On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love. Love is lovely! We should celebrate it all of the time, in all of its flavors. This is as good an excuse as any. The holiday doesn’t have to be all red roses and bedroom eyes. It’s a perfect time to send flowers to a friend, to call someone you’ve been thinking of, to give your dog a special treat — and, above all, to treat yourself. Because sometimes, who needs other people?
What are your favorite self-indulgences? We asked local figures from the food world and beyond to share the foods they crave when they want to indulge in something special.
“OK, so my favorite indulgence is SELTZER. I am a seltzer man through and through, and my house is stocked at all times with at least three 12-packs of 12-ounce cans of seltzer. My favorite flavor is grapefruit, and I am more or less drinking a seltzer at every moment of the day. The bubbly warms my heart.”
Executive director, Mass Cultural Council
“I’m a health nut. About seven years ago, I went through this whole journey of self-care — physical, mental, spiritual, cultural, I just wanted to deal with it all. I went to my doctor and said, ‘Take all the blood you can. Test me for everything.’ It came back that I was allergic to gluten and dairy. I cut them out immediately and it changed my body. I guess I thought gut pain was something everyone lived with. I realized any processed food was starting to have an effect on me. I got rid of sugar. I slowly dropped meat from my diet. Basically, I’m left with a whole-food, plant-based diet, which means I only eat beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and grains. I don’t crave any of the stuff I used to crave. I leave meals energized and awake. I can feel nutrients pumping through my veins. I’m not bloated and sluggish. I lost 100 pounds. I had a dossier of problems when I went in, and it all went away with food and exercise.
“When my husband and I go out to dinner — he’s a carnivore with a capital C — I wind up getting an $80 salad and he’ll get mad at me. [Laughs] I have been able to find things — Sweet Greens; Life Alive I love; I can go to Cava and get a really good meal. At Life Alive, my two favorite meals are the Green Goddess and Rainbow Harvest bowls. Their PB&J acai bowl, that is an indulgence. I will have that maybe twice a week. It’s mixed with crunchy grains and really good, nonsweet peanut butter.”
Anchor, NECN and NBC10 Boston
“I’m totally a local girl who loves her bar pie. I grew up in Freetown and we would go to Brockton to go to church. I got conned into going by my grandmother. She’d tell me she’d take me to Cape Cod Cafe for pizza afterward. Now it’s a lot easier to buy frozen at the grocery store. We definitely eat at least a pie or two a week. I absolutely love it. There’s something about how crispy you can get it in the oven. Some would argue it’s on the burnt side. If I’m having a rough day, I’m like, ‘Preheat the oven, honey,’ and my husband knows to have a Cape Cod Cafe pizza waiting when I come home. Pepperoni is better than any other one. It’s where it’s at. I feel strongly about that.
“My dad is from Jersey City, so processed meats are in my blood. I never met a processed meat I didn’t like. And my grandmother is from the Azores; my family is from São Miguel. I’m obsessed with chouriço and chips subs. You’re only going to find them around Fall River and Freetown. There’s a place called Harry’s in my hometown. It’s a chouriço and fries sub, the only condiment is grease, and it’s wonderful. On a bad day, one of those makes you so much happier.
“I also love Gifford’s toasted coconut ice cream. It’s made in Maine. I discovered it because of the Scoop Deck in Wells, my favorite place to get ice cream. There are little flecks of chocolate coconut shreds in there. It’s decadent. A mug of that and I’m a happy camper. Can you tell I’m an emotional eater?”
Musician, Dropkick Murphys cofounder, restaurateur
“This isn’t to promote one of my establishments, however, ever since we came out with this a couple of months ago, the street corn nachos from Yellow Door Taqueria are exactly what I get when I need to change my spirits. It was the greatest thing I’ve never come up with. I don’t know who did, but I want to thank them when I meet them. It’s basically nachos, but instead of all the other bad crap, it’s avocados and corn and a bunch of delicious — dare I say healthy? — maybe I’m pushing my luck, but a little better than nachos at Chili’s or something like that.
“My partner Brian O’Donnell, he’s the foodie and I’m the chicken Parm guy. I’m a pretty basic guy, but Brian is expanding my palate. We opened Madre Osteria in Milton and there was no chicken Parm at first! We added it. Chicken Parm would be my backup to street corn nachos, and the Madre chicken Parm is excellent. Seriously, this is not an effort to self-promote. I just need to tell the truth.”
Chef-owner of Pagu, cofounder of Off Their Plate and Project Restore Us
“I love potato chips, specifically Spanish potato chips cooked in olive oil. I eat them when I’m hangry, stressed, trying to solve a problem, happy, celebrating, hit a milestone...
“Formaggio carries a giant tin of Bonilla la Vista chips and I can’t get enough of them. (Neither can my kids and the rest of the family. The kids use the giant tin as a drum set afterwards. There’s a collection at home. Our pug Pearl uses it for her dog food! Upcycling...) My friends and family always say I’m hard to shop for, but I think I’m easy. A giant tin of patatas fritas will always hit the spot.
“On the sweet side, I love EHChocolatier’s chocolates. The use of citrus and tea is delicious (and also PAGU-esque). I recently discovered Sugoi Sweets, which often incorporates a nice sablé crunch in their bonbons. They’re colorful and we always share them with our 2-year-old, Olive, so she can pick the purple ones and we all get one bite.”
Owner, Gracie’s Ice Cream and Earnest Drinks
“American-style trifle. It’s Cool Whip, chocolate pudding, white and dark chocolate chips, strawberries, Nilla Wafers, and Twinkies. I hesitate to say I invented it. It’s just a bunch of stuff blasted into soft things. It’s not on the menu at Earnest Drinks, but it might be this winter sometime.
