When you're in grammar school, the indoctrination to Valentine's Day begins with the ceremonial passing out of the cards. Some kids give to everyone, and some to a select few. This, of course, leads to insecurities, resentments, envy, and other festering mental wounds that make Valentine's Day the special event that it is. Now, you either have no one special to celebrate with, and you're encouraged to relive the miseries of your youth, or you find yourself partnered up, but have no idea to move beyond the multipack greeting cards of your youth.
From candlelit dinners to teddy bears in sailor outfits, every couple has their own memories of previous Valentine's Day celebrations. This year, the pressure's on, since this lovers' holiday falls on a Friday, and no pressed-for-time middle-of-the-week excuses will cut it. You have to come through, or Feb. 15 may not prove to be so happy. If you still haven't made plans, it's not too late, but act fast. After all, the inevitable comparisons will be made, even if you choose not to participate. The 'Let's just stay home together' plans you have in mind may sound perfectly acceptable in theory, but friends and co-workers will ferret out your lack of special plans just so they can highlight their own, dubious as they may be.
There's no time to send a Vermont Teddy Bear, thank God, but you can make the night memorable at many of the area restaurants which are offering up special promotions for your day of love. Focus on the look on your co-workers' faces, then, after you hear about the sappy medley of love songs a la 'Moulin Rouge' they created for their partners, only to outdo them with the descriptions of delectable delicacies you and yours enjoyed at some of Chicago's best restaurants. Reservations are recommended.
Coco Pazzo Cafe (300 W. Hubbard) has a special Valentine's Day menu featuring dungeness crab cakes with carmelized red onions and green sauce for an appetizer, and pappardelle (wide flat noodles) flavored with lemon and a ragu of Maine lobster, tarragon, and grape tomatoes. Or, choose a risotto simmered slowly with black truffles and an assortment of wild mushrooms, or grilled American red snapper with a ragu of baby artichokes, fava beans, asparagus, peas, toasted garlic, lemon, and white wine. The meal would not be romantic without a special dessert, in this case, Budino di Pane, a banana chocolate chip bread pudding with cinnamon gelato, walnut sauce, and candied walnuts. Chocolate lovers can choose a white and dark chocolate mousse cake with brandied cherries and cherry sorbet. Coco Pazzo is located at 300 W. Hubbard, and can be reached at (312) 836-0900.
In the loop at Trattoria No. 10, Valentine's Day diners can sample a special four-course meal, that begins with Prawn chowder with roasted corn and pancetta, followed by a flavorful heart-shaped ravioli with butternut and acorn squash in a sweet walnut butter sauce. The scrumptious third course will be grilled tenderloin of beef with vegetable risotto. The most important course, dessert, will be a pizelle basket of fresh fruit and vanilla gelato. The special holiday menu is available for $100 per couple (plus tax and tip). Trattoria No. 10 is located at 10 N. Dearborn, and can be reached at (312) 984-1718.
Hidden away in the Wyndham Hotel, Caliterra is offering a His and Hers Aphrodisiac Menu, but there's no reason you can't turn it into a His and His or Hers and Hers celebration. Of course, to get to sample the best of both worlds, someone at the table will have to opt for the opposite gender's meal, or both parties will get the same thing. Both begin with a white eggplant soup, but the His menu then follows with winter squash risotto flavored with roasted fennel and arugula oil, or coffee marinated squab with white truffle grits in hazelnut cream. The next course will be an asparagus with sunny-side-up quail eggs and warm lobster and oysters served with a carrot crespelle, pea shoots, and a curry emulsion. After clearing the palate with a white grape granita, the main course of spicy artichokes with perciatelli and slow-roasted lamb rib eye is served. Dessert consists of a strawberry ice cream made with mascarpone ice cream and topped with crushed biscotti or a bittersweet chocolate creme brulee.
The Hers menu follows up the white eggplant soup with roasted mushroom risotto with shaved black truffles and basil oil, and napoleon of citrus cured salmon with risotto chips and pickled shitake mushrooms. The second course includes wild arugula and fennel salad with prosciutto, pear, and walnuts, and espresso-crusted diver-caught scallops with softened leeks and white chocolate emulsion. The main course is a francobolli of fresh flowers with organic ricotta cheese preserved lemon and fennel, and cumin accented beef tenderloin with carmelized onions. For dessert, choose from either a 'Passionate Soup' of coconut panna cotta with vanilla roasted pineapple and guava, or a chocolate hazelnut mattone of chocolate sorbet, orange compote, and hazelnut tuiles.
Caliterra, in the Wyndham Hotel, is located at 633 N. St. Clair, and can be reached at (312) 274-4444. This special meal will set you back $110 per couple, or $150, if you include a bottle of Moet and Chandon white wine champagne.
See the front page, left side directory of www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com for Dining Out listings.