A confession: In more than a decade of dating and now four years married, I’ve never gone out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. My skepticism of the ritual likely harkens back to my time serving tables at a popular Italian place in Victoria, B.C. On February 14, year after year, all the couples who don’t typically dine out would suddenly emerge, crowding into the candlelit room and ordering the lowest-priced items on the menu.
Some were there for love, sure, but others (let’s be honest) made the booking out of obligation. To which I ask, why let Cupid dictate when you date night?
That said, there’s no question that food and flirting go together. So let this trio of local suggestions serve as year-round inspiration to share a special experience with your valentine.
Snag the sofa and share a wine flight (or two) at The Loft
This laid-back approach to wine tasting makes The Loft an easy choice for a fun and casual date. Opened in 2012, the 30-seat space started out serving wine, beer and cold plates. Since then, the menu has expanded to feature prohibition-style cocktails (the cucumber gimlet is a top seller) and such dishes as Beef Wellington and a Greek flaming cheese called Saganaki. Yet the wine remains a clear focus, with a rotating list that emphasizes local family wineries and boasts around 40 options by the glass.
For twenty bucks, you can try five wines. The flight is a hybrid style, based on your palette preferences and whatever is open at the moment, so you can count on a tailor-made tasting for your and your amour.
Take an in-home cooking class with Chef Tirzah Love
Picture it: Music is streaming, the wine is flowing and you and your partner are together in your kitchen, preparing an elegant three-course meal. Guiding you through each step? A professional chef who has studied the art of cooking in places like Jamaica, Rome and Spain.
This is the experience that Tirzah Love, a Benicia Chef and Caterer who specializes in health-based foods, creates for couples looking to expand their culinary horizons. Love—who also teaches group classes at Soul Food Farm in Vacaville—brings elements of various cultures into her recipes, from Caribbean to Mexican to the southern-style dishes passed down from her grandmother.
Her in-home classes are personalized to your taste and level of cooking experience, so the menu—with appetizer, dinner and dessert—is one you can recreate on your own. “It brings couples together and creates a new bond,” says Love. Classes are $50/person plus ingredients, and include kitchen clean-up while you enjoy your meal.
Splurge on a six-course prix fixe menu at Michael Warring
Ask Michael Warring to describe the kind of dishes he creates at his 18-seat restaurant in Vallejo’s Hiddenbrooke neighborhood, and you’ll learn that his culinary style is not easily defined.
“We try not to label it,” says the chef, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America. “We buy the best ingredients we can find, and I use those however I’m feeling at the time, so it’s personal.”
What you can expect at Michael Warring is a dining experience unlike anything else in the area. Waring and his wife, Ali, serve a six-course prix fixe menu, starting with a produce-based first course (a recent dish featured a satsuma mandarin tart with citrus curd sabayon, aged balsamic and dill pollen), typically followed by fish, pasta, meat, cheese and dessert. When available, truffles are always featured. The seafood is sourced from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, and the presentation of each dish is itself a work of art.
If you want to impress your date and immerse yourself into another world for a night, this is the place.
280 First Street, Benicia
Open every day
Tirzah Catering & Cooking Classes
Healthy, organic & GMO-free cuisine
8300 Bennington Dr., Vallejo
Wednesday-Sunday, Reservations required