“The main benefit is that it’s not fussy. On Christmas Eve, I was mad about how the pie I made looked, so I went to Market Basket 45 minutes before people were scheduled to arrive and made this for dessert instead. You can put it together really fast and it looks impressive. The recipe changes. You can put anything in it, but this is my version: I’m going to say you need two bases, a pudding and a whipped cream. I use Cool Whip and chocolate pudding, but you could use butterscotch or vanilla. The textures are important. You want the soft texture of a Twinkie, the hard texture of a Nilla Wafer, the squishy texture of a fruit, the crunchy texture of chocolate chips. If you’re going for it, really go for it.
“The one I made for Christmas Eve was probably 20 servings, so just be OK that there’s leftovers.”
Chef-owner, Wusong Road
“Chicken Parm and a glass of Nikka From the Barrel whisky. Super basic, but man I think that would cheer anyone up (except for a straight-edge vegan, perhaps). And then a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups just to finish it. Yeah, cooks don’t really eat that healthy after work.”
Chef-owner of Tambo 22, co-owner of Trattoria San Pietro and Santa Cruz Lodge
“Tambo’s pan con chicharrón — a fresh, warm, slightly toasted Vietnamese baguette with super-crunchy-skin pork belly, criolla salad, and sweet potato — is one of my favorite self-indulgences! Thank God we only have it available on Sundays, otherwise I would eat it more often.
“And a ristretto intenso with a shot of RumChata liqueur. It’s a perfect lift-me-up, not too sweet but super-delicious! It’s my version of a caffè corretto.”
Poet, professor at UMass-Amherst
“When my mother was a little girl, she fed pudding to her favorite doll till the stitches burst. That’s what would happen to me if I ‘indulged.’”
Love Letters columnist, author
I have tried almost every single Compartés chocolate bar. I’ve become obsessed and I’m not even a chocolate bar person. I first bought one in 2020 because someone tweeted about the limited edition avocado one. I was like, ‘This will make me happy.’ I should have bought 100 of them. I ordered two or three. What I couldn’t believe was it did taste like guac and chips, kind of. I don’t buy a bar of chocolate frequently, but at that point I ordered like five of them. They’re $10 a pop plus a not-insignificant amount of shipping, so I spent like 60 bucks or so on chocolate bars, but I bought them with people in mind who I felt I could eat them outside with in a special way. One friend loves drive-in movie theaters, and there’s a Drive In flavor. At some point, I was like, ‘I have to stop doing this. It’s a really nice thank you gift for somebody, but you can’t be ordering these for yourself all the time.’ Then friends stayed with me and they sent me 10 bars after they returned home. I just feel like I want to do tastings. All of the art is really fun. The taste lives up to the packaging. If you get, like, three, you can feel like it’s got a wine-and-cheese vibe: What if I pair it with this or that?”
Julie and Bessie King
Mother and daughter owners of Villa Mexico Cafe
“Celebrating Valentine’s Day is always a romantic, funny, and happy day for us, and it doesn’t mean that you especially have to celebrate with a ‘partner,’ but you also can please your family, friends, etc.
“One of our favorite indulgent things to eat is baked goods, like pan dulce. Valentine’s is the perfect excuse for it. I love rich chocolate cake from anywhere, from Roche Bros. to Flour or L.A. Burdick, just make it chocolate! Bessie prefers cheesecake: She loves cheesecake from Bova’s or this young girl Lula, at Baked by Lula, who sells them through Instagram. We always get flowers and cakes to eat together with our workers and give them each — even the men — their rose.”
Artistic director, the Gold Dust Orphans
“I rarely indulge, but every Valentine’s Day we go out and it’s always the same script:
WAITER: ... And how would you like your steak?
ME: With the bell on, running for its life.
WAITER: (mildly annoyed) OK. Rare. Any appetizer?
ME: Wedge salad. With enough blue cheese to make the people around me start checking their sneakers.
WAITER: (worried) OK. Fine. Wine?
ME: Red. Dry. As dry as the dirt around a grave.
WAITER: (shaken) I’ll see what we can do.”
Chef, founder Craigie on Main
“Fritos. They are this salty, crispy, crunchy, sweet, corny snack, and they’re just the right size so you don’t have to fumble with them too much, which serves a purpose on a road trip. They can be a good dip chip, but I don’t need the dip with the Frito. They’re great on their own. They make bigger ones, but it’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Don’t mess with it, you got it right the first time.
“And pho. I’m a big fan of brothy, noodle-y soups. Maybe it takes me back to my grandmother, who knows. As much as I enjoy a pickled mustard green and pork version in a Chinese restaurant, or all variations on ramen, I am most comforted by a bowl of pho. There’s this savory, star anise-y background to this really rich broth you get from simmering for hours and hours. It’s collagen-rich if it’s made right, with a good mouthfeel. The bowl is this beautiful thing, but it’s also a bit of a palette. Whether it’s sriracha, Thai basil, lime, you can do your own little ritualistic additions and make that bowl your own. It could be a good mood, celebratory bowl or a bad mood ‘I need some comforting.’ It has an emotional response for me.”
Chef Peppino (Shingara Singh)
Executive chef and co-owner of Da Vinci Bistro
“My favorite dish is spaghetti cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). It’s a simple yet beautiful dish that can have very vibrant and complex flavors. It serves as a reminder that delicious food does not have to be complicated. A few simple and high-quality ingredients can create wonders on the palate!”
Founder, Black Owned Bos.
“I love to treat myself to BBQ from Pit Stop, baked goods from Clarke’s Cakes & Cookies, and breakfast sandwiches from Soleil!”
Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.