It’s that time of year again, but this year we’ve decided to do separate gift guides for men and women. You can find our men’s guide here, and read on for women.
Of course, there’s no substitute for spending time together. However, these unique items and experiences should come a close second. Since Valentine’s Days is about romance, gifts given on V-Day will be a proxy for how you feel about her, so choose wisely! Avoid giving things like gift cards, with the exception of spa services or other experiences that can’t be boxed.
Chee-Yun Violin Essentials – From $1.44
When the lights are dimmed after dinner, and the only flicker comes from a candle by the bedside, pop in Chee-Yun’s album and enjoy the romance of the night. Chee-Yun is arguably one of the most prolific violinists of our time. Her rendition of Meditation from Thais is bold and riveting. The entire album is a masterpiece, although we might recommend skipping The Bumble Bee if you’re trying to set the mood. Click here to get your copy.
Plenty Cookbook $21
If your significant other is a foodie, this cookbook is the darling of this year’s biggest food trend: vegetarian cooking. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi packs this substantial volume with rich colors, textures, and flavors to suit many tastes and encourage experimentation. If she already has this one, the author is so prolific there is already a follow-up, aptly titled Plenty More!
Pearl Earrings $59 – $199
Very few things are “classic” for women, but pearl earrings are one of them. For the ultimate pearl quality, Mikimoto is the gold standard of cultured pearl jewelers and their prices reflect this. A real pair of pearls will be her elegant go-to for the office, evenings out, and even running errands. These Akoya pearls aren’t branded so the prices are more budget-friendly, and they come in 4.5mm to 7.5mm sizes, so you can choose the size that best suits your budget.
Coach Wristlet $165
This wristlet (which is basically a wallet on a little loop) is the perfect everyday wallet for the woman in your life. Some days it’s simply a pain for her to lug around a big handbag, and this is a perfect grab-and-go alternative. It also will fit almost every phone out there, and comes in 10 colors.
Faber Castell Ambition Fountain Pen in Matt Sand – $130
This is the fountain pen I first gave my wife. When Faber Castell sent me this pen last year, its feminine lines and contemporary appearance struck me as being a perfect compliment to my wife’s everyday arsenal of tools she seems to keep in her handbag. Beautifully crafted, if your significant other has a penchant for fine writing instruments, this is a perfect gift for her.
Basis Peak – $199
You may remember our article on smart watches, but the Basis Peak is one that although I wouldn’t wear, my wife loves. It’s similar to the FitBit, but so much more savvy. A heart rate monitor, fitness and sleep tracker as well as a smart watch, the $200 Basis Peak is slightly rugged, yet helps fitness and health-conscious women maintain their goals. For the tech-savvy woman in your life, this is one watch that helps add more time to her life. Click here to get one for just $159.
Anova Precision Cooker – $199
It’s difficult to find a sous-vide that isn’t bloody expensive, but for those culinarians who love unique cooking methods, owning one is almost mandatory. The best part, though, is that sous-vide cooking is so easy, it gives people who don’t enjoy cooking, the benefit of simply being able to walk away. The Anova Precision Cooker with WIFI is possibly the greatest kitchen utensil you’ll ever own. Controlled via your smartphone, it takes the difficulty out of achieving a perfectly cooked meal every single time. At just under $200 (and often on sale), the Anova is the perfect gift for the home chef, and even professionals are turning to Anova and using them in their restaurants. Click here to get the same one I have at home.
Champagne Wishes & Caviar Dreams
This is more of an experience than a gift, but there’s something very romantic and indulgent about champagne and caviar.
Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Champagne – Approx. $220 US
You may recall when I recommended this particular bottle in our Champagne Guide. Rich, biscuity and full bodied, this bottle is well worth its hefty price tag. Named after its famed customer who ordered boxes to commemorate every life event, Pol Roger created this elegant and iconic Champagne. It is the perfect compliment to caviar and one you will not be disappointed with.
