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Valentine's Day
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  • Valentine's Day

    Post #1 - February 4th, 2008, 8:09 pm
    Post #1 - February 4th, 2008, 8:09 pm Post #1 - February 4th, 2008, 8:09 pm
    This may be a little early, but I'm trying to be prepared this year. First Valentine's since we got married, so I'd like to take my wife somewhere special. Add a bit of romance to this cold, dreary season...Can anyone recall a wonderful past Valentine's dining out experience? Or any particularly romantic dinner? Preferably not south of the Loop or west of Kedzie.

    Thanks.
  • Post #2 - February 4th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    Post #2 - February 4th, 2008, 8:33 pm Post #2 - February 4th, 2008, 8:33 pm
    Sorry - I got nuthin'.
    Any time I've decided to dine out for Valentine's Day, I've been underwhelmed.
    The best Valentine's meals I've had were cooked by Mrs. Johnny or myself (mostly Mrs. Johnny :wink: ).
    I love restaurants. You're sitting there and all of a sudden, there's food. It's like magic.
    - Brian Wilson
  • Post #3 - February 4th, 2008, 8:37 pm
    Post #3 - February 4th, 2008, 8:37 pm Post #3 - February 4th, 2008, 8:37 pm
    I hate to be a wet blanket as well--particularly since I'm so relatively new at the marriage thing, too. But I gotta tell ya: Valentine's Day has got to be the single worst day of the year to eat out. Everyone wants to do it, the good places--ALL of them--are swamped. The servers and front of the house are harried beyond reason. And it all adds up to a less-than-enchanting evening. Do something else special: take her for a carriage ride, go out on the town in any other way, stay home and make it a special evening. And then celebrate over the weekend, a few days "late." That's what I've learned to do--the hard way. Sorry to be so negative, but this is the voice of experience whining. :(
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #4 - February 4th, 2008, 8:49 pm
    Post #4 - February 4th, 2008, 8:49 pm Post #4 - February 4th, 2008, 8:49 pm
    As strange as it might sound, Roy's actually does a really nice job for Valentine's Day. We've been twice. Food and service are both very good. The place is usually busy, so I don't think the crowds on Valentine's Day really throw anything off.

    If that doesn't interest you, I would stick with someplace small. Either Sweets & Savories or Bonsoiree would probably be a good bet.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #5 - February 4th, 2008, 9:07 pm
    Post #5 - February 4th, 2008, 9:07 pm Post #5 - February 4th, 2008, 9:07 pm
    Years ago, shortly after we were married when I was still gainfully employed, the 'spouse surprised me at work with a delivery from one of those gourmet-in-a-box places (I'm not a jewelry kind of gal, and he's not a flower kind of guy, so it was especially thoughtful.) IIRC, it turned out to be lovely, and was artfully and romantically packaged.

    It was right when this type of service first became available, and I'm afraid I don't remember where it came from (I remember the box came with lovely white linen napkins) I did a google search, and the one that seems most likely is Gourmet Station. There seem to be a number of options these days, though. Hey, any gift that involves somebody else cleaning the kitchen is tops with me!
  • Post #6 - February 4th, 2008, 9:21 pm
    Post #6 - February 4th, 2008, 9:21 pm Post #6 - February 4th, 2008, 9:21 pm
    I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions, but count me among those who hates dining out on Valentine's Day. I don't know if it's that everybody is overwhelmed, or if some places just know it's a night when they can get away with not being their sharpest, but every meal I've ever had out on the day has been disappointing. We usually holiday-shift or do something nice at home.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #7 - February 4th, 2008, 9:33 pm
    Post #7 - February 4th, 2008, 9:33 pm Post #7 - February 4th, 2008, 9:33 pm
    Wow, there sure are a lot of people telling you not to go out.

    My advice is, the nicer the place, the more likely they are to be keeping up their usual high standards. I'm sure you won't get a bad meal if you go to Alinea or Avenues or Everest. Assuming you can still get a reservation, of course.

    I'm not saying I haven't had bad experiences on Valentine's Day. I went to one now-closed place one year and they had a "special" menu, in which their prices were jacked up by about 50 percent. The food and experience were okay, but that stuck in the craw.

