Valentine's Day Dining 2012

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Ed. note: We are running this again after publishing it a week ago, for all you last-minute lovers.

It isn't hard to figure out why dining and chocolate candy play such a prominent role in Valentine's Day celebrations. Eating is, by nature, extremely sensual. Few activities are capable of pleasurably and simultaneously stimulating the senses of touch, taste, smell, and sight like eating a fabulous meal. Okay, we can think of one other, and yet food, especially chocolate, sometimes ranks higher. And if you just went by the noises overheard at a five star restaurant -- heavy-lidded wows, slow-moaned oh-my-Gods, spontaneous four-letter expletives, and wild exclamations of approval -- it might be hard to differentiate between the two.

The point is, if you're hoping for an evening of passion on Valentine's Day, a sumptuous dinner is fantastic foreplay. Restaurants wise to this fact will go all out get you through their door, and we've listed a few of the more tantalizing lures below. Just remember that crowds are likely - even on the 11th and 12th -- so always play it safe and make a reservation.

Anvil Bar & Refuge 1424 Westheimer, 713-523-1622In addition to offering an assortment of high-end chocolate -- including boutique bon bons by Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar -- the souse-savants at Anvil have crafted a special Valentine's Day menu of "Cocktails for Two" featuring a variety of punches and drinks made to share.

Backstreet Cafe 1103 S. Shepherd, 713-521-2239 Romance blooms year-round amid Backstreet Cafe's lovely al fresco patios and fireside seating, so it's only natural that Valentine's Day be stretched into an all-out four-day affair. From February 10th-13th lovers can enjoy a complimentary appetizer (Goat Cheese Dip with Toast, Miniature Smoked Corn Crab Cakes and Bacon-wrapped Quail) and three-course prix-fixe menu ($95 per person), or celebrate on February 14th with live music by Bob Chadwick and a special four-course feast ($65 per person).

Bistro Alex - Hotel Sorella 800 Sorella Ct., 713-827-3545 Those with the hots for New American fare will surely swoon over Chef Roland Soza's decadent Valentine's Day menu. Special entrees include a cast-iron seared Prime Ribeye with a Maytag blue cheese Lyonnaise potato and coffee ganache ($34), an Angus Filet of Beef with truffle mushroom butter in a port reduction ($32), and a Surf and Turf featuring a butter and champagne-poached lobster tail, grilled filet, and caviar butter ($60). It's official. We are actually drooling.

Boardwalk FantaSea Kemah Boardwalk What's better than a romantic Valentine's Day dinner? A romantic Valentine's Day dinner on a freakin' boat, that's what. On February 11, 12 and 14, couples can drink, dine, and dance aboard a 117-foot yacht departing from the Kemah Boardwalk. The two and-a-half-hour tour features beautiful views of Clear Lake, Kemah, and Galveston Bay, and includes dinner with a choice of appetizer or soup, salad, Espresso-crusted Prime Rib or Lobster Thermidor-stuffed Sea bass, and chocolate genoise cake (filled with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache). The FantaSea begins boarding at 6pm and departs at 7 p.m. For reservations, visit www.BoardwalkFantaSea.com. $79.99 per person.

Cafe Pita + 10852 Westheimer, 713-953-7237 "We Bosnians love to share food, especially appetizers and desserts", says Omer Okanovic, owner and executive chef of Café Pita +. In that spirit, the Westside eatery hailed "Houston's only Halal Bosnian restaurant" will feature a romantic three-course dinner best enjoyed with another. For a mere $25 couples can enjoy a medley of appetizers, a combination entree of cevapi, beef and chicken kebab, and stuffed pljeskavica, and dessert options that may prove too tasty to share.

Capitol at St. Germain 705 Main St., 713-492-2454 On February 14, the new downtown dining and entertainment venue, once a turn-of-the-century supper club, will host a four-course musically inspired meal for two. The score includes a "prelude" of appetizers like Shrimp Scampi, Beef Carpaccio, and Crispy Gulf Blue Crab Bomb, a choice of Butternut Squash Soup or Pear & Arugula salad, followed by a trio of entree options including Seared Sea Scallops with White Truffle Oil, and culminating in an "overture" of Chef Kevin Bryant's hand-crafted desserts. $59 - $79 per person.

CRAVE Cupcakes Multiple locations Procrastinators rejoice! On February 14 both the 5600 Kirby and 1151 Uptown Park locations will offer a clever grab-n-go Valentine's Day package consisting of four cupcakes -- red velvet, vanilla, dark chocolate, and strawberry on chocolate -- and an "I CRAVE U" greeting card for curbside pickup from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Yep folks, that's right, you don't even have to get out of the car! $20.

Downtown Aquarium - Nautilus Ballroom 410 Bagby, 713-223-3474 If your special someone's turn-ons include fish, Ferris wheels, and underwater landscapes, the Downtown Aquarium's "Romance Under-the-Sea Valentine's Day Sweetheart Package" is probably the way to go. On February 11 and 14, couples will be treated to an elegant, romantic setting in the Nautilus Ballroom with a complimentary bottle of wine and four-course meal, as well as a rose (for the lady) and a photo to remember the evening by. $75 per person.   Fratelli's Authentic Italian Cuisine 10989 Northwest Freeway, 713-957-1150 For Chef Teresa Tadeo Whitman, February 14 is a day to savor what you love. In her case, that means food. "Valentine's Day is one of my favorite days of the year," she says, "because I get to eat what I love -- shrimp, cheese and chocolate -- guilt free!" Whitman will showcase her guilt-free (yet by no means diet) pleasures in a five-course prix-fixe menu available from 5 to 10 p.m. on Valentine's Day. Highlights include Gamberetti Amore (Jumbo shrimp coated with a walnut flour batter, deep-fried and served on a bed of fresh greens with Aioli sauce), Tortellini al Forno (handmade tortellini pasta with Asiago, Fontina, and Mozzarella cheeses, chopped walnuts, and creamy tomato sauce), and Medaglioni di Manzo (Beef tenderloin medallions pan seared in olive oil and sautéed with baby portabella mushrooms and a red wine reduction sauce), with a chocolate torte or tiramisu for dessert. $49 per person.

