Sure, one could argue that Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday whose sole purpose is to make us rush out and spend money with the card/candy/jewelry companies that cash in every year. But a less cynical friend might say that Valentine’s Day is all in how we choose to see it: it has the potential to spark creative and meaningful gift giving, reminding us to show those we love how much they mean to us. What I personally love most about the holiday is its ability to awaken an inner romance that I’m often not as in touch with during other parts of the year. From buying myself lingerie to savoring a piece of really good dark chocolate, I fully embrace it.

To ease into the spirit, I invited a few friends for an early Valentine’s Day Brunch to inspire the flowers, recipes, and Valentine’s table setting ideas for your own gatherings this year. Whether you’re celebrating with your kids, a romantic partner, or hosting an all-out Galentine’s bash, I hope you take away a few ideas that spark a romantic, sensual, and delicious Valentine’s Day ahead.

special thanks to Ashleigh Amoroso Studio, our location for this shoot. Camille’s outfit is by Sen, from Estilo.

Need A Valentine’s Day Centerpiece Idea? Look No Further Than Peonies

There are a few flowers that instantly put me in a romantic state of mind: roses, ranunculus, and of course, ruffly, layered peonies. I love peonies so much that, back when I was planning my own wedding 13 years ago, I intentionally skimped on some parts of the decor so I’d have budget left over for bunches of peonies on the reception tables and in my bridal bouquet. And they were worth the splurge!

I’m an advocate for all of us buying ourselves flowers as often as possible–but especially on Valentine’s Day. And it doesn’t have to be super expensive or require any floral arranging skills. Usually I buy a single type of whatever flower looks best at the flower market, and arrange them simply. For this arrangement, I used a ceramic pitcher with a 6″ opening, then added a few green vines to create an asymmetrical composition that’s dramatically tall on one side, gently cascading low to the countertop on the other.

Simple But Elevated Valentine’s Table Setting Ideas

I wanted my table to feel at once romantic and totally unfussy, so I set it up “buffet style” by placing the food out on the counter, with stacks of plates, silverware, and glassware that everyone could grab to help themselves. This table setting is proof that a casual setup can still feel really special: the flowers, beautiful ceramics, and thoughtfully-garnished food feel elevated but approachable.

These Farmstead Stoneware salad plates from Pottery Barn look handmade and so special–in a simple palette with slight variations that mimic the uniqueness of hand-thrown ceramics. These, along with the coordinating bowls, work beautifully with both relaxed, everyday settings as well as more formal tablescapes.

My matte black flatware was a Target steal, and I love the contrast it brings to this table that’s otherwise set in a mostly-light color palette. And when it comes to Valentine’s table setting ideas, it doesn’t get more romantic than these beautifully textured champagne flutes, especially when they’re filled with bubbly, fizzy, and festive Avaline rosé.

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These clay-hued linen napkins from Gjusta Goods are longtime favorites of mine–I love that the shade is a nod to femininity while still maintaining an earthy vibe. And to keep the table from feeling formal, I threw a white linen tablecloth over the top but kept it artfully messy and rumpled. Pro tip: remove the large lines and folds from your tablecloth while keeping the intentional “wrinkles” that give linen its character by spraying it all over with this anti-wrinkle spray.

A Simple, Sexy Valentine’s Day Brunch Menu

I kept my menu simple but just indulgent enough with an elevated Ricotta and Raspberry Toast, followed by the best chocolate cake you’ll ever devour.

Creamy ricotta topped with delicious raspberry jam, all spread onto crispy sourdough toast… it’s basically the best piece of toast you can imagine. This Ricotta and Raspberry Toast is special enough for a weekend brunch with friends, but I also can’t think of a better way to elevate a normal weekday morning—it’s simple enough to whip up any time.

Here’s how to make it:

  • In a small bowl, combine a scoop of whole milk ricotta with a drizzle of honey, and mix well.
  • Toast a piece of sourdough (or gluten-free bread) until crispy.
  • Top toast with a slather of honeyed ricotta, then spoon a bit of Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves over the top. Use the back of the spoon to lightly spread it into the ricotta.
  • Top with fresh basil or mint leaves and a pinch of flaky sea salt. Savor!

All You Need Is Chocolate

This Milk Chocolate Pound Cake, to be exact. My mom has made a version of this pound cake for years–it calls for a ridiculous amount of melted chocolate in the batter (Hershey bars, to be exact) yet somehow manages to be light and fluffy and decadent all at once. I made a couple tweaks and added a chocolate ganache glaze to this one, and I’ll be sharing the recipe here next week.

Little Love Notes

Since I think just about every gathering is better with some thoughtful conversation starters, why not use Valentine’s as an opportunity to go a little deeper with the one you love? If you’re spending the day with a romantic partner, place a stack of intimate questions in a bowl, and take turns drawing cards and letting them guide your conversation. A few ideas to get you started:

  • What’s your favorite quality of mine?
  • What’s the best part of our relationship?
  • My sexiest feature is…
  • What’s your favorite memory of us in the last 5 years?

This *might* be even more fun after a glass of champagne (just sayin’).

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