Michael Psilakis is a Romantic

Michael Psilakis by Michael Harlan Turkell.jpg
photo by: by Michael Harlan Turkell

Yes, like it or not, a certain red and pink holiday is on the horizon this weekend. Should you be avoiding the restaurant crowds and trying to cook a special meal at home for your beloved (or just yourself), we've got some advice for doing so from some of the city's top chefs and restauranteurs.

First up, we talk with Chef Michael Psilakis, the man behind the wildly popular Kefi, Mia Dona, and Anthos.

So if you're trying to cook one of these so-called "romantic meals" this weekend, what makes a meal romantic?

The funny thing about romance and food is I think there is a very big difference between men and women.  For men, the fact that the'yre taking the time out and thinking and putting something together and sorta making the commitment, not only making it but putting it together, is in itself a very sensual thing for a woman. Valentine's Day for a man is a very good time to take advantage of this.  So it's not important to make something really complicated. What is important is to think about the person you're cooking for and do something that will catch them off guard.

Sensual food in general for me really revolves around setting. I love picnics.  I love picnics in bed.  It's not just about the meal, it's about the thought process behind it.  For Valentine's Day, a guy could just go to a really good deli and get some caviar, some prosciutto, and some champagne for a picnic in bed. The thing that makes it wonderful is how you package something up.

And then obviously you're already where you want to be at the end of the night.

(more after the jump...)
If the tables are turned, and a woman is cooking for a man, what do you recommend?

Especially for Valentine's Day, I think food always becomes a vehicle. It's a means to an end or to a greater goal.  Food can be a means of taking somebody on a journey. 

If you're able to recognize a moment where both of you were happy, whatever that was, maybe it was a on trip somewhere--France, Greece.  If you're able to remember that moment, you just have to recreate it with food.  Whatever that was, you just have to think about it, and typically there's some sort of food that's found within that moment as well.  Because typically, no matter what kind of intense emotion is there, there always tends to be food around, at least in a Greek household. There's food to console in bad times or celebrate in good times.

I always think about Valentine's Day and those type of days as an opportunity to go beyond just trying to cook a meal and trying to explore the sensual, emotional side of food.

Do you like Valentine's Day?

I love Valentine's Day.  I think all holidays are special, especially sensual ones. It's an opportunity to come together with the people we love, and it's one of those days where you can sort of do things that you wouldn't normally do. If this is a day where there would be an expectation of sentimentality, this is a great opportunity for you to take advantage of that to be more expressive.

What's been your most romantic meal?

It was definitely with my wife, on a Valentine's Day. I had put together this date where she went around town. I woke up in the morning and filled up her car with helium balloons. They all had these ribbons hanging down, and some had letters. Each letter brought her to a destination.  I had gone and picked out a dress and one brought her to that, another brought her to a shoe store, and so on, putting together this evening for us.  Finally after all that, I ended up bringing her to a hotel room where I was waiting and had put together a sort of picnic for us.
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