Celebrating St Valentine’s Day in Many Ways and from Seasons Past

For years I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a flamboyant display of my culinary skills, attempting to impress the beau of the moment. Inevitably, I got carried away. One year in particular, with all my fussing in the kitchen, dinner was still not ready an hour before midnight, with the obligatory bottle of champagne getting in the way of my plans! As the candle wax melted and my feet ached from teetering on Manolo Blahnik heels all night, any pretensions to a romantic dinner for two died. My starving date had given up trying to keep me company in the kitchen, settling instead in front of ESPN. With some tact, my friend said he was always pleased when someone cooked an elaborate meal for him, but all he really wanted was a cheeseburger.  I thought, “You want it, you’ve got it, baby…. next year!” No more overcooked pasta and sunken soufflés as I attempted to rekindle the fire, change the CD, or ooh and ahh over a love token. Even though I decided to take him at his word, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t stick to the theme of the heart. So, 12 months later, armed with a set of cookie cutters, I created heart shaped crudités, heart shaped cheeseburgers, heart shaped cottage fries, heart shaped brownies with ice cream and hot fudge. Hardly a gourmet meal, but my date was charmed, and I was spared the exhaustion of trying to do a romantic multicourse dinner for two.

A fun and light hearted approach to a Valentine decoration for the table – good any time of the day and for all genders and ages

A simple, American approach to Valentine’s Day. A 3 inch cookie cutter was used for the hamburger, and  the English muffin bun, a 1.5 inch for the cottage fries and 2 inch for the brownie.


Given that the hearts-and-flowers frills of Valentine’s Day delight most women, why not celebrate with some girlfriends? Particularly if some of us might not have a current  beau – or if the one you have is forgetful or uncreative.  Design a lunch decorated with all the lacy bits that would be lost on their partners – as each place setting, I pose a carnation and rose heart, constructed on a base of floral foam that they can take home just for themselves or for their own Valentines (it’s a gentle nudge to let the men know how much they are missing or forgot!)

Ladies Valentine’s lunch

A small, heart wreath for each guest

This was something I learnt at a wonderful florist in Paris

On another Valentine’s Day, I decided to include the men, but I knew that I needed to tone down the romantic theme. A drum table with shelves of Moroccan leather-bound books set a more masculine tone when moved beside the Weatherstone center-hall door. The atmospheric background now settled, I decided pastel pinks had best be omitted; with neutral white flowers safer. Crimson glassware, sterling solver flatware and service plates, crisp linens, and black candles suited the setting. But I refused to hide my feminine side completely – arching, whimsical branches of forced Prunus added a dainty touch. As long as I remembered to chill a few extra bottles of champagne, I was sure the men wouldn’t mind. 

A more masculine approach to Valentine’s Day

Neutral, white flowers

Floral foam is a life saver when you need to make quick, theme-based arrangements for all manner of holidays or celebrations. The foam can be purchased from florists, craft stores and craft sections of superstores, in preshaped balls, bricks, topiary cones and hearts, and can be adapted to countless creations; limited only by the sturdiness of the flowers’ stems. Once it has been soaked, floral foam can easily be shaped with a sharp kitchen knife, but keep in mind the foam can crumble if roughly treated. If you are going to hang your creation, consider that the foam absorbs a large quantity of water and can be heavy – you can disguise hanging wire behind a silk ribbon. For better stem stability on larger forms, wrap the foam with chicken wire before placing your flowers. Remember you must let the heart (or any floral foam) drain for a while so as not to ruin a table or wall.

A combination of pink and red carnations on heart shaped floral foam make a beautiful Valentine’s decoration

I am sure some of you will recognize some of these pictures of past Valentine’s Day decorations from my books of long ago. As you might remember, I reintroduced the lowly carnation first as Christmas wreathes, them topiaries and finally the Valentine’s shapes over 20 years ago – where does the time go?!  I still use many of these same elements today – they work, so why not?  

This is from my book, Presentations. I always remember decorating a Valentine’s box with paper doilies, and this is an ode to that memory.

A far more recent discovery of heart shaped pasta inspired the final pictures.  This is what I plan on doing next Tuesday – and I did a trial run yesterday to ensure that the pasta held the heart shape when cooked. Of course many sauces work, but as I want the pasta to be the star, I did a simple sauce of butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped sage and sprinkled Parmesan on top. A fast and simple first course, or even a main, if you are really going for easy!


So girls, and my handful of sweet guys, happy Valentine’s Day to one and all,






















67 thoughts on “Celebrating St Valentine’s Day in Many Ways and from Seasons Past

    • Believe it or not this one I got at TJ’s but if you go on line you can find it –I have bought pasta on line but go course cannot remember the web site but you will find it cr

  1. Love your heart-shaped burger and fries! I just saw in Gerard mulot’s window real heart-shaped strawberries atop a framboise charlotte tied with a pink satin bow.
    Paris is getting into the Saint-Valentin spirit.