    Your first Valentine's Day together? I'd go for the splurge.
  • Post #8 - February 4th, 2008, 9:59 pm
    Post #8 - February 4th, 2008, 9:59 pm Post #8 - February 4th, 2008, 9:59 pm
    French food is always a winner, go to le bouchon and get a really nice bottle of champagne.
  • Post #9 - February 4th, 2008, 10:19 pm
    Post #9 - February 4th, 2008, 10:19 pm Post #9 - February 4th, 2008, 10:19 pm
    I just don't get this anti-Valentine's dinner out sentiment. Sure, the restaurants are busy, and sure, some may not be operating at full steam. But it's like saying, "Don't got to Times Square on New Years's Eve, it's so crowded; wait until January 3, after they clean up all the confetti." Accept Valentine's Day for what it is. Why do roses suddenly cost $90 per dozen on February 14? Why not just wait a day and save 50%? NO. JUST SUCK IT UP AND BUY THE ROSES. And go out for dinner. The answer to avoid problems is to go to an old stalwart. Mrs. JiLS and I, having our anniversary ON Valentine's Day (yes, but we were married in City Hall, so don't get too sentimental), we have found that the answer is planting yourself in a place like the Pump Room (our personal favorite). Then do the things that generally guarantee better service, such as (1) ordering wine by the bottle (splurge a little) and (2) engaging your server and showing your appreciation for the hard word they are doing. Relax and enjoy. I don't understand the vitriol and histrionics that the whole "eating out on holiday" thing seems to engender here. Is it akin to not wanting to be seen dining out on "amateur night?" I don't get it and probably never will. I LIKE eating out on New Year's and Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, etc.
    JiLS
  • Post #10 - February 4th, 2008, 10:41 pm
    Post #10 - February 4th, 2008, 10:41 pm Post #10 - February 4th, 2008, 10:41 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote:I don't understand the vitriol and histrionics that the whole "eating out on holiday" thing seems to engender here. Is it akin to not wanting to be seen dining out on "amateur night?"


    Respectfully, Jim, I think you're ratcheting up the rhetoric a big ol' notch here, and I'm not sure it's warranted. I think "vitriol and histrionics" is perhaps overstating the comments above just a tad, don't you think?

    Of course you should celebrate in a manner that you're going to enjoy most. I, personally, don't enjoy overspending on a mediocre meal even if it is the day that Hallmark has designated appropriate. We prefer to either do something special on a day when we're going to enjoy it more (preferably many of them, spread throughout the year), or to do something else on that day that we're going to enjoy more.

    It's a very topical comment on what seems to be a phenomenon of lousy Valentine's meals, Jim, not an indictment of Valentine's day and love in general. If that's contrary to your experience or you don't care, great. Have a great time. No judgment is being made here. Are you suggesting that if we don't go out to dinner with chocolate and roses on the 14th, that means we're not expressing our love for each other properly?

    Breathe, man :-)
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #11 - February 4th, 2008, 11:07 pm
    Post #11 - February 4th, 2008, 11:07 pm Post #11 - February 4th, 2008, 11:07 pm
    Dom, it's not yours or other posts in this particular thread I'm reacting to here, it's the many, many discussions of why not to eat out on holidays that have been posted over the years at LTH. The vitriol and histrionics are not present in this thread,; I stand corrected. But they are present elsewhere. So, sorry for that confusing conflation. And if you don't go out for chocolate or roses or whatever else on Valentine's Day, and you are happy, then there is nothing more to be said. I AM suggesting that if your SO actually wants chocolate and roses and dinner out on Valentine's Day (and presumably you've had the discussion necessary to make that determination), that you will go ahead and do that because you love your SO. And I'm glad you don't think I'm an idiot for doing the opposite of what you guys choose, or that Mrs. JiLS is shallow for appreciating it. And I'll also point out that I do NOT overspend on a "mediocre meal," when I dine out on Valentine's. I overspend on the roses, which may or may not be mediocre (they never look as good as the roses my mom used to grow), but I've done just fine on the food. May I also point out that your idea of a meal cooked at home versus a restaurant may differ from my own or many other folks', as you are an experienced chef and I am an unlicensed microwaver? If Hallmark or anyone else declares a day for writing your lover's purchase and sale contract for a former manufactured gas plant site, I guess I'd have a happier holiday at home on that day than you would. :)
    Last edited by JimInLoganSquare on February 4th, 2008, 11:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    JiLS
  • Post #12 - February 4th, 2008, 11:19 pm
    Post #12 - February 4th, 2008, 11:19 pm Post #12 - February 4th, 2008, 11:19 pm
    Dom is a professional chef?
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #13 - February 4th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    Post #13 - February 4th, 2008, 11:28 pm Post #13 - February 4th, 2008, 11:28 pm
    gleam wrote:Dom is a professional chef?


