Fromage-free Valentine delights
In relationship terms, whether you’re a lifer, a newbie, or something in between, 14 Feb can be excruciating. Even if you vow to ignore it, it’s impossible to ignore. The confection of romance can make you wince. Far better to grasp the nettle by doing something different that won’t make you feel like an extra in a rom com. Thanks to this Muddy guide, there’s no need to curl up inside – help yourself to some of these crackers – without cheese.
Valentine’s Candlelit Late, Tues 14 Feb, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn
Hang on a minute, what’s with the candles? No, really, this kind of candlelight is perfectly fine. It’s at the Sir John Soane’s Museum, former home of the Georgian architect and collector, which opens for late visits on the first Tuesday of every month. This is an extra one for You Know What. For £30 you get live music from performer Katy Carr and gin cocktails. There are micro-talks on subjects such as the biochemistry of lust – I love a micro-talk: they’re short and tend not to involve PowerPoint. There are talks by boffins and scientists from the nearby Wellcome Collection, and all in all, it sounds as far from a restaurant full of couples as you will get. And you can explore this amazing building and collection which looks even better all a-flicker. And yes, you’ll have to jump on a train for this one, but for those in Herts who get the train to Kings Cross, you can do that rather wonderful walk along Lamb’s Conduit Street to get here.
Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, 6.30pm Tickets
The Foragers at Verulam Arms, St Albans, Tues 14 Feb
Ahhh. Or perhaps not so ahhh. The Foragers at the Verulam Arms is no place for vegans. It’s rich, meaty and earthy. I recently ate some deer spheres here. Yes, you read that correctly. They were delicious deep fried deer and rice balls, spiked with a sharp blue cheese. On the menu, which costs £35 per head, you’ll find venison and nettle and feta ravioli. And actually, for vegans, or if you’re just not in the mood, there is something called a veggie motley, which sounds great.
Foragers 41 Lower Dagnall St, St Albans, AL3 4QE
Costanza Casullo, St Albans Abbey, Sat 18 Feb, 1pm
Some sensual strumming could be just the ticket whatever your mood. A free concert at the Abbey with Italian Constanza Casullo who has only just recently graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. And no need to go to Wigmore Hall, she’s here in St Albans Abbey which is one atmospheric venue that can only enhance your enjoyment. Music will be Spanish, Brazilian, Paraguayan. Take your pick.
This looks pink and frothy but don’t be put off! It’ll be deliciously different. It’s all takes place in a bundle-of-fun barn. I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of Frithsden Vineyard this week. Natalie and Simon Tooley have done wonders to bring this vineyard back to life. This year they have a mouthwatering menu of events that I will be sharing with you, don’t you worry. And there’s something about Frithsden, in between Hemel and Berkhamsted, that makes you feel that you’ve fled the county and are suddenly on holiday somewhere far away. Afternoon tea for wine lovers on Sat 11 and Sun 12 Feb. £16. French evening for wine lovers, Friday 17 Feb, 7.30pm. £33.
Frithsden Vineyard Hemel Hempstead, HP1 3DD
Bedtime Story Night, Forty Winks, Stepney, Weds 8 and Thurs 9 Feb, 7pm
Forty Winks is known as ‘the most beautiful small hotel in the world’ and these Bedtime Story Nights have become fabled. This is an evening completely worth a train trip before jumping on the Tube to Stepney or Whitechapel. I have been to one of these pyjama parties and they whip people up into quite an excitable mood. If you’re in the mood to slump at home in fat socks and a baggy jumper over pyjamas, think again. This is not for the sloppy. You arrive, shed your work clothes (lots of suits were shucked off and briefcases landed on the boards with a THUD) and then you put on your pyjamas. If you can combine glam with nightwear then chapeau, but this is a look I found hard to pull off. Actually, don’t be put off, the evening is completely relaxed, with lots of the men in particular opting for a safe comedy onesie. Not a good look. Everyone convenes in the basement kitchen for gin served in teacups. The night I was there we also had hot sausage rolls. You then go upstairs for the stories. The storytellers are all well known in the world of yarns and they are gifted performers. Nell Phoenix is going to be performing at the Fireside Festival in Baldock. There are secrets that I just can’t share but this evening is highly recommended. Run by the interior designer David Carter, who lives in this Georgian house. £30 for a ticket. Don’t be shy now. You’ll be buzzing for the rest of the week.
Bedtime Story Nights 40 Winks, 109 Mile End Road, Stepney Green, London E1 4UJ
Walk to the Golden Valley, Ashridge Estate
Boots on, it’s time to fall in love with the great outdoors and go for gold. Here is the map for the Golden Valley walk. It’s just under 4 miles so relatively easy-peasy but at the same time it’ll feel like a proper walk. Rewards are on offer at the Brownlow Cafe or there’s always tea at the Frithsden Vineyard.
Bake and ice biscuits with the Tring cake artist, Thurs 9 Feb, 7-9pm
So one minute I’m valiantly attempting not to be too gooey, the next, it’s heart-shaped biscuits. Oh well, life is just contrary. But baking a gift could render someone speechless. Love is as sweet as iced shortbread. Sherry Hostler is an icing queen and she runs these courses for small groups in her studio in Tring. She’s won awards and everything.
Biscuit making workshop Artisan Workshops, The Farm Shop, Wilstone Green, HP23 4NT
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Odyssey cinema, St Albans, Tues 14 Feb, 19.30pm
As classic as can be, but fun to see at the glammy-gloo Odyssey. Dress code is optional. Although I once went to a screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the BFI and the majority of the women in the audience had dressed up as Holly Golightly. The Odyssey gets booked up quicker than quick, so the advice here is: get in early.
Tickets Odyssey Cinema 166 London Rd, St Albans AL1 1PQ