36. Prepare a Sweetheart Meal Inspired by Heinen’s Grocery

3 mins read
Heinen's Grocery Wine Consultant, Ken O'Connor

You can discover your inner romantic by giving your sweetheart something more than a restaurant reservation – make an unforgettable meal prepared with ingredients found at Heinen’s Grocery in Barrington. It’s not hard and can be mastered by those who cook and those who don’t. Ken O’Connor, wine consultant, new hire orientation lead and customer service facilitator at Heinen’s grocery store in Barrington shows us how. We traced his steps through the store’s aisles to learn how anyone can find what they need to make a romantic meal at home.

Heinen's Grocery Wine Consultant, Ken O'Connor
Heinen’s Grocery Wine Consultant, Ken O’Connor

“First, I need to remember when a special day is coming,” he says. Near the front door of the store is a hint display for those unaware that a special day is approaching. For Valentine’s Day there are flowers, candy, champagne and Valentine cards. “The affect is always one of celebration, a way of making the day special,” he says.

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The next area he goes to contains bins of in-season produce. “February is citrus season,” he says. Of the 15 varieties of oranges, tangerines and grapefruit he suggests choosing the blood oranges, which are selling at 10 for $10. “They are easy to peel, less acidic and sweeter than oranges. They are also red on the interior. A Valentine color.”

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Next he goes to find the vegetables that are in season. “Asparagus, whether white or green, is easy to prepare and delicious with almost any meal.”

He then heads to the fresh seafood and meat market and tells us there are three options for choosing the right entrée for any situation.

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For those who want to season the main dish themselves a variety of fresh cuts of fish and meat are available. O’Connor likes the Verlasso salmon from Patagonia in southern Chile, the dry-aged rib eye Delmonico steak or a rack of lamb. “All of these are good choices and can be organic or grass fed,” he says. Lobster tails from Canada are featured for Valentine’s Day.

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A second option for choosing the entrée is to purchase it already seasoned such as brown sugar glazed salmon. You can cook it and rest assured that the flavor profile is pleasing.

The third option is to head over to the prepared food section with entrees and side dishes that are already cooked and only require reheating.

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O’Connor then shuffles over to the bakery where he can pick up a baguette and freshly baked dessert. Chocolate covered strawberries are a favorite for Valentine’s Day and you’ll find cookies, cakes, cupcakes and fine pastries sweetly decorated for you to share with the special people in your life.

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For those who want to include an appetizer he suggests cheese and chacuterie. Heinen’s carries an assortment of sliced meats including prosciutto and more than 300 kinds of cheese. For a hard cheese O’Connor recommends Manchego from Spain. A good soft cheese he recommends is Toma from California. A soft, creamy cheese he recommends is Delice-DeBourgone from the Burgundy region of France.

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Speaking of France, O’Connor turns to the wine selection. He likes the following pairings: Salmon with Davis Bynum pinot noir from the Russian River; Beef with Atlas Peak, a classic cabernet from Mt. Veeder, a sub region of Napa Valley; and lamb with a French Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Domaine Veiwx Telegraph. If bubbles are desired he suggests J Brut Rose, a delicate sparkling wine that can be submerged in a nearby well of water wine chiller for serving at the right temperature.

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The island next to the wine selection contains a variety of organic, free trade coffee beans that can be ground on the spot. Near the coffee are chunks of chocolate that can be melted and made into truffles. The island also contains an olive bar and an oil bar for customers to re-fill their purchased bottles with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and more.

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O’Connor believes that a romantic meal also needs to include the following: “Make sure the table is set, candles are lit, music is playing, and the house is clean. Arrange the food well on the plate. A meal is multi-sensory so consider all five senses.” For a special finishing touch at the table, don’t forget to pick up a floral arrangement. Heinen’s goes above and beyond to make sure their floral department is fully stocked with the most gorgeous flowers in the perfect seasonal and holiday hues.

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If you’d like more suggestions for special Valentine’s Day dishes, just ask one of Heinen’s associates. And you can always count on Ken to show you just what you need to prepare a fabulous Valentine’s Day meal from start to finish. Enjoy!

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Heinen’s Grocery is located at 500 N. Hough Street, between E. Main Street and Route 14 (next to Meathead’s) in Barrington, Illinois. They’re open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit Heinens.com.

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