Two holidays, worthy of celebration, are coming up in the next week: Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Here are two worthy/fun events worthy of your time.

First: Mardi Gras! The place to be is Eatonville. There are events starting this Thursday, from happy hour’s to live jazz to eating of King Cake. Then the big event is a Food and Folklore series on Fat Tuesday, featuring John Franklin and Nona Martin, the former who will talk about African culture and cuisine and the latter, who is a New Orleans native, will talk about the history and culture of the city as well as of Mardi Gras. The dinner will feature a pre-fixe menu for $45/person.

Also, check out Social 14‘s party on Fat Tuesday. From 7pm to Midnight, there will be $4 Hurricanes and free gumbo in the Cellar (free gumbo!). They recommend coming in costume or simply wearing Mardi Gras purple, gold and green.

Next: Valentine’s Day. Get some flowers for yourself or your sweetheart. Petals for the People, a flower subscription service, will be set up pickups at Stem, at 14th and U. And if you want to arrange your own bouquet, you can attend their flower arranging workshop on February 13th, at 16th and O, for $55, participants get enough flowers to make two arrangements.

If you know of any other good Mardi Gras/Valentine’s events, let me know in the comments (I tend to stay away from Valentine’s Day dining and probably won’t post about it, just to let you know.)

winter squash risotto

For your valentine: winter squash risotto

Light those candles, dim the lights and make this for your valentine: winter squash risotto. I don’t have a link here, because this is sort of a U Street Girl original. Not that I’ve invented risotto, but this is the way I make it, I’ve played around and this is what works for me.

Risotto, to me, is perfect food to cook for a special occasion. It’s very tasty, luxurious, but also homey and relatively simple to make. Plus, once you’ve mastered the base recipe, you can add whatever you want: shrimp, asparagus, broccoli, chicken, pesto, etc etc. It just requires your full attention for a half hour. Plus, this version is sort of vegetarian, if you want to use veggie stock. Where the hell else can you get a gourmet Valentine’s day meal for less than $10?

Budget: $7, makes 4 servings so $1.75 a serving. I know you’re only serving two so you could cut in half and then it’s only $3.50, but I like having the leftovers.

Recipe details after the jump.

A regular feature in which I cook cheap, gourmet dishes.