On Valentine's Day a few years back, one local restaurant offered a dinner special of marinated, grilled beef heart in honor of the occasion. ( Heart , get it?)
Now, I happen to like beef heart, just fine--but I'd bet that it's not the first thing a lot of folks think of when they imagine a romantic valentine tete-a-tete with their Significant (or at least Mildly Noteworthy) Other. I'd bet that the very idea of eating beef heart would get a lot of folks out of the mood real quick-- and that, for that matter, a lot of folks probably don't have their minds on food at all when they venture out in couple formation with stars in their eyes and a song in their hearts on the 14th of February.
Nonetheless, restaurants do tend to come up with special menus for Valentine's Day (this Saturday)--not necessarily including beef heart, but often enhanced with complimentary roses, chocolates and/or champagne. Here are brief notes on what some of these establishments are offering.
Caffe Napoli in Van Nuys presents a milk-fed Wisconsin veal dinner with soup and salad for $8.25 per person; The Crystal Fountain in the Marina International Hotel, Marina del Rey, serves a three-course valentine menu for $14.95--$18.95 a head for three courses at the Crystal Seahorse in the neighboring Marina del Rey Hotel, and $75 per couple for four courses at Stones in the Marina Beach Hotel just down the street; L.A. Nicola on Sunset has a five-course menu plus a champagne toast for $35 per person at the 7:30 p.m. seating and $45 at the 9:30 one (the latter including dancing); Bistro Patissier in Glendale proposes four courses, chocolate truffles, and a rose all for $45 per couple.
The Valley Hilton in Sherman Oaks features entrees for two on Valentine's Day, from $32.50 to $38.95, and offers a "Sweetheart Package" including dinner for two, an overnight stay in a deluxe room, chocolates, and a continental breakfast for $99 per couple; Colette in the Beverly Pavilion Hotel in Beverly Hills celebrates not only Valentine's Day but also its second anniversary on Saturday, with a four-course menu gourmande ($45 per person) and a six-course menu gastronomique ($65 each).
MATTERS OF IMPORT: The nation's cheesemongers, gin-hounds and brandy swillers, among others, doubtless breathed a sigh of relief and probably lifted a glass late last month when the Reagan Administration announced that, as a result of last-minute trade negotiations with the European Common Market, it would not, after all, impose high tariffs on certain imported European food and beverage products.
None of the stories I read on the proposed tariffs, though, specified exactly which products would have been affected. Duty increases would have been as high as 200% on certain items, making prices so preposterously high that they would have simply become unavailable in this country.
Just so you know how close you came to having your life style redefined by the Reagan measures, here are the items that were singled out: white wines with an export price of less than $4 a gallon; gin (no more Tanqueray martinis, kiddies); brandy with an export price of more than $13 a gallon (including virtually all Cognac and Armagnac); a wide range of cheeses, among them goat cheese, blue cheese (Roquefort, etc.), soft-ripe cheeses (even--have those guys in Washington no shame?--Brie and Camembert), and Dutch cheeses like Gouda and Edam; canned hams of three pounds or less; brine-packed olives (but not green ones--those Potomac-side Philistines might be willing to give up the Tanqueray but not the olive on the toothpick); and endive and carrots. Whew!