    I guess you're right, strictly speaking it may or may not be right, but based on his blog, Dom's not an amateur; I've edited accordingly. But regardless of professional status, I bet Dom cooks a mean Valentine's dinner, far better than anything I'd ever manage (on Valentine's or any other night), and that was my real point.
    JiLS
  • Post #14 - February 4th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    Post #14 - February 4th, 2008, 11:33 pm Post #14 - February 4th, 2008, 11:33 pm
    Hi,

    I have tell you all this angst and planning is pretty amusing to me. Valentine's day is such a non-event for me and I am certain many others. I am almost inclined to borrow Mike G's clever idea of Super Bowl Avoidance, except it would be Valentine's avoidance day.

    Gee how unromantic could one do for the anti-Valentine's Day? I think doing laundry would really set the tone. Eating pretty good leftovers from the night before. Read a text book or listen to books on tape: I once listened to the Hunt for Red October on a 12 hour drive. Believe it or not, the actor read each table in detail that was really pleasantly mind numbing. Since everything goes well with champagne, then what the heck the meatloaf will only taste better.

    Respectfully,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #15 - February 4th, 2008, 11:41 pm
    Post #15 - February 4th, 2008, 11:41 pm Post #15 - February 4th, 2008, 11:41 pm
    Indeed! And I'll add that, if you knew your SO didn't want to do anything "special" for Valentine's Day, and would prefer doing laundry and listening to books on tape, then doing that would would precisely be the MOST romantic thing you could do. Whereas, if your SO wanted chocolate and roses and champagne, and you instead opted for a night in the laundry room, then you would get what you deserve.
    JiLS
  • Post #16 - February 4th, 2008, 11:44 pm
    Post #16 - February 4th, 2008, 11:44 pm Post #16 - February 4th, 2008, 11:44 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote:
    gleam wrote:Dom is a professional chef?


    I guess you're right, strictly speaking it may or may not be right, but based on his blog, Dom's not an amateur; I've edited accordingly. But regardless of professional status, I bet Dom cooks a mean Valentine's dinner, far better than anything I'd ever manage (on Valentine's or any other night), and that was my real point.


    He's an amateur, just a talented amateur.

    He might correct me, but I don't think he's ever worked a night in a professional kitchen.

    Probably right that he could outcook you, though :)
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #17 - February 4th, 2008, 11:45 pm
    Post #17 - February 4th, 2008, 11:45 pm Post #17 - February 4th, 2008, 11:45 pm
    gleam wrote:Dom is a professional chef?


    No, not remotely, but I'll take the flattery that comes along with that mistake anyday :-)

    Anyway, Jim, no worries... I thought you were reacting to the comments above. And no, I don't think you're an idiot at all. I'm not anti-traditional by any means. I'd love to go out for dinner on Valentine's, I'm just frustrated that one of the nights of the year when it would be particularly nice to have a fantastic meal is, in my experience, the one night of the year that it's most difficult to find one. I agree with the upthread suggestion that going way upscale might minimize that risk, but I have some friends who, working under that theory, did Everest a couple of years back for Valentine's Day and absolutely felt herded (disclaimer: one report, secondhand). Not being a pro, I'd love to know what the insider's attitude is towards Valentine's... if it is just that they're hammered, or if they get too cocky and overbook, or if some places kind of slack off that night... I'm genuinely curious.

    On the occasions when I cook Valentine's at home, I've taken to constructing dinners around my ladylove's favorite ingredients, or reverse-engineering dishes that we've had together on other memorable nights out (suggestions that, admittedly, I should have mentioned upthread to be more constructive). Point simply being that I think there are other dinner alternatives that can also be quite lovely. And while I was okay with holiday-shifting pre-kid, in the post-kid world I find that it's pretty much a necessity at times :-)
    Last edited by Dmnkly on February 4th, 2008, 11:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #18 - February 4th, 2008, 11:46 pm
    Post #18 - February 4th, 2008, 11:46 pm Post #18 - February 4th, 2008, 11:46 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote:Indeed! And I'll add that, if you knew your SO didn't want to do anything "special" for Valentine's Day, and would prefer doing laundry and listening to books on tape, then doing that would would precisely be the MOST romantic thing you could do. Whereas, if your SO wanted chocolate and roses and champagne, and you instead opted for a night in the laundry room, then you would get what you deserve.