    • oh I would so love to see heart shaped strawberries !!!Do you have a picture? Can you imagine how long it took the hybridizers to create that!

      I shall look them up –I have seen a couple rather heart shaped ones that is an enormous under taking. thanks cr

  2. Quell treat to open my mail and find you first thing.
    Brought back a memory of an uncreative and unattractive date on Valentine’s Day a few years back. At least you made the cheeseburger with trimmings. I took my date to a burger joint in lower Manhattan. Paid for the dinner. Took off for home, alone, opened my bottle of champagne and never saw the man again.
    Uncreative men are so unattractive don’t you think?
    You turned me into a carnation lover with your early books. Somewhere in my home you will always find fresh carnations.
    Thanks Carolyne. You’re the best.

    • Ha Kem we have all been on those dates….anyway he should have taken you to dinner even if it was for a hamburger!!!!! Glad you got rid of him no romance there and sounds like he was cheap as well —who lets a lady pay for dinner on valentine’s day unless it is you your nephew or a grandson….cr hope you enjoyed the champagne!! Not sure wether it cools or fuels the anger?????

  3. Love the color and texture combo on the “men’s table” above with the placement in front of the rough front door.
    That reminds me that I have a similar old door I got at my favorite re-sale shop two years ago that’s lying on its side
    behind my living room sofa waiting to “become” our front door! It would be nice to get a carpenter for Valentine’s Day;-)

  4. If I could change places with anyone on this earth it would be you Carolyn Roehm! You live in a world of beauty and possibilities. Keep up the good work!

    • Oh thank you Lisa, believe me the grass is often greener! That said, I am very grateful for my world of beauty, and make a concerted effort to keep working and inspiring the possibilities, cr

  5. Love the idea of having the girls over for Valentine’s lunch/brunch. In feminine company, one may let one’s girly flag fly. And carnations are a very underrated flower. Several years ago I wanted to make a solid red carnation centerpiece for a cocktail party, so I asked a friend of mine, who is a very posh florist on the Upper East Side, and he sniffed, “I don’t sell carnations,” but then brought me the most fabulous centerpiece with French roses, Dutch tulips, and other exotic flowers, which must have cost 10 times as much as carnations, and it was so lovely. Well, now he sells exactly the kind of carnation centerpiece I was trying to create. He must have realized that people love them. Nice to see the carnation getting its due.

    • Thank you for joining me in championing the carnation, Cynthia! As you have probably read, I first started my appreciation for them in Paris, where they have always been in fashion, cr

  6. Just love your posts…..anytime of year but especially on a gray sunless winter day……

  7. Carolyne – Absolutely LOVING the “masculine” influenced table. I always find what speaks to me most is the juxtaposing of rustic and refined and that table really embodies that. The gleaming silver and delicate flowers against the ‘beefy’ table and rustic door in the background. Swooning.

  8. A heart-shaped cheeseburger and cottage fries…… Ingenious! My Prince will adore this idea. Perfect that the bun is a sturdy english muffin to hold in the succulent heart shaped beef patty. I purchased us both chef jackets for Christmas…… we shall don them and begin our culinary experience for a lovely Valentines day exchange. Merci Beaucoup for the inspiration 🙂

  9. Love all your inspirational ideas. Thank you. Truly gets me going. Getting out my Christmas red glassware and ordering those carnations. Thank you!

    • Makes my day to hear that I inspire, so thank you for the note Marcy. As I always say, you can’t go wrong with carnations! cr

  10. You mention doilies on valentine’s boxes–I’d just been reminiscing about the boxes we made in grade school–each child brought one in and then everyone brought in a valentine for each child–the biggest for your best friend and another for the boy you had your eye on (but at that age hardly spoke to)…my grandmother made mine–she sewed up ruffles of red crepe paper, glued them onto a Kleenex box (ready-made hole for receiving the boy’s hopefully big valentine) and then glued on doilies and a few little heart shaped stickers. I thought it the most gorgeous thing I’d eve seen. And those corny, punning little valentine’s cards, sold with 20 or 30 to a package…so they could be given for the whole class. This was Missouri, 50’s….I wonder when such a delightful little ritual died out?

    • Oh Barbara – ss a fellow Missourian I so relate – it was so exciting to me, making those boxes and to see then fill up with the class Valentines. Yes, most girls were waiting for the “special” Valentines and I also remember the same little Valentine cards and the little heart candies with some saying on them – another time and seems like another life as well. cr PS But happy to have memories of such an innocent time.

  11. So many beautiful and thoughtful tips. I will make use of a couple of them when entertaining my two young granddaughters. They like it when I serve them their drinks from a silver tea-set and sprinkle “rose” petals all over the table ……I love the heart shaped pasta – who would have thought. Thanks again for the marvelous tips.

