Sweet dining locations for those in love on Valentine’s Day
By Dan O'Heron 02/07/2013
Simple gifts on Valentine’s Day, like roses, cards and candies, are fine for friendship keeping. But love in the making sometimes comes at a dearer price. Here are some lavish dining-out tips, where the cooing might be worth the billing:
A typical phone message taken by the host at Bistro 45 (45 S. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626/795-2478) might go like this: “I’d like to make reservations for a proposal for two.”
The invitation will follow a $70-per-person, five-course dinner beginning with flirtatious servings of both a white shrimp mojito cocktail with tantalizing avocado/wasabi sorbet and a house-cured Scottish salmon “cookie” with parsnip.
Course two and three consist of Thai basil consommé, with ricotta/wonton raviolis, steamed arctic cod over diced fennel and tomato confit and oven-dried pancetta bacon, plus micro greens.
These are followed by a mignon of prime natural beef tenderloin with seared mushroom preparation, sweet butternut squash and a beet/Madeira jus.
With shimmering live music wafting through the newly remodeled dining room, dessert is a glowing hot raspberry gelee, capped off by a sparkling Anna de Cordonio brut rose cava.
Considering what might be in store for the rest of the evening, the money spent on the event should yield a valuable return.
Another place for fools in love to put dollars to wise use is Green Street Restaurant (146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena, 626/577-7170). Arguably the best price in town — likely from $25 to $30 per person — the three-course dinner is expected to feature one course with the popular New York steak Dianne salad combo.
The restaurant, which will celebrate Valentine’s Day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, has a long history of indulging fantasies. “Since we opened in 1979,” said partner Bob Harrison, “we get letters from people who tell us that not long after they dated here, they married. One couple wrote that they closed the place before making the decision.” A perfect setting for long declarations of love and bended-knee pleas for reciprocation, the restaurant has a carpet.
Movie producer Gale Anne Hurd sets the stage for a romantic adventure at the restaurant she owns, Vertical Wine Bistro (70 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, 626/795-3999). Most fine restaurants will have a star or two on their Valentine’s menus; but here, a constellation of choices breaks loose. The first course is one of four entries: Lobster bisque. pears and Roquefort on Boston lettuce (sweet and succulent butterhead), pebbled with hazelnuts; sea scallops with granular Israeli couscous salad, or a nectarine, arugula and burrata salad, with citrus/honey dressing. They are paired with a French 2009 Les Hospices Sancerre Blanc.
Four choices in the second course include roasted lamb shank with wild mushrooms and green garlic; filet mignon, grilled and seared with slightly pungent Gorgonzola au gratin potatoes, asparagus and a rich bordelaise sauce; pan-seared California salmon with roasted pasilla (rich, medium-hot chili), or wide-bodied pappardelle noodles with artichokes, spinach, pine nuts and Thai basil. As a matchmaking win, fragrant Italian 2009 Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella is poured.
Desserts include a red almond meringue with red velvet gelato, Italian-marinated chocolate berries, or a tray of international artisanal cheeses. These are paired with an elegant French 2007 Chateau Piquey Sauterne. Prepared by James Beard Award nominee Laurent Quenioux, the dinners are priced at $59 per person, plus $27 per person for marriageable wines.
Without a date, I had planned to skip Valentine’s Day next week and eat my heart out on Fat Tuesday, then go to the theater to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday. That was before I checked the menu at Sushi Roku (33 Miller Alley, Pasadena, 626/683-3000). For $85 per couple, the four-course dinner includes a minty shiso mixed panko-crusted lamb. I’m sure I could coax some young lady to sit next to me if she saw me drinking a $12 “adult milk shake.” It contains cognac, Chambord, two scoops of vanilla ice cream — with the rim of snifter dipped in chocolate and almonds — and, suggestively, comes with two straws.
McCormick & Schmick’s (191 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, 626/405-0064) should pack ‘em in with a $39.95-per-person steak and lobster combo. When making reservations, for an extra amount, you can ask to have your table set with roses.
If you are having a children’s party at home, drop in at Auntie Em’s Kitchen (4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323/255-0800). You’ll come away with treats that would make up for a previous Valentine’s Day disappointment like one that I had when I was just a boy.
It came in grade school, when the drill was for me to cut out a heart from red craft paper, and exchange it for one from the girl sitting next to me — even though there was no love lost between us. I mean, we weren’t enemies. We just didn’t like each other. I felt little scissors would be better used making red paper gliders.
We surely would have both loved each other — and the teacher — if, instead of dull little scissors she would have given each of us one of Auntie Em’s “Burning Love” spicy chipotle chocolate cupcakes ($3.50 each), or a mini raspberry and blackberry Bundt cake to share ($5.95).
At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, I should remind you that chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, a substance that supposedly stimulates the same hormonal reaction as falling in love. It even beats deer antler spray.