    No SIGNIFICANT OTHER to worry about, cater to, check in with or get angry because they disappointed me. Dedicated spinster I am, it frees up my time to do many other things I really enjoy.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #19 - February 5th, 2008, 12:03 am
    Post #19 - February 5th, 2008, 12:03 am Post #19 - February 5th, 2008, 12:03 am
    I would stick with someplace small. Either Sweets & Savories or Bonsoiree would probably be a good bet.


    Since Sweets & Savories was mentioned, I will mention that I would not ever return here under any circumstances. As mentioned in a previous post (http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=6220&start=30), I had a terribly underwhelming experience here on an ordinary Saturday night in January, that I would not want to chance this place on a "special" night. I can't imagine the prices on a premium night either, I certainly didn't think it was worth on a non-premium evening, and I really wanted to like the restaurant!

    Do your own thing on Vtines Day and don't subject yourself to the whims of others.
  • Post #20 - February 5th, 2008, 12:08 am
    Post #20 - February 5th, 2008, 12:08 am Post #20 - February 5th, 2008, 12:08 am
    Dom is a professional chef?


    Dom is a professional (and extremely talented) voice actor, whose work in video games I admired years before I discovered his culinary predilections. He is quite famous in his niche!
  • Post #21 - February 5th, 2008, 12:14 am
    Post #21 - February 5th, 2008, 12:14 am Post #21 - February 5th, 2008, 12:14 am
    Santander wrote:
    Dom is a professional chef?


    Dom is a professional (and extremely talented) voice actor, whose work in video games I admired years before I discovered his culinary predilections. He is quite famous in his niche!


    You learn something new around here every day.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #22 - February 5th, 2008, 12:30 am
    Post #22 - February 5th, 2008, 12:30 am Post #22 - February 5th, 2008, 12:30 am
    I find it very sweet that you fellas (the OP, Jim, Dom, et al.) seem to take the matter of Valentine's day fairly seriously. Very sweet indeed.

    Here's another Valentine idea but you'd better call to see if they still have them.

    Margie's Candies
    1960 N Western Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60647
    Phone: (773) 384-1035
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #23 - February 5th, 2008, 12:46 am
    Post #23 - February 5th, 2008, 12:46 am Post #23 - February 5th, 2008, 12:46 am
    I think we are doing the OP grave disservice by ignoring his simple request, and instead projecting our negative collective personal values on Valentines Day into this thread. Give the guy a break!!

    Dear OP:

    My Customary Dining Companion and I have had some lovely experiences at frankly dive-y places, as the quality of the company is by far the most important thing. But that being said, here are a couple of recommendations for a couple of places that are perhaps more in line with what you're looking for, but not too schmaltzy:

    1) We had a lovely dinner at Otom in midsummer, and I think the excellent service and slightly whimsical food and decor might be just as much fun for you, too. Otom - not your mom's mac & cheese

    2) Oceanique in Evanston is always nice for occasions like this - great food and service, very cozy and romantic. They are doing a $110 blowout prix fixe for V-Day if you are absolutely hell-bent on the 14th, but they are celebrating their 19th anniversary this month, and will have special weekly 5-course menus M-F for $55. No corkage on Mondays, too. Oceanique in Evanston

    Have fun. And for heaven's sake, don't listen to the hatas! :wink:
  • Post #24 - February 5th, 2008, 12:52 am
    Post #24 - February 5th, 2008, 12:52 am Post #24 - February 5th, 2008, 12:52 am
    KatyK wrote:
    I would stick with someplace small. Either Sweets & Savories or Bonsoiree would probably be a good bet.


    Since Sweets & Savories was mentioned, I will mention that I would not ever return here under any circumstances. As mentioned in a previous post (http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=6220&start=30), I had a terribly underwhelming experience here on an ordinary Saturday night in January, that I would not want to chance this place on a "special" night. I can't imagine the prices on a premium night either, I certainly didn't think it was worth on a non-premium evening, and I really wanted to like the restaurant!

