Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Where to Celebrate Valentine's Day Around the US (Outside of New York City)


With Valentine’s Day just around the bend, there are lots of interesting dining and travel-related experiences that make wonderful gifts for your sweetie.  Today I begin a series of some of the most intriguing "dates" that I’ve found, starting with ones outside of New York City.  I’d love to know your thoughts.

If you plan to be in the U.S. for Valentine’s Day (but not in New York City), take a look at these that are certain to wow:




Las Vegas

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.  3752 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, 702-590-8882.

Atlanta

Courtesy of The St. Regis Atlanta
Sit at the bar at the St.Regis for a special Valentine’s Day “Pink of Perfection” cocktail.  It’s available all February (a nice touch – Valentine’s month), and is 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 Heidseck Champagne.  88 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, 404.563.7900.

San Francisco

Maybe San Francisco should really be the city called “Sin City.”  Check out this two-day Valentine’s Day special being offered at MoMo’s restaurant on February 14 and 15.  With Valentine’s Day offerings on two back-to-back days, GM Paul Cardinale has you covered if you forgot Valentine’s Day on the 14th or if you need to come with two special someones on separate days.  No matter what, he’ll make sure you’re taken care of with complimentary roses, chocolate and champagne.  760 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA, 415.227.8660.

Washington, DC

Blue Duck Tavern
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. 1201 24th Street NW, Washington DC, 202.419.6755.

On the other hand, BelgaCafé 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!  514 8th Street SE, Washington DC, 202.544.0100.

Los Angeles


Susan Feniger in 80s Wig







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.” 742 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, 323.203.0500.

Cyndi Lobster potstickers at STREET

Phoenix



Valentine's Day Dessert at bistro 24, Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix

















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.  2401 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ, 602.468.0700.

Chicago

You and your sweetie can learn how to make a wonderful Valentine’s Day meal at Mercadito Chicago 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 5:30-8pm and 8:30-11pm. Plan to come hungry (and thirsty): you’ll enjoy  these fabulous dishes as well as special cocktails for $75 per guest. 108 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago, 312.329.9555.

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% 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.  The contest is appropriately named, “Stupid Cupid.” 71 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312.346.9870.

Lockwood Restaurant at Palmer House
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).  17 East Monroe Street, Chicago, 312.917.3404.

Honolulu

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. 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI, 808.931.5322.    


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