Dine Out on Valentine’s Day? Why Not Just Stick a Fork in Your Date’s Eye?


Did you just hear that? That was the sound of over a hundred million greeting cards being purchased, all adorned with illustrations of little pink ribbons and crimson hearts and golden, not-so-threatening arrows. Oh, yes: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, friends. And that means you’ve got a question ahead of you: What are you and your date doing for dinner on the 14th? Are you dining out? Or are you staying in?

Well, I’ll answer that question for you: You’re staying in. You’re cooking. And it’s going to be great. You might have had the vision of some fancy restaurant meal ahead of you, filled with bottles of bubbly, candlelight, vibes, and a hefty check at the end of it. But to be quite honest with you, you’d be a fool to do anything other than cook at home. Here’s why you and your Valentine should absolutely, 100 percent, without a doubt do dinner at your place this Thursday:

Seared Steak with Pan Sauce

You Don’t Have to Worry About All That Restaurant Stuff

Oh, you didn’t make a reservation yet? Yikes. That’s going to be rough. And at this point, you’re going to end up at whatever restaurant has seats open, not a spot that truly expresses how much you care about your date. That’s not a good look. And even if you’re going to a fancy spot with a killer reputation and impeccable service, what if you can’t get off work at exactly the moment you need to and end up being late? And wait, how much are those drinks!? And…hold on, did the maître d’ just say you have to wait half an hour, even with your reservation? And is that a stain from the chicken Parm you ate for lunch on your shirt?

Dining at home is about taking away the pressure to have a night that’s “worth” what you’re paying for it. That kind of dining out-related stress just doesn’t happen at your place. You’re on home turf. You’re in control. You can breathe more easily. (And you can change that shirt.)

pork chop with endive and apple salad

You should be cooking what you and your date want to eat. Not what everyone else wants to eat.

Special Valentine’s Day Menus (for the Most Part) Stink!

If you approached me and said, Hey, I’ve got this menu that I want you to order from for your special date. You don’t get to choose what you want. The dishes are all going to be relatively safe, because we need to appeal to every diner in our restaurant simultaneously. And it’s not actually that great of a deal. In fact, we marked the prices up a bit, because everyone is trying to dine out tonight. But we’re going to give you a free glass of average sparkling wine when you get here, so you feel fancy. You down? I’d say, LOL. What!? No, I am not down.

The Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu is a scam! They’re money-makers for sure, but most chefs don’t like cooking them. At the end of the day, if I was going to take my date to have an experience at a restaurant I thought she’d love, I’d want it to be the real experience of that restaurant. I don’t want a watered-down menu of Valentine’s Day hits. I want the real thing.

You Will See (and Maybe Even Talk to) Other Human Beings at a Restaurant

Valentine’s Day is about celebrating your affection for a special person in your life. (Or multiple people. Or friends. Or yourself. Or a giant pillow shaped like a human. I’m not here to judge.) And you’re interested in diluting that experience by being in a crowded restaurant, surrounded by couples celebrating their brilliant, unique love, just like you? You want to listen to everyone else’s conversations? And you want to bump everyone else’s elbows? And you want to confuse your date’s coat for someone else’s coat? And then apologize for not knowing what your date’s coat looked like? And then apologize to a stranger for touching their coat?!

No, thanks. I want my Valentine’s Day to be spent with my Valentine and just my Valentine. I’ll be celebrating in the comfort of my own home, where I can spend quality time with my date. And where I am familiar with the contents of the coat rack.

marinated olives and feta appetizer

You know what isn’t super loud? Marinated olives and feta.

You Can’t Hear Your Date in a Crowded Restaurant


No One Wants to Wait On Your Table on Valentine’s Day

Your waiter would probably rather be at home on Valentine’s Day. That’s nothing against you, a perfectly respectable and courteous diner. But a lot of the people who show up to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day are jerks. They feel the need to show off for their date and end up disrespecting the staff, tipping poorly, and/or acting like they own the joint. Your waiter would almost certainly rather have the night off and spend it at home cooking dinner with someone they care about. (Which is what you should be doing, too.)

But also: You really want some stranger all up in your date? It’s impossible for them to not be a major factor in your night. Imagine if your waiter was just along for the ride all night. After you paid your bill, they joined you at a tasteful cocktail bar. Then they accompanied you and your date back to your place. And there they were, wedged between you and your date when you woke up the next morning. You don’t want to share the night with a stranger, as charming and serviceable as they may be at dinner. And they probably don’t want to be in the middle of your romantic evening either.


