It’s Valentine’s Day and whether you’re a lover or a loser, a night out on the town can make or break you (pocketbook included). Forgot which president’s picture is on the $20 bill? Maybe a fancy dinner, champagne and truffles are still on the menu — just not one you or your beloved will see tonight.
Enter Movie Geeks’ Valentine’s Day dinner, wine and movie special — woo your loved one for less than $25.
First … Dinner. Go Italian. It’s pretty easy, shows effort on your part and unless you’re a complete dolt, doesn’t take long to prepare. The beauty is you probably have a few of the ingredients in the pantry already. (Umm … that’s the “closet” with the food in it).
1 green pepper sliced
1 onion, diced
1 lb. of Italian sausage (hot, mild or otherwise)
1 8 oz. can of tomato paste, opened
1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce, also opened
1 14 oz. can of tomato (or tomatoe for you Dan Quayle fans) puree, opened as well
5-6 large mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely diced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or 1/2 cup of red wine)
1 glass of red wine (for the cook)
A few pinches of oregano, basil, dried parsley, thyme or whatever isn’t too spicy or a poor fit (mustard seeds, pepper corns, anything that you cannot ID or haven’t seen as an ingredient on an Italian menu) for marinara sauce.
• Open your cans and pour the contents into a large pot on low-medium heat. Add garlic and about half of the vinegar.
• In a large, non-stick pan brown the sausage and drain the grease. Slice and dice your onion, mushrooms, green peppers. Add them to the pan with the sausage and while grilling it altogether for a few minutes add enough balsamic vinegar to coat everything lightly.
Once this is done, take a swig of wine (you’ve earned it), stir in the spices, and combine all ingredients in the pot and simmer and stir for about an hour with the top off (not yours, the pot’s). This will help thicken your sauce. Careful not to splatter everywhere and clean up your mess. Nothing will take the romantic wind out of your date’s sails like you handing her an apron and a sponge after dinner.
1 16 oz. package of pasta. Whatever kind, Just make sure it’s all the same and it’s boiled (but not overcooked) and drained thoroughly. Use a colander (yes, the thing with the holes in it) to do it right.
Red sauce, red wine. Easy. Read the label, and try not the wonder too much why you should even care whether it is fleshy, fat, oaky or overripe. Syrah’s a good bet. More often than not you can find decent wine for less than $10. Less than $8 is optimal. Less than $6 questionable. Let’s just say, if it’s in a box or you’ve ever seen a hobo drinking it out of a paper bag, it’s too cheap.
You can’t go wrong with Rob Reiner’s swashbuckling romantic comedy “The Princess Bride” (1987). It’s not too romantic, like say — Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in “The Lake House” (shudder) — and not too much comedy, like say “Old School.” It has plenty to keep you and your date entertained. True love so true, even a young Fred Savage cannot resist its pull. And a story line that features plenty of rousing sword play, cliffs of insanity, a fire swamp, the pit of despair and a prince named Humperdinck. The movie follows a love struck “as you wish” Westley as he pairs up with “my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die,” and Fezzik — played by Andre the Giant, no less, as he tries to rescue Buttercup from her impending marriage. To think he will not save the day would be “inconceivable.”
OK guys, not your genre, right? Wrong. Think creatively. Technically, “The Terminator” (1984-R) had a love story intertwined in it between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. A stretch, yes. But not unheard of. The idea here is balance (enter the romantic comedy) because nothing signals the end of a fine evening like snoring while watching a movie. Ask my wife about my failed attempt at watching “The House of Mirth.” I got about a half hour in, if that … zzzzzzzzz.
• “Romancing the Stone” (1984) Adventurer Michael Douglas and romance writer Kathleen Turner face off with Danny DeVito and company in… a desperate attempt to save Turner’s sister. Ok, so it’s pure ‘80s but it’s got guns, car chases, humor, above par acting and, yes, love. Oh yeah, alligators, too. Look at those snappers.
• “Grosse Pointe Blank” (1997) Former lovers John Cusack and Minnie Driver reconnect just in time for their 10-year high school reunion. She’s become a radio DJ and he’s an accomplished assassin, who has a target to take down in his old home town. Antagonist Dan Aykroyd sparkles and the dialogue is witty and entertaining as Cusack attempts to woo the girl, hide his identity and be on the right side of the gun barrel.
• “Sixteen Candles” (1984) no one director seems to have wrapped his head around what is was like to be a teen in the ‘80s like John Hughes. It’s timeless and great fun as Samantha (Molly Ringwald) struggles to comprehend that her entire family forgot her sweet 16, which is overshadowed by her sister’s wedding. Sounds lame but a brilliant cast (including Anthony Michael Hall as “The Geek,” hilarious scenes and lines like, “Can I borrow your underpants for 10 minutes?” make this one entertaining through and through. Caveat: this one is not for the prudish.
• When Harry Met Sally” (1989) OK, so it’s Reiner (aka “Meathead” for you Archie Bunker fans). But this is Billy Crystal and the lovely Meg Ryan at the peak of their careers. And while there’s no guns, car chases or explosions, the acting is brilliant and the plot unforgettable as Harry and Sally play hit and miss in the relationship game over the span of several years. Best line out of a bunch of great ones? An incredulous Bruno Kirby to Crystal, “You made a woman MEOW?!”