Kaluga Fusion Caviar Gift Set – $238
You may be wondering why we’re recommending Kaluga over Beluga, and that’s simply because beluga caviar is protected as a threatened species in the United States which makes it illegal to import this fine delicacy.
Although many Osetra caviars are the next best thing, in my opinion, the beluga-style Kaluga caviar is about as exquisite as it gets. Its mild buttery flavor profile comes from the Huso Dauricus sturgeon which makes it a worthy alternative to the beluga caviar many of us miss. This particular gift set comes with everything you need to serve it including Crème Fraiche and handmade blini’s which are like little buttery pancakes. Add the optional mother of pearl spoon as well if you don’t currently own a caviar spoon. Using any kind of metal will alter the taste of the caviar. The next best thing is just to use a plastic spoon. Click here to buy the set.
As Raphael’s Father likes to say, looking costs nothing!
Roger Dubuis Blossom Velvet – $64,200
There is really no greater gift than time. The Blossom Velvet timepiece from Roger Dubuis is one of the most feminine and elegant watches that softly embraces the curves of her wrist. Available in a blush pink or cerulean blue, the dial is a magnificent canvas for the sparkling 154 diamonds. Forget the diamond ring or the bracelet. This is the gift she’ll be talking about for years to come.
Pelican Cay – $3,500,000.00 USD
If your budget is unlimited and your significant other knows it, sometimes finding the perfect gift can seem harder than if your budget was tight. Most men that have such large budgets for gifts often wonder if regardless of how much they spend, will they look cheap. In most cases, unless they’re dating or married to a woman who is with them for money (no judgment if you are), the average woman will be pleased with just a card and a kiss. However, you need to be comfortable and confident when giving the gift to her and if she means the absolute world to her, why not give her a piece of it.
It’s as rare as your luck that she decided to be with you, but this picture-perfect private island is available for sale. Surprisingly, compared to many of the other islands for sale, it’s quite reasonable. The small island is fringed with powdery beaches and a grove of coconut palm trees that cast their shadow over the crystal clear Bahamian waters.
Experiences For Two
Sometimes a gift is an excellent accent to a perfect Valentine’s Day. Here are few ideas for how you can give her the experience of a lifetime and the gift of time spent with you on a day she will never forget.
If you and your partner are fans of fine food and travel, consider taking her away for a night or two. Here are a couple of hotspots we recommend. For more information on our favorite hotels, click here.
Napa Valley, California
Wine country. Some of the best wineries in the United States come from Napa, and its close neighbor Sonoma. The big difference between the two is our restaurant recommendation.
Consistently rated one of the top restaurants in the world, chef Thomas Keller’s ‘The French Laundry’ has three Michelin stars and was named “the best restaurant in the world, period” by Anthony Bourdain.
Located in a historic building, the French Laundry serves two different nine-course tasting menus each day, none of which uses the same ingredient more than once. During special holidays such as Valentine’s Day, there are often surprise dishes added to the menu. Of course, like any top restaurant, it can be difficult to get a table on February 14th. We recommend pulling every string you have and maybe considering a picnic at a winery on Valentine’s Day and dinner at The French Laundry the next. The regular cost for dinner is $295 USD per person, including gratuity for the base meal, not including additions such as Russian caviar and truffles. We recommend staying at the North Block Hotel, which is within walking distance from the restaurant. Otherwise, consider the Auberge Du Soleil in nearby Rutherford.
New York, New York
There is no city in the world, quite like Manhattan. From Broadway to Times Square, there is something to take in everywhere you look. The art galleries and museums are remarkable, the street scenes are breathtaking, and there’s something very romantic about a walk through the park on Valentine’s Day.
There are many highly regarded restaurants in New York City. In fact, one might argue that it is the mecca of fine dining. The pinnacle of New York restaurants, however, is Eleven Madison Park. Rated the #5 restaurant in the world, chef Daniel Humm offers upscale American tasting menus served in its stunning, high-ceilinged art deco space. The price of their daily tasting menu is $295 per guest. This price is all inclusive, excluding beverages and tax. As such, gratuities are neither expected nor accepted by the staff.