    Do your own thing on Vtines Day and don't subject yourself to the whims of others.


    That's too bad. I've been there multiple times and have always had good experiences.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #25 - February 5th, 2008, 5:56 am
    Post #25 - February 5th, 2008, 5:56 am Post #25 - February 5th, 2008, 5:56 am
    Josephine wrote:I find it very sweet that you fellas (the OP, Jim, Dom, et al.) seem to take the matter of Valentine's day fairly seriously. Very sweet indeed.

    Here's another Valentine idea but you'd better call to see if they still have them.

    Margie's Candies
    1960 N Western Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60647
    Phone: (773) 384-1035


    You are just trying to make me look curmudgeonly! :D

    I just settled on my plans for February 14th a la Grace Kelly: hamburgers and champagne with the girls!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #26 - February 5th, 2008, 9:53 am
    Post #26 - February 5th, 2008, 9:53 am Post #26 - February 5th, 2008, 9:53 am
    ajljr11 wrote:This may be a little early, but I'm trying to be prepared this year. First Valentine's since we got married, so I'd like to take my wife somewhere special. Add a bit of romance to this cold, dreary season...Can anyone recall a wonderful past Valentine's dining out experience? Or any particularly romantic dinner? Preferably not south of the Loop or west of Kedzie.

    Thanks.


    This sounds like it could be quite romantic - and interesting and original:

    Shanghai Terrace "Chinese Herbal Aphrodisiacs"
    Shanghai Terrace will offer a five-course Herbal Aphrodisiac menu filled traditional Shanghainese and Cantonese specialties. The menu will begin with a trio of appetizers: Herbal Oyster Shooter, Kobe Beef and Crab Roe Dumpling, followed by Double Boiled Herbal Squab Soup, Red Abalone with Ginseng, Beef Short Ribs with Chinese Red Dates and Eucommia Bark and Chocolate Cake with Cardamom, Nutmeg, Milk Chocolate Ginger Ice Cream and Vanilla Scented Pineapple Pomegranate Ganache.

    http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/information_04.html
  • Post #27 - February 5th, 2008, 10:21 am
    Post #27 - February 5th, 2008, 10:21 am Post #27 - February 5th, 2008, 10:21 am
    I'd second Boinsore, perhaps May Street Market, West Town Tavern, Avenue M, Cocco Pazzo, Lucia's, Atwood Cafe, Le Bouchon (although they're probably booked).
  • Post #28 - February 5th, 2008, 10:39 am
    Post #28 - February 5th, 2008, 10:39 am Post #28 - February 5th, 2008, 10:39 am
    Dear husband and I met right before V-day so we always celebrate around the holiday but rarely on THE day. This year it is on a Thurs. With 2 kids, work, homework, baths - that's not going to be a night for us to go out. But we have planned something really special the weekend prior, Sat night reservations at Everest. I've never been. I'm really excited. It isn't really the kind of dining we do very often, who does? But I'm up for the experience: the elegant food and good wines. We planned it months back.
  • Post #29 - February 5th, 2008, 10:44 am
    Post #29 - February 5th, 2008, 10:44 am Post #29 - February 5th, 2008, 10:44 am
    I went to Volare Italian restaurant in OakBrook Terrace last night, and everything was delightful, as usual there. It seems like it is a romantic place, although the main issue for me at restaurants is the food and service, not the atmosphere, as long as it is clean, not dirty. In that regard, as well as anything else, Volare is divine and immaculate.
  • Post #30 - February 5th, 2008, 10:47 am
    Post #30 - February 5th, 2008, 10:47 am Post #30 - February 5th, 2008, 10:47 am
    Now we're getting somewhere...

    I probably should clarify: My wife and I already decided we're not going out on the 14th, for many of the reasons posted. We'll stay in that night cooking together (and maybe doing laundry) But we still want to celebrate the Hallmark holiday for our own need of a bit of romance. So what I should have asked: A memorable dining out experience, where the food, service and ambience came together to make things extra romantic ? We're Lincoln Square residents and I'm looking to try a new area (there's so many great places around our home we tend to not venture away). Now play nice...

    Thanks

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