Dia del Amor y La Amistad: Five Ways to Celebrate the Day of Love and Friendship

From hot cocoa to homemade salsa habanera

Valentine’s Day can be romantic, exciting, and a heart-shaped box of anxiety all at the same time. But don’t give up all hope! In the Mexican community, we celebrate the Dia del Amor y La Amistad, or the Day of Love and Friendship.

So grab your platonic friend of the opposite sex, or get a group of your not-so-ready-to-mingle singles together and head to your favorite Latin-American restaurant for mezcal, chocolate, seafood, chilis, and other spicy, sensual foods for a more relaxed Valentine’s Day. Here are some ideas:

Like Water for Chocolate | Tita would surely approve of the Oaxacan-style hot chocolate, or chocolate de agua at Gish Bac; it’s perfect for dunking pan de yema, or sweet egg bread. And there’s more chocolate in their mole negro oaxaqueño (which is served with chicken), and in the tamales con mole (pictured above).  > Gish Bac, 4163 W. Washington Blvd, Mid-City, 323-737-5050.

Mexico Lindo | Head to La Casita Mexicana in Bell for a special Valentine’s Day menu prepared by chefs Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu that’s sure to include chiles en nogada and some sexy desserts. Bonus: Find gift baskets next door at La Tiendita, in case you want to spoil your friends. Yes, flowers and chocolates are okay on this low pressure occasion. > La Casita Mexicana, 4030 Gage Ave, Bell, 323-773-1898.

Mighty Aphrodite | Today is a day to be completely shellfish, because you are among friends and no one’s going to judge. Order a dozen oysters at Coni’seafood, and an aguachile of fresh Mexican shrimp floating on a pool of lime juice and puréed, green chilis while you’re at it. Share a whole pescado zarandeado, or grilled, butterflied snook imported from Mexico. What could be more loving than dining from communal dishes among friends?  > Coni’seafood, 3544 W. Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, 310-672-2339.

Si Se Puede (You Can Do it!) | Pick up some chocolates and mezcal and plan to cook a Mexican feast at your pad. Chiles habaneros—the official chile of the Yucatan—would be perfect to add a little spice to this day of affection. Stop by the La Paloma complex and buy a copy of Sabores Yucatecos: A Culinary Tour of the Yucatan at Chichen Itza, written by Chef Gilberto Cetina, his son, Gilberto Cetina, Jr., and Katherine A. Diaz. Recipes like octopus in its own ink, papadzules (tortillas filled with hard-boiled eggs covered in a pumpkin seed sauce are clear, and precise. Local substitutions are listed for some of those hard to get ingredients. Most dishes call for habaneros or salsa habanera on the side. > Chichen Itza, 3655 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, 213-741-1075.