How To Do Valentine's Day Right, Wherever Your Heart Lies

It's official — while the aisles of your local pharmacy have been splashed with various Valentine's Day hues of red and pink since Dec. 26, now they are beginning to get a bit bare, which means the "loveliest" holiday is quickly approaching. Think fast! In order to avoid awkward and über-obvious last-minute plans and gifts, why not be prepared this year? Think about it — whether you're for or against the day, you'll inevitably participate in some way, be it a quite dinner at home, a long weekend getaway, or a night on the town.

The Daily Meal has been prepping you for romantic perfection for weeks, but here's a road map for getting things just right. Get in the mood, get in the kitchen, or just get to mingling — either way, with this guide, you're covered. These foolproof stories will make you the king or queen of romance to whomever you're spending the special day with — even if you're flying solo. After all, self-indulgence is the coolest.


Simple Tips for a Thoughtful Valentine's Day

These are the musts for getting across what you are really trying to say. Make a statement or a sentiment with these tips straight from the heart. Say a lot, say a little, or say nothing at all — they speak for themselves.


Whoever says they don't want to receive chocolate is a bold-faced liar, and you shouldn't be dating them. On that note, no matter which you are buying or making chocolate for, why not learn the ropes from a man who knows delectable bites like the back of his hand, Jacques Torres?


Stocking the Bar: Cupid-Approved Cocktails

Whether they're pre-dinner cocktails or "want to come in for a drink?" drinks, you can't go wrong here. Keep the champagne corked and try one of these. There is a Red Hots-infused vodka recipe — spicy, original, and definitely a score.


Are you cooking for your sweetheart? Show off your culinary chops by making striped, heart-shaped ravioli. Use this recipe by chef Patti Jackson — she makes them every year for her Valentine's Day menu at New York City's I Trulli. Sidenote: They are beet red, too — double brownie points.


Since you've already got some pointers, why not get even more creative and in the mood? Jump-start your senses with epicurean foreplay. Sip champagne, down a few oysters, drizzle a little honey — you get the idea.


Maybe this is a first date so let's reign things in. How about a decadent dinner that will seal the deal for a second shot? From appetizers to dessert, this menu is sure to be a stunner — there is fudge involved.


Gentlemen, you should be given credit, but there's no harm in a hint or two, especially since we're so good at giving them. Pass on flowers and chocolate and take a cue from chef Dean Sheremet on what dishes will satisfiy a woman.


Want to create an early morning surprise? Pull on their heartstrings with a little breakfast in bed or brunch with these heart-shaped recipes. Not an early bird? There are enough soul-baring dishes for dinner time, too.


Anti-Valentine's Day Celebrations

Hating on the day altogether? Go rogue this year and host a girls-only or a guys-only party, or any kind of party to kick the romantic rules out the window. Create your own day, do it up however you like, and remember to have fun!


If you're on the fence about the Hallmark holiday and have a lot of friends that agree with you, host a "single and ready to mingle" party. Invite your solo pals, put your matchmaker hat on and play cupid, and make the day about finding love.