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Pay Now, Eat Later
This time of year, everybody in town tries to find a new way to get you to part with your money. So it's not surprising that a quintet of tony restaurants have decided to offer dining packages that are just right to place under the Christmas tree. Though the prices are of the sort to require long-term financing, if you think "special occasion," then these gustatory gifts might be just the thing.

Titled Restaurants Under Wraps, the idea is to get a gift certificate that allows the recipient to eat out without ever having to reach for his or her wallet (unless he/she decides to valet park, that is). Everything, including tax and gratuity, is included. And if you buy the five-meal package deal -- for a mere $810 -- the gift certificates, we're told, come wrapped in a snazzy holiday box. Well, we should hope so.

The five-meal arrangement covers all the participating restaurants: Jalapenos on Kirby; Boulevard Bistrot on Montrose; Maxim's near the Summit; La Reserve in the Omni Houston Hotel; and, the piece de resistance, the tres-private Petroleum Club downtown. Of course, if you're just too gauche to spring for the whole deal, you can gift folks with meals at the individual eateries. For $170, Maxim's offers a four-course dinner for two with a bottle of wine and seasonal flower centerpiece. Boulevard Bistrot's version features a three-course dinner for two with a half bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne, one bottle of red or white house wine, a glass of dessert wine, coffee or tea for $190. At Jalapenos Restaurant & Cantina you get the relative bargain of a three-course dinner for two that comes with two drinks each and that seasonal flower centerpiece for $85. La Reserve, the award-winning restaurant in the Omni Houston Hotel on Riverway, offers executive chef Tim Keating's special Grande Menu vintner dinner. The five-course meal for two is served with wines selected by the chef, yet another seasonal flower centerpiece and a take-home package of pastry chef Dwayne Fortier's chocolates for $200.

And the Petroleum Club? This enclave of the wealthy on the 43rd floor of 800 Bell Street gives non-members a chance to see how the oil crowd dines in its own private precincts with a four-course dinner for two that comes with a bottle of house wine and fresh flowers for $165. Guess they ran out of the seasonal flower centerpieces.

Since all these deals are for two, if you pick your gift recipient carefully (hi mom!), you might end up taking care of your own dining out needs for a while. As the saying goes, "some restrictions apply." To order or get extra details, call Restaurants Under Wraps at 524-7626.

-- Joanne Harrison

 
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