    • Oh Eleni, who wouldn’t love a silver tea set with rose petals?! Sounds absolutely heavenly. cr

  12. ON My BLOG I just did tips on ITALIAN SECRETS you might enjoy looking at that!

    Love the red and pink CARNATIONS!I have a HEART shaped formed filled with SILVER CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS that I just passed sitting on a footstool under an ITALIAN table that I had moved from my MOTHERS place this summer……..

  13. Where did you get the three tier rose/pink centerpiece!! It’s incredibly beautiful? Your an inspiration!! Merci…

    • Hi David, That is a piece that I got from a wonderful store for antique dishes and glassware many years ago. I just checked on line and it still exists in Barrington, Mass. It is called Elise Abrams. cr

  14. Hi Carolyne,

    Very lovely. As always, you inspire me to learn more. On the table with the three-tiered center piece, is any of the “ruby” toned glass ware antique? I’m wondering if the pieces with the cut-to-crystal floral designs are authentic Victorian ruby or 1940’s era flashed glass. Thank you for your hard work. – Virginia Billeaud Anderson

    • hi Virginia, The floral glasses are some I had made in Portugal when I had my on line catalog for products for the home—the large water glass are cut glass from the early 20th century. cr

  15. Ms Roehm —
    Would you allow me to repost your blog on my Valentine’s day Email out to my clients in Washington DC. It’s perfection and very enjoyable.
    I am with Sotheby’s in Georgetown. You may, of course, reach me by mobile phone listed on my profile or directly by email included below.
    many thanks
    John Vardas

      • CR – thank you for the permission. I enjoy your books and posts. I love gardening. If you have a chance Google this article — “Unprecedented Green Auction in Anjou” and it will bring up a lovely article on my aunt’s special pepinière near Chateaubriand which she founded. I spent a great deal of time there helping – – It was sold several years ago after the 2008 collapse — but it was a paradise. I hope you enjoy it.
        many thanks again,

  16. As usual you have literally ” knocked it out of the park”. With such elegance and luxury. Thank you so much!

  17. Your decorations inspired enthusiasm for having a beautiful Valentine’s dinner for me and my husband and another couple.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Very happy to have been of inspiration, June. Wishing you a wonderful Valentine’s dinner, cr

  18. Carolyne, I have several of your books and the series you did of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. I did the individual carnation hearts for a group of close friends many years ago after seeing it in the Winter book. My friends loved them. It’s too late this year, but I need to do them next year. Love your books and your posts! This one was a nice walk down memory lane.

    • Or, why wait for Valentine’s Day Pam? You could use the hearts for any occasion, particularly in other colors than red. Thanks for your kind words, and following along on the blog, cr

  19. Have been reading your books for years, and have loved my many Trade Secrets’ and Mad Gardeners’ visits to your glorious gardens, but I never thought much of Valentine’s Day. Now I am so excited…for both girlfriends and my husband…and I’m planning last-minute, but hopeful, invitations as I write. For this, and for decades of sharing your truly inspired creativity, I thank you.

    • My absolute pleasure Nanci, and truly makes my day to hear that I inspire, thank you. Hope your Valentine’s gathering is a great success, cr

  20. I love this post … creative minds sometimes get us in trouble! And with so many wonderful ideas the simple ones still win. All things done with love ❤️.. that’s all it takes for Valentine’s Day

  21. Carolyne, My partner and I just returned from an amazing trip to Italy, we’re I thought of you often from your trips. Trying to decide how do I top a trip like this with something for Valentines Day you once again filled my head with great ideas and themes. Thanks again for another wonderful post!!

    • hi Peter—i am off to Italy a week from tomorrow ! frantically trying to get my costumes together –cr

      • P.S.-I found heart shaped red ravioli at Sams yesterday, what a lucky find, I wonder if you had something to do with it?? HA HA Safe Travels, what parts of Italy are you going to we were re in Milan and Rome??

  22. Dear Carolyne! You are very inspirational, your tables are uniques and always I learn something from you! Flor from Spain ❤🌺

  23. Happy Valentine’s 💝 Day to you dear Carolyne!!!
    We are spending it in the hospital, as my husband had major abdominal surgery last Thursday. C’est la Vie! We are hoping he will be back to work before Spring, as his ship will be pulling into Charleston for some work. We will then have a hotel room, then I can come down from Wisconsin and walk around that beautiful historic neighborhood down there!
    Kindest Regards,

  24. Dear Carolyne – Greetings to you and yours from Washington. Ray and I enjoyed meeting you both at Helen’s holiday dinnerI

    I 💟 your heart-shaped cookie cutter for hamburgers and frites!
    Found mine last weekend and made heart-shaped Cream Biscuits for Ray on Sunday morning. Easy recipe right on the bag of self-rising flour – flour, cream, and a dash of sugar. The secret I’m learning is in mixing and rolling – and keeping a light hand.

    My best to you!

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