Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Foodie's Valentine's Day

If you're with the right person, walking down the street, sipping coffee at Tim Hortons, or offering your last fry at Mickey D's can be as overwhelmingly romantic as any fancy dinner, box of chocolates, or bouquet of roses, right? Yes, but...why not allow yourselves to celebrate your love with something decadent and special? I'm definitely not one of the many St. Valentine's Day curmudgeons who poo-poo the whole holiday as simply a marketing ploy by the greeting card, jeweller, and floral industries to manipulate those vulnerable boyfriends into throwing away their money. It can be so much more than that! I'm not sure how far in advance you have to book these things (so it might be a bit late), but here's a sampling of some really nice things in Vancouver to do for the special foodie in your life:

Fleuri Restaurant, at the Sutton Place Hotel downtown, has a beautiful set dinner offered, that I think is romantic for two main reasons: 1. The room is the epitome of elegance, with a very feminine air, and a quiet ambience (even when the room is at capacity), perfect for unabashed goo-goo eyes and sweet nothings passed between two lovers over beautiful food. 2. It all ends with a Chocolate Buffet! If your date loves chocolate, this is indulgent, fun, and can even feel a bit naughty. You're more than likely not going to be able to try too many things after eating an amuse bouche, and three courses before dessert, but just to be offered the selection in such a pretty arrangement is exciting. It's not just a gimmick either, as both the chef and the pastry chef here know what they're doing. Another hotel dessert buffet was not nearly as impressive but I visited a couple of years ago, and don't know what it is like these days.

Diva at the Met (downtown). Note possible spoilers ahead. Don't read if you're planning to go to Diva already. I'm not sure what they're doing this year, but I can't resist an opportunity to share what they did when I went a while back, because it impressed the pants off me...(so sorry, just couldn't resist. Okay, I'll stop smirking now).

Big budget option: dinner at Diva. Several years ago, I had the Valentine's set meal here (I think Michael Noble was still cooking there at the time), and it was really wonderful. The room and the service aren't quite as cosy and elegant as Fleuri, but here are the little surprises that made the experience extra special; When one of us visited the washroom, we could come back to the table with a little gift for the other. The staff had arranged a basket of little womens' perfume samples with pretty ribbons in the men's washroom, and an equivalent basket of men's colognes in the women's washroom! An adorable touch. Even more adorable? On our way out, after a fantastic and elaborate meal, we were surprised with a beautiful take-home package of treats for a little romantic breakfast for two the next morning! A little presumptuous, perhaps, but if you've gone to the trouble of booking this dinner at Diva...let's just say, I guess it's a pretty safe bet. We took ours down to the water with some coffee, and had an outdoor morning picnic, opening up our red package to find freshly squeezed mixed fruit juices, a couple of brioches from Sen5es, with those cute little individual jars of jam, and two of those wonderful Sen5es chocolates. I have no idea if the restaurant will do anything similar this year, but I'm still talking about it years later, and love the creativity behind those touches. Even my date was impressed, and it seemed to take the edge off paying the special Valentine's Day prix of the prix fixe, as he was feeling a bit manipulated by the Valentine's Day industry at the time.

Smaller budget version: Instead of Diva at the Met, go to Sen5es, around the corner. Chocolates are an oldie but goodie. Buy your sweetie some sweets from Thomas Haas' Sen5es. Chocolate Arts on W. 4th is another good source. Here's a picture of the Valentine's showpiece in their window currently. Chocolate shoes!

In the Window of Chocolate Arts - A Valentine's Showpiece of Chocolate Shoes

Or have a daytime dessert date at La Petite France on Arbutus St, or a night time dessert date at Sweet Revenge. Sweet Obsessions at Trafalgar's is another great spot for a lovely dinner and killer desserts. With all restaurants, call ahead and find out their Valentine's Day plans, as most restaurants will go to a set meal with marked up prices, and will require reserving well in advance.

Aurora Bistro is plunging right into the gooey theming of the night, by offering a special menu with each course representing an aspect of love. I say, right on! If you're going to do Valentine's, go all the way, and wallow in the wonderful sappiness of it all. It's a nice small room, and I suspect it could be quite romantic if they tried. The menu theming already suggests that they are committed to providing that romantic atmosphere.

There isn't, as with any question, just one right answer for everyone. You know your own Valentine, and maybe his or her favourite restaurant, or picture of romance, is completely off of everyone else's radar. For the adventurous type, Cypress Mountain has a wonderful evening snowshoe and fondue tour, and a special Valentine's Dinner at their Hollyburn Lodge. Also, Grouse Mountain's Valentine's at the Peak Package includes the view on the gondola, a beautiful meal at the Observatory Restaurant, with a view, and skating on the pond and riding in the sleigh (weather dependent). I recommend both the Grouse experience and the Cypress snowshoe tour, though the snowshoe fondue tour I did was with a group, and therefore isn't quite as intimate as something designed for just two. The Valentine's Dinner at Cypress allows the two of you to ski or hike to the lodge on your own. A snowy winter scene with a warm meal afterwards should be quite romantic. These wintery options are great fun, show off Vancouver, and feel like little adventures. Some other rooms that come to mind as romantic include Le Gavroche (here's to a speedy recovery from their recent fire), Horizons on Burnaby Mountain, The Cannery, The Teahouse at Stanley Park, Amarcord, and Le Piazza Dario Ristorante at the Italian Cultural Centre.

Or maybe what's really romantic for your date is dinner cooked at home. Which is all the more impressive when the cook is not that confident in his or her skills, and makes the effort to figure it all out for the special meal. You can't beat a meal, or even just a cup coffee, made with love. Savour it. Savour the love, no matter what you choose.


Tai said...

Great post!

I just wanted to give a shout out for my friend and pastry chef Wayne Kozinko at Diva...I think Thomas Haas has left, though I think he is still involved.

Dumpling_Girl said...

Thanks, Tai!

Dumpling_Girl said...

For Diva's menu, check out the Dining Out Guide site:

Here is their homepage:

It's a great resource for up-to-date menus. Several Valentine's menus are posted.


too_much_thinking said...

Funny story: one Valentine's Day a few years ago, I waited until the last minute to find a nice restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, every place I called was booked up. Out of desparation, I tried Globe@YVR - and it turned out very well. Nice view too. Bet you wouldn't think to go to the airport for V-Day!

Dumpling_Girl said...

Well, I would think to go to The Globe@YVR if my Valentine's gift was a nice trip to somewhere fun, and the flight was leaving that night. That would be a good way to surprise someone with a Valentine's trip (as long as you somehow managed to pack some belongings and make arrangements for your partner to have a clear schedule). "Why are we having dinner at the airport?" "Because we're going to France, afterwards!" Hee, hee.

Life's a Stitch said...

And I thought knitting blogs were fun. I have a feeling your blog will have an even bigger impact on my wallet!