan the most amazingly elaborate date the world has seen since Mark Antony wooed Cleopatra? Don't worry about it. The simple act of Googling "most COVID-safe restaurants Vancouver" should earn you plenty of points from your significant other.
That doesn't mean you can't be creative, though. In fact, it's all the more reason to put a bit more effort into your gift-giving. Could you swing by Walmart and throw a 170-gram sack of Great Value milk-chocolate hearts and a plush bear brandishing a fake rose into your cart? Sure, you could. But you won't, because you're better than that, and the love of your life deserves more.
For those who want to do better but can't think of how, we offer the following suggestions, each of which will show your darling that you didn't just grab the first thing you saw in a red box. Best of all, they are all from local artists, food artisans, and retailers. Because you love your city too, right?
YVR Cookie Valentine's Day Gift Box
Look, we like donuts and cupcakes and macarons as much as anyone, but they’ve each had their moment to shine. Cookies might never become as trendy as those other confections, but so what? Nothing says love like a fresh-baked batch of cookies. We get it, though—your oven has been commandeered by whoever in your life has made mastering the sourdough arts their pet COVID project. We would say that a box of treats from YVR Cookie is the next best thing, but who are we kidding? These are better than anything you could make at home, and with flavours ranging from standbys like Chocolate Chunk to mouthwatering creations like Coconut Kit Kat and Red Velvet Brownie, you really can’t go wrong. Unless your significant other doesn’t like cookies, in which case you might want to start questioning your life choices. ($44 plus shipping for a box of five or $96 plus shipping for 15 at yvrcookie.com)
Juke Fried Chicken Let's Cluck
There’s a line of thinking that says cooking has brought couples who both work at home closer together. Which is, of course, downright idiotic. How many times do you have to tell your loved one that steaks are supposed to be blue rare and bacon chewy rather than crispy before they get it through their goddamn thick skull? And don’t get us started on the correct way to cook ahi tuna, season chili, or boil water. Actually, now that we think about it, the only people who like cooking together are the ones who need something new to fight about. Ignore the stove—and the scrapping—by ordering in Juke Chicken’s Let’s Cluck Fried Chicken Bouquet. What you get is eight pieces of what might be the most sinfully delicious, addictively crispy chicken in the city, wrapped in festive paper. We’re talking great enough to take the sting out of the fact you won’t be going to Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans anytime soon. Chicken can be pre-ordered online and then picked at Juke, at which point you can bring it home and start arguing about why dark meat is 10 times superior to white meat. Which it is. ($30.45 at jukefriedchicken.com.)
East Van Roasters Chocolate Heart Collection
Maybe you’ve vowed to be more imaginative this year. No more Valentine’s Day clichés! While we applaud your good instincts, we’d like to try to change your mind by drawing your attention to one particular heart-shaped box. (And no, that is not a Nirvana reference.) This assortment from East Van Roasters includes such delights as Mayan spiced truffles, raspberry rose hearts, and a lemon-mocha Buddha. That last one suggests that perhaps true enlightment is achievable, and that it comes coated in delicious locally made chocolate. (That was a Nirvana reference, but to a different type of Nirvana.) ($40 for a 17-piece box or $70 for a 38-piece box at eastvanroasters.square.site.)
Ultraviolet Oddities Doll's Heads
For a day that’s supposed to be all about eternal love, Valentine’s isn’t exactly about gifts made to last. Some folks have no problem cellaring that February 14 bottle of Champagne Krug for a decade or two. Or making the 24-piece box of Mon Paris Patisserie chocolates last until Halloween of the following year. But as sure as Miranda July is a stone-cold DIY genius, you, me, and everyone we know are not those kind of people. And that makes the idea of giving a Valentine’s Day present of art, instead of consumables, doubly attractive. Emily Carr alumna Violet Patrich works in a number of mediums, including photography, taxidermy, and sculpture. We’re beyond-obsessed with an ongoing project that has her source second-hand dolls from thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist ads, and then turn the reclaimed heads into art. Acting fast is the key for collectors—no sooner does a robin’s-egg-blue Bowie (complete with Ziggy Stardust thunderbolt) go up, than he’s seemingly gone. Same for the flame-red Ozzy with the black devil-horns and cobalt-blue eye, and Seth (complete with a pre-Brundlefly visitor on its forehead. We know what you’re thinking—dolls are creepy, especially the ones found abandoned in attics or lurking behind the furnace in unfinished basements. Patrich’s, which double as cactus planters, aren’t. Even when adorned with nose and lip rings, lifeless shark-black eyes, and post-Pennywise clown motifs, they all look like they want to be loved. Just like all of us, especially at Valentine’s. ($40-$95 with free shipping at violetpatrich.com.)
Jackson's Comfy Care Box
From the never-ending torrential downpour outside to the ever-looming threat of a certain pandemic, it can be a scary world. You could certainly do worse than deciding to cocoon at home with the one you love. Jackson’s General makes that easier with this box brimming with products for home- and self-care. Whether you choose the $50, $75, or $100 version, you’ll be giving the gift of locally crafted comfort, including goods from the likes of Salt Spring Candle Co., Gastown Soapworks, Plenty + Spare, and Jackson’s own in-house brand. Think bath bombs, candles, body butter, and writing journals. ($50, $75, or $100 at Jackson’s General, 1490 Kingsway, or at jacksonsgeneral.com.)
Ampersand Vodka Virtual Cocktail Class
When it comes time to show how much you love someone, attention to detail goes a lot way. That’s true whether we’re talking rose petals strewn across the bed or 15 bottles of Armand de Brignac Brut Gold arranged in the shape of a heart in the sunken living room. So the last thing you want to do is blow it by putting on some Handsome Boy Modelling School and then whipping up a romantic Margarita using Kirkland tequila, RealLimon, two tablespoons of Rogers Corn Syrup, and a squirt of Louisiana hot sauce. Those new to the cocktail game can avoid looking like a rookie by checking out an initiative between Vancouver Island’s Ampersand Distillery and Vancouver’s Lavish Liquid. The two are teaming up for a couple’s cocktail class scheduled for February 12 where Lavish bartenders will take to Zoom to teach how to make three Ampersand favourites: Clarified Cosmo, Grapefruit Earl Grey Sour, and Hibiscus and Basil Spritz. Those who sign up will get a cocktail kit and mixing equipment delivered to them on February 11, with ingredients for two people and admission to the Zoom event. ($125 at barcart.ca.)