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Bon Appetit
Any dinner that requires a plastic bib and and sends shards of shell flying in your hair — or worse, your date's — is ripe for unromantic hijinks.
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updated 1/31/2011 2:01:43 PM ET 2011-01-31T19:01:43

The table is set, the lights are low, and your date is ready for a perfectly romantic Valentine's Day dinner. Here are some tips to keep the romance from coming to a screeching halt.

Clear the air
That pesto bruschetta appetizer on the menu might look tempting, but don't forget the number one date rule: Bad breath is a mood killer. Skip any dishes loaded with garlic, leeks, or onions and you've already saved yourself the trouble of conspicuously downing breath mints all evening.

No bones
Tread carefully with bone-in meats or fish. On a long-ago Valentine's Day best forgotten, I spent most of my evening trying to casually pick around pesky pin bones from my trout en papillote and yes, nearly choking on a toothpick-sized bone is both scary and unromantic. As for meat, it's a toss-up. Some people might be turned on watching their date suck meat off of a bone. Some might not — know your audience.

Don’t go green
We're all for a healthy daily serving of green salad, but all it takes is one little sprig of frisée stuck between your teeth to change the mood from romantic to comedic. And while we're on the topic, avoid dishes with black sesame seeds.

Shelling out
Lobster tail gets a thumbs-up — it is wonderfully romantic and decadent. But save shelling shrimps, crabs, and whole lobsters at your favorite seafood shack for another night. Any dinner that requires a plastic bib and and sends shards of shell flying in your hair — or worse, your date's — is ripe for unromantic hijinks.

Stick to what you know
If you opt for a quiet, romantic dinner at home, don't cook anything you haven't made at least once before. Test any new recipes the week before. Valentine's Day is not the day you want to try that roast rack of lamb or souffle for the first time. For example: a well-meaning friend of mine wasn't a seafood lover but clam linguine was his sweetie's favorite. He made it for the first time on Valentine's and he wasn't sure how to serve the clams that didn't open. Finally, he pried them open and served them atop the noodles. You can probably guess how that evening went. Need we add: Always discard any clams that don't open after 5-10 minutes of cooking. They'll probably give you food poisoning.

Hungry for more? Check out our Valentine’s 101: 9 Tips for Cooking a Romantic Meal

Here are 4 test-kitchen approved romantic menus for the holiday.

Romantic Italian

Luxurious Fish

Steak-Lovers Menu

Decadent Aphrodisiac


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