We’re two weeks out from Valentine’s Day. If that sounds like plenty of time for choosing a gift for your true love, why are so many people caught empty-handed when the day arrives? Procrastination could be especially problematic in this pandemic-affected year when “clean” sweatpants count as making an effort.
If you’re looking to up your game this Valentine’s Day, here are six places that can help with gifts and experiences. In Wednesday’s Food section, we’ll have a list of Chattanooga-area restaurants planning special menus for you and your significant other. To include your business in coverage as Valentine’s Day nears, email Life@timesfreepress.com.
* A heart that’s OK to break.
The cooks at Charlie’s BBQ & Bakery may be better known for their barbecue specialties, but Valentine’s Day will give them a chance to showcase their confectionery skills with a collection of hollow, heart-shaped boxes made of white, milk or dark chocolate.
Charlie’s has several options available to accompany or fill the chocolate heart, including assorted candies, chocolate-dipped strawberries and real or faux roses. Plus, the hearts can be personalized with love notes and any special small item you’d like to hide inside the mold.
Preparing for Valentine’s Day
General Manager Patrick Hook says they already have a request to hide an engagement ring inside one.
All of the hearts come with a small wooden mallet to crack open the heart to see what’s inside. Prices range from about $36 to $50.
Hook says orders may be placed by phone at 423-541-1500; in person at 2309 E. Main St.; or via message at www.facebook.com/charlieschattanooga. Early orders are preferred, as well as pickup by Feb. 12-13, “but we’ll be here a couple of hours in the morning on Valentine’s Day — to get the last-minute husbands, basically,” he says.
* How deep is your love?
The love story of Leo and Ruby Lambert runs deep at Ruby Falls, which was discovered by Leo and named for Ruby in 1928. For Valentine’s Day, the Chattanooga attraction will host Romance at Ruby, a series of after-hours, special-edition cave tours, available Feb. 6-14.
The gentle glow of lanterns will light the trail 1,120 feet below the summit of Lookout Mountain. Guides will share tales of local legendary romances during the scenic stroll, including that of the Lamberts. The relaxed pace and 10-couples capacity will offer extra time to enjoy the signature waterfall and the centuries-old stone formations within the cavern. Masks are required.
Arriving 30 minutes before your tour will give you time to take in the moonlit view of the Tennessee River, downtown lights and the stars overhead from the attraction’s historic Lookout Mountain Tower.
Admission is $75 per couple, which includes a professional keepsake photo and gift. Reservations are required. Book at www.rubyfalls.com.
* Sizzle on the menu.
Sweet & Savory Classroom, 45 E. Main St., will travel vicariously to Turkey with Valentine Date Night cooking sessions Feb. 10-14. The menu is inspired by Istanbul, a city known for its romantic food culture, where the custom is to gather around the table for hours to enjoy each other’s company.
“We know that gathering has been a little difficult,” reads a class description. “We aim to help you get comfortable gathering together to hold hands and deepen your love for another.”
Chef Jeff Pennypacker, the host, says couples will be working together to prepare a meal “that will astonish even you.”
The menu includes dolmas and hummus to start; lentil meatballs with pepper tomato salad as an appetizer; seared lamb chops and sweet raisin sauce with stuffed eggplant for the entree; and a layered rice pudding with pistachio and berries for dessert.
The three-hour, in-person class is hands-on for the couples, with helpful demonstrations by the chef. Cost is $214. Sign up at sweetandsavoryclassroom.com.
* Get schooled in thoughtful gifts.
The Chattery has a handful of Valentine’s-themed classes coming up next month.
They’ll start with an old-fashioned art form to impress your sweetheart, Beginner Embroidery: Vintage Valentine’s Day. Scheduled 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and taught by Sarah Olivo, the online course will show how to make basic embroidery hoop designs using four popular threading techniques (running stitch, back stitch, satin stitch and chain stitch). You’ll create a design on muslin, practice stitching and leave with your first hoop creation and an understanding of how to “go forward and embroider,” says a class description. Act quickly if you’re interested in this one. Ticket sales end at 1 p.m. Feb. 1 to allow time for supplies to be mailed or dropped off. Cost is $35.
On Feb. 12, Love Potion No. 9: Valentine’s Day Cocktails will share recipes for three cocktails to make at home with your significant other. Host Kaleena Goldsworthy of The Bitter Bottle will share ways to kick your cocktails up a notch with homemade ingredients and fun garnishes. Class time is 6-7 p.m. There’s an option to purchase a cocktail kit, which will include a small bottle of The Bitter Bottle’s bitters and any other nonperishable, nonalcoholic ingredients to be used in class — enough for two participants. Cocktail kits can be delivered, picked up or mailed. Cost for the class is $15; the class plus cocktail kit is $30. Order by 1 p.m. Feb. 6 if outside of Chattanooga; by 1 p.m. Feb. 11 if the kit will be delivered within Chattanooga.
Two painting classes will conclude the Valentine-themed offerings. Cold Flippers, Warm Hearts, with a playful pair of penguins, is 1-3 p.m. Feb. 13. Sweetheart Trees, featuring moonlit tree limbs entwined into a heart, is 3-5 p.m. Feb. 14. Amy Brauer of Nooga Studio teaches both. Supplies are available for pickup or delivery. Register for either by 1 p.m. Feb. 12. Cost is $20 for each class. Or add supplies for one person for a total cost of $35 or for two people for $50.
Register at TheChattery.org.
* Keep your relationship on track.
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum will run Valentine’s Dinner Trains three times in February. During the two-hour ride, you’ll dine on a three-course meal that includes a choice of roast beef, chicken or fish, finished off with chocolate cake, apple pie or cheesecake for dessert. Departures are from Grand Junction Station, 4119 Cromwell Road, at 8:15 p.m. Feb. 6 and at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 and 15. The seven-mile trip will take you through portions of urban Chattanooga, passing such landmarks as Chattanooga Zoo and Chattanooga National Cemetery. You can choose from true vintage dining in the Dining Car at $190 per couple or more limited accommodations in a 1920s-era Pullman car at $240 per couple. Book at 423-894-8028 or tvrail.com.
* Don’t rock the boat.
Through the years, the Southern Belle riverboat’s Valentine’s cruises have been popular for weddings, vow renewals and surprise engagements. You can be part of the fun on Feb. 12-14, even if you’re just planning to sight-see with your sweetheart. The two-hour cruise includes a one-time-through buffet dinner and a champagne toast with two keepsake glasses. The riverboat sets sail at 7 p.m. Feb. 12, 3:30 and 8 p.m. Feb. 13-14. Tickets are just under $69 per passenger. If you prefer, there’s a Sweetheart Luncheon Cruise at 11 a.m. Feb. 13-14 for $39 per passenger. Book at 423-266-4488 or ChattanoogaRiverboat.com.
Email Lisa Denton at email@example.com.