Ted Cavanaugh

Booze Costs Less at Home

Restaurants sell so many bottles of bubbly wine on Valentine’s Day, and that’s great for them, because booze margins are where restaurants make most of their money. But that’s not great for me, the guy who knows the wine that my date and I really want to drink is only $26 a bottle at my wine shop. And that there’s no corkage fee or bottle markup in my apartment. And that I also have all the ingredients to make a Negroni sitting on my counter. Yeah, I know. Making the point of saving money on Valentine’s Day might seem a little stingy. But hey, deep down, I’m sure you’ll both appreciate it.

Basically Flourless Cake Slice

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Rhoda Boone

Imagine someone baking you a chocolate cake. That person must rule.

Really, It’s the Act of Cooking—and Hosting—That Counts

You can put a price on how much you love someone when you take them out to dinner. It comes on a little piece of paper at the end of the meal, right above a line where you sign your name. But you can’t really quantify the emotional value of cooking a meal for someone. Sure, you bought the groceries, but the thought that went into planning a menu and choosing wine, candles, and tunes is priceless. The fact that you made the pork chops or the steak or the roast chicken or the salmon or the chocolate cake for this person that you love (or just like, if you’re not ready for that yet) means so, so much more than even the priciest meal out.

Anyone can take someone to dinner. But who can cook the thing that caters to your date’s specific preferences, in the comfort of your kitchen, while connecting in ways that remind you why you like this person in the first place? Only you can do that, my friend. Cooking for another human being is the most sincere way of saying « I care about you. » I want to feed you both literally and metaphorically. That’s sappy. But that’s the truth.

Now, about that dinner menu:



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Military looking to avoid a ‘black eye’ by stalling human rights complaint, lawyer says


The Canadian military is being accused of dragging its feet to prevent a human rights complaint from being heard regarding the case of a former naval officer who was told to choose between her child and her career.

The story of now-retired sub-lieutenant Laura Nash made headlines 18 months ago, before she was medically released in July 2017.

The single mother says that in late 2013, she was called into a meeting with two superior officers, both of them women, and told she had too many « family issues. » She faced a training deadline to go to sea at the time and was given six weeks to decide between raising her child and her career as a warship navigator.

Her complaint before the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleges the military discriminates against single parents. It’s being held up because a grievance, filed before she was forced out, is still pending.

Under the law, the commission cannot proceed with its investigation until all other administrative procedures have been exhausted.

Nash told CBC News she believes the military is trying to sabotage her complaint by keeping the file open — retribution, she said, for the embarrassment she caused it by taking her story public.

‘It’s not going to go away’

« I feel like (Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance) is just waiting for this case to go away, but it’s not going to go away, » Nash said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the case back in June. « It’s very simple. The choice Laura had to make is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in Canada, » he said.

Members of the military are allowed to file formal grievances when they believe they have been treated unjustly by the chain of command.

Nash — who served in the navy from 2010 to 2017 but did not complete her training as a maritime warfare officer — filed two grievances under the system.

Both were, for all intents and purposes, resolved before her plight became public.

But one of them was reopened by the military in the wake of the reports of two superior officers attempting to bully Nash into making a choice between being a single mother and staying in uniform.

At first, Nash said she saw the reopening of her grievance as good-faith gesture and held out hope it would lead to policy revisions.

Her attitude changed as the months passed after her release with no resolution.

« We knew that [it] had been sitting on (Vance’s) desk for a year and a half now, and I think that that’s ample time for him to do something about it, or let us know that he’s been working on it, » said Nash from her current home in Belleville, Ont.

The Department of Defence said that, for privacy reasons, it can’t comment on the specifics of her case or say why the grievance has been held up.

The human rights commission, in its letter to Gen. Vance, gave the military until Friday to state clearly when her case will be resolved.

He responded this week, saying he would not be able to meet the deadline.

Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance speaks with The Canadian Press in his office in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Nash admitted her grievance is complicated and takes aim at several military policies she said discriminate against single parents.

But she said she proposed specific fixes.

« They are very, very simple, easy changes to make, » she said. « There is nothing difficult. There is no undue hardship that will happen to the military for tweaking some of these policies. »

The proposed policy changes Nash recommended include subsidized travel for single parents and improved access to on-base child care.

