by Meryl Pearlstein
With Valentine’s Day approaching, there are lots of interesting dining and travel-related experiences that make wonderful gifts for your sweetie. Here’s a round-up from Washington, D.C. to Honolulu.
How about a twist on the usual Afternoon Tea found at many upscale hotels? The Mandarin Oriental Tea Lounge in Las Vegas adds a romantic touch with their Valentine Afternoon Tea. Heart-shaped, house-made gourmet chocolates finish off the sweets selection. $45 per person.
Sit at the bar at the St. Regis for a special Valentine’s Day “Pink of Perfection” cocktail that is available all month. It’s made with one part tequila, ½ part simple syrup, 3 dashes orange blossom water, with fresh lime juice and soda. What gives it its name? The pink rose petals that sit on top. You can increase the aphrodisiac quotient with the Oysters and Caviar Pearls special, a sensual combination of tempura oyster frites and osetra caviar sabayon created by executive chef Joseph Trevino, paired with Heidsieck Champagne.
Maybe San Francisco should really be the city called “Sin City.” With Valentine’s Day offerings on two back-to-back days, GM Paul Cardinale at MoMo’s restaurant has you covered if you forget Valentine’s Day or if you need to come twice with two different sweethearts. No matter what, he’ll make sure you’re taken care of with complimentary roses, chocolate and Champagne on 2/14 and 2/15.
True to its nature, the Blue Duck Tavern isn’t offering any frills or gimmicks for Valentine’s Day, just a terrific regionally focused menu. Featuring local artisans and farmers, executive chef Sebastien Archambault and chef de cuisine John Melfi have created a four-course prix fixe menu with swoon-inducing dishes like seared foie gras with warm carrot cake, candied walnuts and carrot juice reduction; poached lobster open ravioli; and a wood-oven fired dry-aged ribeye. To finish? A decadent chocolate ganache hazelnut cake with Giorttines cherries and cocoa sorbet, a perfect finish with a glass of red wine or port.
On the other hand, Belga Café is all about getting into the spirit of the day with love-themed cocktails and desserts. Try the “Love Potion” with chocolate vodka, framboise crème liqueur, port, and sweet cream; or a “Sparkling Love” of cava and pomegranate liqueur to set the mood. Then tuck into a “Peck on the Cheek” with nude oysters, followed by a “First Kiss” of scallops with cupid’s asparagus arrows and love dust. Two entrée choices follow, and all is consummated with a “Good Night Kiss,” made of Belgian chocolate passion with other sweet ingredients, of course!
Music inspirations pair with food at the super-creative 80s Mixed Tape menu at Susan Feniger’s STREET in Hollywood. With four courses named and inspired by chefs Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger’s favorite tunes, this restaurant tops the list for originality: First Course – Cyndi Lobster (pot stickers), Pet Chop Boys with Duranch Duranch Dressing (salad), Morri-Sea (oysters on the half shell); Second Course – U2na Tartar (sashimi), Spamdau Ballet (homemade “spam” with caviar and egg), YAM! (yam tempura); Third Course – Def Peppered (ribeye steak), Bao Wow Wow (steamed bun), Soy George (pot pie); and Fourth Course – Choco Kahn (chocolate torte), Violet Femmes (baklava), Chile Vanilla (cookies). Each of these fun choices has a long list of ingredients beyond the base listed here; you’ll have to visit yourself to get the full experience of STREET’s global food combinations. The prix fixe dinner is $65, and vegan choices are included. Just like the title of Feniger’s new book, the dishes are “crispy, creamy, crunchy, spicy, sticky, and sweet.”
Piano music and romance set the tone for Bistro 24’s Valentine’s Day menu at the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. The emphasis here is on curating elements from different regions of the United States, elements that are not typically prepared together. On sous chef Matthew Ludwig’s special four-course prix fixe menu you’ll find enough aphrodisiacal treats to set your evening in motion from oysters and caviar to chocolate and passionfruit. The dinner and entertainment evening is a bargain at $79 per person, with Nicole Pesce on the piano all night long
You and your sweetie can learn how to make a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal at Mercadito with chef Patricio Sandoval showing off his favorite romantic dishes. An interactive experience for couples, this Valentine’s Day Cooking Demo will be held twice on Valentine’s Day, from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Plan to come hungry (and thirsty): you’ll enjoy these fabulous dishes as well as special cocktails for $75 per guest.
Chicago warrants a second entry here, with this humorous Valentine’s Day evening event. At Hoyt’s restaurant at Hotel 71, you can win prizes galore. Draw a Valentine from a heart-shaped fishbowl for a discount on your bill or free drinks for the evening, or, better still, a month-long “happy hour” with 50 per cent off all drinks in February. Feeling really creative (or really stupid)? Submit your worst Valentine’s Day stories for a chance to win a one-night stay at Hotel 71 with a bottle of Champagne in the Stupid Cupid contest.
Looking for something more luxe? Lockwood Restaurant at the gorgeous Palmer House Hilton has two tasting menus that border on orgasmic with multi-ingredient dishes like lobster and truffle with truffle custard, poached lobster and lobster cream; a pre-dessert of Bertha’s brownie Sunday lollipop; and the raspberry passion dessert made with rhubarb, olive cake and guava sorbet. Prices range from $120 ($145 with wine pairings) to $155 ($180 with wine).
After all this eating and drinking, you’re going need to chill out, right? I had to include one special Valentine’s spa experience. The Valentine’s weekend special at the Hotel Halekulani is just for couples: for $390 for both of you, you’ll enjoy Champagne by candlelight in the Jacuzzi in the SpaSuite, a side-by-side couples’ massage, tea and fruit on a private terrace, and a special gift.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.