Kenny & Ziggy's New York Delicatessen 2327 Post Oak Blvd., 713-871-8883 During dinner service on February 14, the Post Oak deli is offering parties of two or more (purchasing at least two entrees) a complimentary Chocolate Mousse Tower, consisting of mango-passion fruit mousse, coconut mousse, and vanilla sponge cake and chocolate stripes.

Majestic Metro 911 Preston, 713-224-7226 The Majestic Metro is Houston's only surviving theater built before 1930, originally opened as a silent movie house called the Ritz Theatre in 1926. The space now serves as a venue for private parties, weddings, and events, but through a partnership between Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow and the Houston Downtown Management District, the historic theater will open it's doors to the public for an 8:30 p.m. Valentine's Day screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's. The $10 ticket price includes movie, dessert and champagne cocktails provided by Georgia's Farm to Market Downtown. Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com/event/2807113151.

Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar 1985 Welch, 713-533-0200 Lovebirds flock to Mockingbird for John Sheely's three-course pre-fixe menu with starters like Sweet Corn and Crab Soufflé, entree selections that include Dijon-encrusted Rack of Lamb and Muscovy Duck Breast with Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and a choice of Warm Bittersweet Chocolate Torte, Crème Brulee, Godiva White Chocolate Cheesecake or Granny Smith Apple Bread Pudding for dessert. $65 per person / $95 with Sommelier's wine pairing.

Ninfa's on Navigation 2704 Navigation Boulevard, 713-228-1175 Original Ninfa's three-course prix-fixe dinner for two -- complete with a "Sinful" Margarita -- is sure to satisfy laid-back, casual types with high-end food in a relaxed environment. The meal features a salad of field greens with pink peppercorn vinaigrette, goat cheese, orange supremes, and chile-flecked pecans, Filet Mignon and Jumbo Shrimp with Chipotle Hollandaise, Oven Roasted Potatoes, and Guajillo Sauce, and Dark Chocolate Mousse and Grand Marnier-soaked Strawberries. Que bueno, no? $59 per couple / $69 with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Nardino Ristorante 14800 Westheimer, Ste. D, 281-496-1022 According to Edgar Ciliberto, owner and executive chef of Nardino Ristorante,"There is no better way to say amore, than with wine, great food and song." On February 14 from 4 to 10 p.m., the much-praised West Houston Italian eatery will serve a hearty helping of Northern Italian-style romance with live music by Guitar Maestro Rodrigo Gamboa and a three-course prix fix menu featuring a choice of appetizer, cheese-stuffed manicotti with Mornay sauce or herb-roasted chicken breast with steamed broccoli and Forrest rice, and tiramisu or "Grandmon's" Italian chocolate cake for dessert. $35 per person / $65 with wine pairing.

Philippe Restaurant 1800 Post Oak Blvd, Ste. 6110, 713-439-1000 The French are rumored to be legendary lovers, and Philippe's sexy "Valentine's 'Aphrodisiac' Menu," available February 11-14, does little to dispel the myth. The tantalizing three-course meal opens with goat cheese-filled artichokes and French chili endive salad, rosemary quail egg emulsion, and fig balsamic vinaigrette, followed by a duo of mustard-braised short ribs, ginger-seared tuna, fennel potato mash, grilled asparagus and coffee cardamom sauce, and comes to climax with a seductive medley of red velvet cake with chocolate ganache (oui!), rose ice cream with candied pistachios (oui!), violet pavlova with vanilla chantilly (oui!), and fresh raspberries -- ouiiiiiii! $65 per person.

Rattan Pan-Asian Bistro & Wine Bar 1396 Eldridge Parkway South, 281-556-9888 Rattan's recipe for romance begins with a champagne toast and ends with Chocolate Ganache Crème Brulee. The four-courses in between include many of the West side restaurant's sumptuous signature dishes, including Tuna Tataki, Robata Kobe, Akaushi Kobe Beef Sirloin, Massaman Sautéed Salmon, and Grilled Peking Duck Breast. $48 per person.

TQLA 4601 Washington Ave., 281-501-3237 TQLA's Valentine's Day pre-fixe menu, available February 12-14, promises hot, sweaty expressions of uninhibited desire with three courses of modern Southwestern cuisine paired with three corresponding tequilas. The dinner kicks off with a glass of champagne, soup or salad, and Don Julio Blanco, followed by a choice of Grilled 8 oz filet or Pecan-Crusted Red Snapper paired with El Tesoro de Felipe Reposado, and Orange Flan and Riazul Añejo for dessert. $45 per person / $70 with tequila pairing.

VIDA Tex-Mex 4224 San Felipe, 713-961-9200 The River Oaks restaurant billed as "Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine in a mature, sensual, environment" is offering two racy pre-fixe dining options to tempt your Valentine. The "Double Dip" ($69 per couple) features a glass of champagne, Naughty Nachos topped with fried-oysters and mango salsa, signature guacamole, Carne Asada, Grilled Red Snapper Filet, and Love Bites -- heart-shaped Buenuelos with orange dipping sauce. The "Roses are Red" option ($40 per couple) includes a glass of champagne, choice of Roasted Beet Layered Salad or Red Snapper Ceviche, beef and chicken fajitas, and Homemade Zinfandel Raspberry Sorbet.

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