The delay in settling the grievance, said Nash’s lawyer, looks intentional on the military’s part — because a finding of discrimination by the human rights commission would be another embarrassment at a time when the military is still trying to clean up its image.

Military accused of slow-walking grievance

« It would be a huge black eye, obviously, given everything that’s going on with respect to the various issues that we see almost on a daily basis arising in respect of sexual harassment (and) the manner in which women are treated in the military, » said Natalie MacDonald.

Maj. Travis Smyth, a spokesman for the chief of military personnel, said there are a number of existing programs single parents can access now under the military’s Family Care Assistance plan, which is designed to offset increases in child care costs due to extended absences. Other services are available through Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, he said.

« They deliver a wide range of services and programs to support the physical, social, financial and mental wellbeing of the [Canadian Armed Forces] community, » Smyth said in an email.

« The [Royal Canadian Navy] acknowledges that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, and that we may not have policies to address every unique case that may confront our sailors, however we are trying to make it easier for our sailors to pursue a career in the RCN while balancing family life. »


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This man says Toronto police left him with a broken nose and a serious eye injury. His lawyer wants to know why they didn’t tell the SIU


Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson, speaking generally on Toronto Police Service policy, said police are expected to notify the SIU as soon as they’re aware that an injury might be serious or when they’re uncertain of an injury’s severity but recognize there’s a possibility it could fall under the SIU’s mandate.

On the SIU’s website, it states they are also to be notified if “a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed,” so that they can monitor the situation.

SIU investigators interviewed Clarke on Dec. 17. He also filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Review Director on Dec. 20.

Clarke said police charged him at the Scarborough hospital and released him from custody on a promise to appear in court,

This story is based on police and medical documents provided to the Star by Clarke, from an interview with him in his lawyer’s office and his written account given to the OIPRD.

“Given this case is now under investigation by the SIU and by Professional Standards I am unable to offer any comment on the allegations that have been brought forward,” Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said.

Once the SIU becomes involved, police typically do not release information on a case. None of Clarke’s allegations have been proven in court.

The knocking began after 8 p.m.

“Somebody was calling, ‘Joe, hey Joe,’” Clarke told the OIPRD. Through the apartment door’s peephole, he said he saw a woman, whom he later learned was a plainclothes police officer. She had a pony tail, and was not wearing identification, he said.

“I thought maybe this was a crazy person,” Clarke, who lives with a cousin in a 10th-floor apartment unit, told the Star. He said he hoped the woman would leave, but the knocking continued, along with more calls for a “Joe.”

Clarke said he went back to the door and heard it being unlocked from the outside. He tried to lock the door, but it was unlocked again.

“And then, she just come in and I see all the police officers pointing a gun at me,” Clarke said.

Clarke said several officers in plainclothes — at least two women and three men — entered the apartment, when one male officer then put his gun in his holster and “just starts swinging,” said Clarke.

In his complaint, Clarke estimates being punched 20 times, including to his head and face, by a number of officers. He said he was down on the floor and recalls being kicked and held in a headlock.

It felt, he told the Star, “like my eye was coming out of my head.”

In his complaint, Clarke said it was while they were punching that the officers identified themselves as police.

He said he recalls an officer yelling, “Toronto police, stop resisting arrest.” To which he said he responded: “I’m not fighting, I’m not fighting,” and said, “I can’t breathe. You’re choking me.”

Clarke said he put his hands behind his back, was handcuffed and seated in a chair. He said “there was another police officer standing up and he had his gun on me, the whole time.” The female officer from the peephole, he said, looked at his facial injuries and said: “Whoa, which one of us did that?”

Clarke said the police — he said he doesn’t know the identities of any of the plainclothes officers — were looking for drugs and the brother of his roommate, who was on probation but had never lived there.

Clarke presented the Star with a copy of the search warrant, which does not list a name.

A police photographer arrived and documented the search while Clarke sat with his injuries.

“After they finished the searching, they say, ‘Oh, we don’t have him in custody no more. Take the handcuffs off and just wait. The paramedics are coming.’ And I was sitting there waiting on the paramedics,” Clarke said.

Clarke said he was seen by medical staff at The Scarborough Hospital who determined the eye damage required reconstructive work that would have to wait for morning, when a plastic surgeon would be on shift.

After about two hours at the hospital, Clarke said two plainclothes officers whom he did not recognize from the apartment search told him he was being charged with obstructing and resisting a police officer. He said the officers then asked him to sign a release form that meant he would not immediately have to go to the station to be booked or held for bail.

