This week on R&K, a White Castle Valentine’s Day, an epic guide to Tashkent, and Yasmin Khan cooks her way through Palestine.

This post originally appeared on February 14, 2019, in R&K’s weekly newsletter. Read the archives and subscribe to the newsletter.

Happy Thursday, and Valentine’s Day!

Today isn’t just about scoring reservations at dark, cozy restaurants with set menus and perhaps a free glass of fizz. Fast-food chains have their own Valentine’s traditions: Couples’ bread-bowls at Panera, heart-shaped donuts at Krispy Kremeand for the lucky folks in the U.K. and Ireland, handy instructions for making this floral arrangement of fried chicken from KFC. (All we want for Valentine’s Day is enough fries to do our own take on the LA Times’ definitive french fry rankings. But I digress…)

For 28 years, fast-food chain White Castle has been offering reservations-only Valentine’s Day dinners, with table-service, red tablecloths, the occasional violinist, and special-edition strawberry milkshakes. All their restaurants are booked up for tonight, but if you want to see glorious scenes of Valentine’s Day revelry and tasteful bouquets of roses towering over branded boxes of crinkle-cut fries, you’re in luck. Last year, Cengiz Yar photographed the ‘Love Castle’ celebrations in Chicago (shout-out to the folks who BYO’d champagne) and this week we sent White Castle newbie Irene Jiang on an intrepid solo trip to the Bushwick branch to sample the Valentine’s Day menu on not-Valentine’s Day.

This week, we also discovered that all you need is plovparticularly if you’re going to Uzbekistan. Our epic know before you go guide to Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent has all the info you need on where to fill up on plov, the region’s meat-and-rice staple, riding the marvelous Soviet-era Metro, where to score some of the world’s best fruit (and maybe even a carpet), and how to dress to impress at Tashkent’s classy karaoke bars.

Speaking of karaoke, R&K friend and erstwhile karaoke partner, author and cook Yasmin Khan, is our guest on The Trip podcast this week. Khan talks about her her new book celebrating Palestinian cuisine, Zaitoun, a series of travel essays and recipes she collected on her journeys through Israel and the West Bankand remote interviews from Gaza. As Khan says,“If we want to change the world, we just have to start telling different stories. Food is a brilliant way to tell a story and Palestinian food is damn good.” Read the interview here, and listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Radio Public, or Stitcher.

Until next week. We have some french fries to eat.