My first Valentine’s treat for my wife this year was a surprise lunch at Backhouse, which I knew would be right up her alley. Its “cold climate cuisine” is hyper-local: they have their own farm, and everything is house made or sourced within 100km. Plus, they have burgers. Did I mention my wife is crazy about burgers? She had hers with chicken-skin-gravy and monforte cheese poutine, and I had wood-fired pizza with prosciutto, watercress, and house-made mozza. We also had the “cup-of-soup,” in a whimsical vintage teacup, a light and fluffy celeriac puree with pickled beets. We paired it with Barn Raiser Country Ale from Oast House Brewers, just a few short kilometres away on Niagara Stone Road. The décor is log-cabin meets upscale gallery without the attitude, and the host is my charming friend John Marsala. He sat us at the chef’s bar, where we watched the flames in the wood oven, and chatted with chef Ryan Crawford and the other staff. The whole thing was topped off with toasted cinnamon heart marshmallows (they even shared the recipe). It was a lovely treat for my sweetheart (and myself), where we got to enjoy the fact that we live 15 minutes from one of the top-rated restaurants in Canada.

My second Valentine’s surprise for my love was a supper-time serenade at our house by local singer-songwriter Whitney Pea. She also brought a copy her album All a Feeling, on CD and vinyl, all wrapped in hand-printed, flying-heart wrapping paper. Her guitar and lovely sweet voice transformed our usual family dinner into something we’ll always remember. We were so enraptured we forgot to take a picture!