Courtesy of California Academy of Sciences

From watching flightless birds make your heart soar to showering your community with love, here’s Best of the West, Valentine’s Day edition

Sunset Staff  – February 10, 2020 | Updated February 13, 2020

Love Is in the Air (The Birds, Not So Much)

Who doesn’t love a penguin? They’re slightly awkward, un-svelte little creatures, and yet they still manage to mate for life. When I was single, I found this inspiring, and now that I have, in spite of my own quirks, found my life partner, I want to take her to a Penguin Valentines event at the California Academy of Sciences. In the days up to and including Feb 14, keepers hand out little felt Valentine’s Day hearts to the penguins during daily feedings, not just because they, too, adore the little waddlers, but because the handouts are also part of enrichment activities for the birds. Bachelor penguins incorporate the Valentine tokens into nests to attract mates, and coupled penguins re-gift theirs to their other halves. Penguin Valentines happen Feb 12-14 during regular feedings at 10:30 am and 3 pm. It’s free with museum admission. If you can’t make it, you can tune in remotely via webcam. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

California Academy of Sciences Admission, starting at $30.50
   

Better Than Chocolate

Getting the Year off to a Sweet Start
Thomas J. Story

Valentine’s Day is not a holiday my husband and I have ever chosen to honor. Why wouldn’t we express our mutual love and appreciation for one another every day? Saying it with flowers or chocolate is more meaningful when it’s unexpected, after all. Fast-forward to us having school-aged kids, who are still too young and seduced by the love spell of sugar to imagine passing up any occasion to say it with chocolate. And so we indulge their sweet tooth on the heart-shaped holiday, because life is short. This year I’m going to surprise the kiddos and my husband by improving on one of nature’s greatest gifts (the cocoa bean) in the form of this amazing Nutella Mousse, because why say it with just chocolate when you can say it with chocolate and hazelnuts?! I’m pretty sure Cupid would agree. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

She Cooks with Her Own Hands

Oregon 1862 Map
Heather Arndt Anderson

Since Valentine’s Day is ALSO Oregon’s birthday, I’m preparing a meal that screams “I love you but I love boosterism more” using my home state’s symbolic foods. I’ll forgo the fried beaver tail (though I’ve heard it’s a delicacy) and go with something a little more romantic: our state crustacean and mushroom (Dungeness crab-chanterelle risotto); our state fish (Chinook salmon with pink peppercorn beurre blanc); the state fruit and nut (a pear salad with toasted hazelnut vinaigrette); and though it isn’t writ, our state dessert (marionberry pie). Fun fact: Our state beverage is actually milk; I’ll be having a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir instead. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

A Heartfelt Valentine

A Heartfelt Valentine
Courtesy of H.E.A.R.T.
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Overpriced flowers, the pressure of buying the perfect gift, and trying to score a reservation have all made Valentine’s Day one of my least favorite holidays. So, this year my husband and I have decided to give back to those who could use some love. One organization that has caught my attention is H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma), a group in Downtown Los Angeles that works in partnership with VIP (Violence Intervention Program) to raise funds to support child abuse victims. As the largest child-abuse treatment clinic in the country, VIP cares for over 20,000 victims of abuse, neglect, and sexual assault each year. There are plenty of ways to get involved, but if you can swing it, monetary donations are the best way to support. And while H.E.A.R.T. works mainly in the Los Angeles area, I encourage you to check locally for nonprofits in your area or check out sites like GreatNonprofits.org to aid your search. —Jasmin Perez, digital strategy director

Maybe Next Year

Hideout Cabin
Courtesy of Hideout Cabin

Looking for a sweet lil’ spot for a Valentine’s Day getaway? Floyd Detroit’s newest Stay Floyd property (these are Airbnb rentals decked out in Floyd gear for people to test out while they stay) is the Hideout Cabin in Leavenworth, Washington. The modern, custom cabin—built to showcase the outdoors that surrounds it—is not far from Wenatchee and close to the Enchantments and Steven’s Pass for hiking, climbing, and skiing (for adventurous couples). It sits on its own private acreage (for added privacy). The interior is full of thoughtful design and cozy finishes like Floyd sofas and beds, fluffy rugs, and soft lighting, plus floor-to-ceiling windows to frame the stunning view. Très romantique! Learn more about the property here, then book your stay on Airbnb (V-Day dates are booked, sadly, but you can always book for later in the season and surprise your Valentine with the news on the 14th!) —Kate Wertheimer, travel editor

Hideout Cabin
   

Beer My Valentine

Beer My Valentine
Courtesy of Denver Brewing

In the Bay Area, Valentine’s Day has been eclipsed by the phenomenon known as SF Beer Week. The weeklong-ish gathering (it’s really ten days, from February 7-16) of brewers and drinkers from all over the West and beyond has grown massively in past years, resulting in dozens of opportunities to schmooze with beer professionals and drink rare beers each day. This year, that includes February 14, usually a day reserved for candlelit steak dinners and champagne. Skip the traditional route, and wow your date with a pig roast paired with Ambitious Ales out of Long Beach, CA, oysters and Pet-Nats at Woods Brewing, or a double and triple IPA tasting at SF’s Noc Noc. Check out the schedule for the overwhelming list of events here. Cheers! —Ellen Fort, food editor

An All-Natural Galentines Gift My Friends Will Use

An All-Natural Galentines Gift My Friends Will Actually Use
Courtesy of Tower 28

I love a good facial spray for a little skin pick-me-up throughout the day. The SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray from Tower 28 is my new favorite to use in the morning, post-workout, after staring at a computer screen for too long…or anytime, really. I don’t always carry around a bag of gifts for friends, but I plan to buy this 4 oz. spray for a few close ones—partly because I know they’ll actually use it (unlike the usual February 14 tchotchke) and also because its pink and red packaging makes this token of appreciation feel extra Galentines Day-appropriate. —Maya Wong, assistant editor

SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, $28 from Tower 28
   

Vintage Valentine’s Style

Cuyama Buckhorn
Kate Berry

My husband and I think romanticism is in the daily slog of doing one another’s dishes, but since we’re lucky enough to live amongst the oak forests, arroyos, and canyons of Southern California, we try to make a trip to a new spot every year. This year we’re headed up to Cuyama Buckhorn, a Santa Barbara County inn perched on the doorstep of the Los Padres National Forest that has all those roadside vintage vibes (but not the overrun Insta-intensity of Pappy & Harriet’s). They’re doing a food-focused Valentine’s Day special, and I can indulge my inner child who never got to go to culinary school. The culinary director is a fella who used to work at Union, our fave Pasadena Italian spot, and has taken Farm Viability classes at Stone Barns, the best farm restaurant in the world. As if that great pedigree wasn’t enough to recommend Matthew Roberts, he’s running an incredible series of classes, including wild-flour breadmaking with Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, an organization that promotes the proliferation of low-water heirloom California grains. My ultimate romantic evening is stuffing one another with home-baked, heirloom bread dipped in California olive oil as we gaze up at bright yellow Venus, feeling a zillion miles from civilization. —Dakota Kim, staff writer

Cuyama Buckhorn