Brad chats about Valentine’s Day

Edmonton’s expanding food scene has an incredible selection of restaurants to choose from this Valentine’s Day, but if you’re like Leanne and I busy schedules mean cooking at home is the most simple and romantic way to spend the evening. A little prep work and shopping in advance can give you a delicious and locally sourced Valentine’s Day dinner.

The Smoliak Italian-Inspired Valentine’s Menu for you and your sweetie:

To Start:   Antipasti

Main Course: Cioppino

A Light Dessert: Affogato


To start off we head to the Italian Center Shop and pick some meat and cheese pairings. Tell the staff what you like and they can help you pick out some unique choices. Try heading to Cavern Cheese Shop on 104th, or Fuge Meats in Little Italy for some different ideas on what to include with your antipasti.

Next up, the most important ingredient – your Valentine’s Day wine. We will stop by Color de Vino to chat with the staff about wine pairings for the evening. A favorite of mine with antipasti is Lambrusco from the Emilia Romano area of Italy.

For the main dinner, we usually like to keep it light and healthy but still elegant.  This year, we will have an Italian seafood stew called Ciopinno. This dish can be prepared a day ahead to give you more time to spend together sipping wine on Valentine’s Day rather than prepping your dinner. We source our seafood from Ocean Odysseys, but Fins is a great choice as well.


Cioppino (San Francisco Italian Seafood Stew)

3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes (or more if you like)
1 onion, diced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 whole garlic cloves (more if you like)
1 can whole tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock/water/fish stock
½ cup white wine
1 lb mussels (optional)
½ lb shrimp
½ lb scallops
½ lb assorted fish pieces (salmon, sole, sea bass, and whitefish)
2 teaspoon chopped parsley

In a heavy stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the chili flakes, cooking for 3-5 minutes or until they begin to sizzle.  This will help to impart the chili flavor into the dish.  Add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft.  Add the garlic cloves, cook another 5 minutes, until soft, then add the tomatoes, water, and white wine. Bring to a boil, and simmer on low for 25-30 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper at this time, be careful not to over season as some of the seafood may be salty.  

This can be made a day ahead of time and then refrigerated till needed.  To serve, simply reheat the broth. Add the mussels and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the shrimp, followed by the scallops and then the fish, giving about a minute between each addition.  The broth should just be simmering; you do not want a rolling boil.  Once all of the seafood has been added, and cooked, remove from heat, adjust the seasonings, and serve with bread and a simple salad.


When it comes to dessert, keep it simple, you don’t want to be too weighed down for the rest of your romantic evening. An affogato (Italian for “drowned”) is an Italian coffee-based dessert – a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped or “drowned” with a shot of hot espresso.

For the Affogato, good quality ingredients will make all the difference. From the Italian Center Shop, pick up some Pinocchio Ice Cream; vanilla or nut-based flavors work the best. For great espresso or coffee try beans from Credo, Coffee Bureau, Transcend, or Ace. One last stop to Jacek Chocolates to complete the dessert. The shop has an amazing selection of unique chocolates, but I am a simple guy so my favorite bar is the Audrey-64% dark chocolate with Pistachio and Cherry.

In a glass or coffee cup, add 1-2 scoops of ice cream or gelato. Then pour a shot of espresso over top the ice cream. If you don’t have an espresso maker, try some strongly brewed coffee. Serve with a spoon and a chocolate on the side.

Looking for a unique Valentines Day gift? We offer gift certificates for our cooking classes. Our February class is Ski Lodge Classics,  and March will be Brunch! Email to order.