If you are looking to partake in a romantic walk through one of New York’s beautifully landscaped parks, we recommend staying at the renowned Gramercy Park Hotel, which affords its guests keys to the world famous private park that has graced the big screen’s most romantic films time and time again.
There is no city quite like it. London is the quintessential town for the aristocrat and the gentleman. Its rich history coupled with its lively charm proffers its guests a chance to feel like royalty as the grace the famous streets and see the sights. For us, the beauty of London is its rich sartorial lineage from the streets of Savile Row, Jermyn Street, and Bond, among others. For every guest of the city, its the food, the culture and that flutter you get as you land at Heathrow Airport.
There are many magnificent restaurants and hotels in London, but our pick of the litter is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarine Oriental, Hyde Park. Blumenthal is the mad scientist of the culinary world. An artistic genius, he less known than Gordon Ramsay but some argue far more talented.
One of the most celebrated and revered restaurants in Europe, if not the world, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is a showcase of Britain’s gastronomic past. A glimpse into the world of the 15th and 16th-centuries, the restaurant and its menu are from a bygone era with a contemporary twist and appeal. Glass walls separate the dining room from its kitchen where guests can witness the circus of chefs playing with fire and ice. It is a remarkable sight and an even better culinary experience. It’s one you will never forget.
While in London, stay at the restaurant’s award-winning hotel, or step back in time and stay at the wonderful Goring Hotel across from Buckingham Palace.
This choice might surprise you, but our last three destinations were such classic we had to throw in something a little off the beaten track. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul may often be overshadowed by Chicago, but the culinary scene here is just as exciting and much more affordable. And you can stop at the Mall of America, if that’s your style.
It’s later that night when you’ll really have fun. That’s the time to hit up Travail Kitchen and Amusements. It is my top favorite restaurant of 2015, and the 20-course tasting menu is a perfect blend of fine molecular gastronomy and the casual amusement and jovial horseplay by the staff. With waiters, chefs and mixologists shouting, loud music blaring and the open concept industrial feel, it’s a prix fixe dinner that’s arguably the finest in the Twin Cities or perhaps even the country. Each course has a fine dining quality to it that’s wrapped in wackiness by the artfully entertaining chefs who cook from the kitchen right in the middle of everything. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, and your options are to buy tickets in advance or show up and hope for an opening. You may not get in on Valentine’s Day, but there are plenty of great restaurants in the Twin Cities, and Travail is one you can hit the day before or the night after. It’s an experience, unlike anything you’ll ever see and its story about how it was funded through KickStarter is a testament to how beloved the establishment is to the Twin Cities. tales you’ll ever hear. Just be prepared to have to eat with no hands, catch food flung from the kitchen and have a delicacy served to you on the back of your hand. Oh and you must be an adventurous eater. This isn’t your average restaurant.
While in Minneapolis if you’re not as fortunate as I was to stay at the home of our Editor in Chief, consider the contemporary, but upscale Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis or the elegant St. Paul Hotel in St. Paul.
Need Last Minute Reservations?
We recommend going out on another night than Valentine’s Day in our last guide, simply because the experience is less rushed and often less expensive. But if you are in need of a last minute reservations, there is someone you can call.
Private Concierge Services
There are a number of private concierge services that have the single job of getting their customers access to products and events. From tickets to the Academy Awards and the Grammy’s to reservations at the top restaurants in the world, a private concierge service should be able to get the job done.
The one unfortunate aspect is that unlike the credit card companies, you do have to pay for their services. Often it’s a flat rate per month, but sometimes it’s based on the request or difficulty of the job. Also, some companies have far more capabilities and experience than others. Do your research before signing a contract. If it’s a one-time request, ask them for a single use rate.
Valentine’s Day should, according to many women, be the most romantic day of the year next to an anniversary. The gifts listed above should be in addition to the experience of spending time together. What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Any gift ideas?
Finally, don’t miss our gift guide for men!