Romantic meals take many forms, and that’s a good thing. According to the National Restaurant Association, Valentine’s Day is the second-most popular day of the year for restaurant visits. Keeping that in mind, here are a dozen ways that restaurants are putting their own spin on the event.
• Shellfish motives: The prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu ($80, or $120 per person with wine pairings) at Shaw’s Crab House Chicago features a chilled appetizer combo for two—oysters, jumbo shrimp, red king crab bites and Maine lobster tail— and a second course of lobster bisque or mixed greens salad. The main course selections are salmon or an 8-ounce filet, with chocolate layer cake for dessert.
• The heart of it all: At Rialto Restaurant and Bar in Cambridge, MA, the Valentine’s Day menu includes four “heart-breakingly delicious” courses for $85, with romantic wine pairings ($45). Among the desserts: Blood Orange Parfait and Warm Heart-Shaped Bomboloni (vanilla doughnuts, chocolate cream, vanilla caramel sauce, hot cocoa and espresso gelato).
• Beer my valentine: At Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in California, the San Francisco Beer Week (February 6 to 16) and Strong Beer Month celebrations splash over into Valentine’s Day specials, including Chef Alfaro’s beer and dessert pairing menu offered from February 6 through 16 (pairings are served on a surfboard). The Valentine’s Day Menu Specials range from Oysters Rockefeller ($14) or bacon-wrapped prawns filled with smoked Gouda ($14) to Flat Iron Steak ($26) or Chicken Marsala Pasta ($26). Dessert choices include Mascarpone Ginger Tart or Bleu Cheese Cheesecake ($7 each).
• King of hearts: Heart-shaped brioche-style King Cake is a romantic spin on chef David Guas’s signature “BB” King cake at Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, VA. It’s iced with Creole Cream Cheese and dusted with pink and red sugar for Valentine’s Day. Customers can preorder for pickup.
• A toast to Valentine’s Day: The four-course Valentine’s day menu at the Publican in Chicago ($65 per person) includes a first course of fig-stuffed burrata arugula, almond and aged balsamic, and duck rillettes toast and berry jam. Other courses: wild mushroom lasagna, truffled porchetta, and chicory semifreddo, chocolate and walnut. Optional beer and wine pairings are available.
• Take heart: Romantic types with “hearty” appetites will be able to indulge in the heart-shaped pizzas offered by Chicago’s Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza. It is available at all Giordano’s for dine-in, delivery and carry-out from February 9 through 15.
• Dessert drama: Dessert choices on chef Robert Wiedmaier’s Valentine’s Day Divine menu at Marcel's in Washington DC include White Chocolate Mousse with Passion Fruit Gelee and Blackberry Citrus Coulis, and Chocolate Pot de Crème with Caramel Semifreddo and Raspberry Consomme.
• Dessert debut: The Red Velvet Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich is getting a trial run at Del Frisco’s Grille locations ($10) over Valentine’s Day weekend, and may earn a place on the regular dessert menu. The specialty dessert features a warm Red Velvet Waffle filled with ice cream and served with homemade chocolate dipping sauce.
• Dynamic duos: Bonefish Grill’s dinner-for-two prix fixe menu for Valentine’s Day is available for $29.99 per person, and runs From February 9 through February 15. Entrees include a surf and turf presentation of filet mignon and lobster, or Imperial Topped Sea Bass stuffed with freshly caught shellfish, served with lemon caper butter and steamed asparagus.
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• Sweets for the sweet: Craftbar in NYC is offering a Sugar Shack Dinner for Valentine’s Day in the private dining room. The $85-per-person menu is inspired by the sugar maple trees in Eastern Canada, where sap is boiled down in sugar shacks to make maple syrup. The smoked, whipped, glazed and candied choices include smoked duck; venison sausage with cornmeal pancakes, cured egg and mustard sabayon; glazed confit pork shoulder and candied custard, date cake and Canadian bacon.
• Heartwarming: Executive chef Chris Siverson’s four-course prix fixe menu ($90 per person) at Maritime Parc in Jersey City, NJ, includes Chilled Crab and Avocado, Ricotta Gnudi with kale pesto and winter mushrooms, Bacon-Wrapped Quail, Spiced Glazed Duck Breast, and Dry-Aged Rib Eye. Dessert choices: Nutella Cheesecake or Honey Nougat Glace.
• Righteous: In Ft. Worth, TX, Righteous Foods offers a $95 per person Valentine’s Day menu with amuse bouche (consommé, wild mushroom ravioli), first course (poached lobster with aerated coconut oil or organic sweet potato gnocchi with sangria-braised oxtail) and entrée choices of Cowgirl Cut Bone-in Ribeye or Tasmanian Steel Head. For dessert: warm dark chocolate, olive oil and pistachio gelato or lemon and cardamom cheesecake.
• High life: Roofers Union in Washington DC is hosting a masquerade party for Valentine’s Day. Tickets are $60 for the event that includes live music and an open bar from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. Masks are encouraged.
• Loving couples: The three-course Valentine’s Day weekend menu offered at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar starts at $59.95, and includes filet mignon with either Pecan-Crusted Salmon or an 8-ounce lobster tail ($69.95), plus a selection of iconic wines priced at $85 per bottle while supplies last.
• Underground gala: Not everybody has a special someone to celebrate with. That’s why a gals-only “Galentine’s Day” gathering will take place at Enoteca Sociale in Toronto, where single women can be seated from 6 p.m. until 9:15 p.m. in the private underground wine cellar that accommodates 8 to 14 guests.
• Class act: Le Cirque, NYC, offers a Valentine’s Day special cooking class for two ($380 per couple, including tax and gratuity) at lunch, 11:30-2 p.m. The price includes the class, an apron for each participant, one copy of A Table at Le Cirque Cookbook per couple, and lunch served with a glass of prosecco.
• Eat to the beat: At Samba Montclair, NJ, Brazilian flavors and music reign. For Valentine’s Day, Samba will offer its a la carte menu with dishes like the Brazilian national dish, feijoada (black bean stew with prime meat), as well as dinner specials and pomegranates. Brazilians believe that eating pomegranates this time of year will bring good luck.