In his complaint, Clarke said police told him if he didn’t sign, they would take him to the station and his eye damage could become worse. Clarke said he signed after more than an hour.

Clarke was due to appear again at a police station to be fingerprinted and booked on the obstruct and resist charge, and has a first court appearance on Jan. 11.

Clarke said he had a first surgery in the morning after the incident and may require a second. He said he was also treated for a “nasal fracture.” According to a doctor’s report, he reported no change in vision in his left eye at the time, but he said that has since changed.

“I can’t see things closely, so it’s, like, foggy, and there’s a lot of pain,” Clarke said, adding he is suffering from headaches and doesn’t think he can see well enough to drive a car. Followup appointments with his doctor and an ophthalmologist are coming, he said.

Clarke said he has not returned to his apartment, fearing someone might let themselves in. “It’s kind of scary,” he said. He doesn’t think he can return to any kind of work for now and is now looking at going on social assistance.

In a recent report into Toronto police use of force, the Ontario Human Rights Commission — part of its ongoing inquiry into racial discrimination and racial profiling by the service — found “themes” in a review of SIU director’s reports related to police and Black citizens. In a number of cases, the SIU stated there was a “lack of legal basis” for police stopping and detaining a civilian at the beginning of an encounter, and “laying charges against the civilian that are without merit.”

Singh, Clarke’s lawyer, said he’s concerned he was the one who notified the SIU of the incident — as in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer charged with beating Dafonte Miller, a Black teen, in Durham. Miller lost an eye in that incident, but it was his lawyer who contacted SIU.

“I had to take the initiative, and I have to thank the SIU for being very open and transparent and moving quick on this,” Singh told the Star. “But how often does this happen, and if I wasn’t offering my services to Mr. Clarke, would he get justice? It’s a huge concern that incidents like this go unreported, and even if they get reported, they go unassisted.”

SIU investigations can takes several months to complete. The SIU director then decides if any criminal charges are warranted.

“These allegations really bother me due to the nature of them, whereby (police are) attending an address for someone who is not wanted by police, they don’t identify themselves as police at the door, and then once they enter the apartment, there’s no attempt to ascertain his identity, ensure safety,” said Singh. “It’s just straight violence, as alleged by Mr. Clarke.”

With files from Alexandra Jones

Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin


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More than oilsands: Mayor has eye on new brand for Fort McMurray


The mayor of Canada’s oilsands capital says one of his priorities for 2019 is changing the way Canadians look at Fort McMurray.

In the new year, Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott has set his sights on a charm offensive with Canadians.

When people talk about Fort McMurray, Scott wants people to think beyond oilsands mines and camps, and instead imagine family-friendly communities with world-class recreational facilities surrounded by more protected forests and parks than most communities in Canada.

« They know that we are the economic engine of Canada. They’ve heard of us. Some have positive views. Some don’t, » Scott said in a year-end interview with CBC. « If people saw the reality of how great this region is, I think they would have a much easier time believing that this is a place to live and invest. »

By getting out a better brand for Fort McMurray, Scott hopes to attract more investment and convince more people to move to the community rather than flying in and out for work.

Other oil patch boosters have taken more confrontational approaches — especially when it comes to getting a pipeline built that could take Fort McMurray’s bitumen to new foreign markets.

Political figures such as former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean recently called for a boycott of Quebec-made products after Premier François Legault said there was « no social acceptability » in his province for a « dirty energy » pipeline from Alberta.

WATCH former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean call for a boycott of Quebec products.

Earlier in 2018, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley issued an outright ban on British Columbia wine and passed the so-called « turn off the taps » legislation that would allow the province to cut off energy shipments to B.C.

Notley’s actions were sparked after B.C.’s made further attempts to block the Trans Mountain pipeline, arguing it posed environmental risks for the province.

Scott did not mention the tactics of others, but said he will be using a softer public approach in the hopes of changing hearts and minds

Meanwhile, he says he’s still working all political back channels, including meetings in 2018 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Notley.

« I think the advocacy by Albertans has really worked. When I travel and I talk to other Canadians they are much more familiar with the challenge right now, » Scott said. « And they are much more supportive of pipelines. I feel like we are heading in the right direction. »

Promoting the Fort McMurray brand will happen, in part, through the newly created Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation, which recently appointed Kevin Weidlich as the new CEO.

More goals for Mayor Don Scott in 2019

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 


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