It's Valentine's Day and you're entertaining your darling at a restaurant or at home. Naturally, you want a dreamy menu that won't let you down in the romance department.
Here's a list of lover-loving foods and drink, and some of the places where you can find them, should you want to dine out on Valentine's Day or whenever romance strikes.
Grande passion--Champagne with a splashes of passion fruit liqueur and Armagnac is a great start--or finish--to a romantic evening at Hotel Meridien (Newport Beach), Trumps, Polo Lounge, Le Dome, the Ginger Man, the Grill, Bistango, Kate Mantilini, La Masia, Rebecca's and 72 Market Street, where people-gazing will grab you, or at Yamashiro and Tower, where the view will.
Heart-shaped ravioli--You can make the dough yourself using a heart-shaped cookie cutter. You'll find them ready to cook or eat at some take-out delis (among them, Pasta etc. in Los Angeles), or at such restaurants as Osteria Romana Orsini in West Los Angeles.
Fresh oysters--Serve this gastronomic aphrodisiac as an appetizer on the half-shell with Champagne. You'll also find fresh oysters served at many French or Italian eateries, such as the Four Oaks, a romantic French country inn, where the oysters nestle in puff pastry, as well as the ultra-romantic L'Ermitage and L'Orangerie in Hollywood. Special Foods International in Santa Monica, or Irvine Ranch Market in Los Angeles and Irvine sell fresh oysters to serve at home.
Angel hair pasta--With a hearty blotch of fresh tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, basil and olive oil, angel hair pasta is easy to make. Or you can find capelli alla checca at the romantic Il Cielo in Los Angeles, Visconti, in a hideaway courtyard in Santa Monica and at most any fine Italian restaurant.
Polenta--It's almost poetic to hear the squish, squish, squish of polenta as it's eaten. They serve polenta with duck sausage and spinach at a new place called Sostanza in West Los Angeles. It's also a daily specialty of Tuttobene in Hollywood, and when ordered ahead, at Marino's (also in Hollywood), and at Beaurivage in Malibu, where the romance in the air is as thick as the dish.
Huevos--Throw on your jeans and head to any neighborhood cafe like Cafe Chapeau on Larchmont Boulevard for runny eggs (Benedict?), or any Mexican joint for huevos rancheros the day after. At L.A. Ole, they serve the eggs over a bed of beans (frijoles refritos) spread on corn tortillas.
Champagne--Go for the top of the line. For French luxe ($30 to $70 per bottle): Dom Perignon, Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Roederer Cristal, Mumm's Rene Lalou, Veuve Clicquot Grand Dame, Piper Heidsieck Florens Louis, Krug Grand Cuvee.
California top-of-the-liners ($10 to $20 per bottle): Domaine Chandon (Brut and Blanc de Noirs); Piper-Sonoma's Brut, Blanc de Noirs and Tete de Cuvee; F. Korbel and Brother's Korbel Natural. Good Italian sparkling wine choices ($7 to $15 per bottle): Asti Spumante; Ferrari.
Red meat--There is something basically lusty about a thick, prime-aged Porterhouse steak from your favorite butcher or at any top-rated restaurant (Ruth's Chris Steak House, the Grill, the Palm, Hy's on the Westside, Pacific Dining Car, Downtown, or any plain, ole, homey steak house (Taylor's Prime Steak House, Nickodell's or Edward's Steak House, where the prices are right and the steaks always pass muster.
Pizza for two--Choose a piccolina cafe like Piccola next door to La Famiglia or the Piccolino next door to Emilio's. Marino's, Prego, California Pizza Kitchen and Pane Caldo have good ones too. Try the fancy heart-shaped breads and pizza at Primi in West Los Angeles too.
Wild game--No matter what you are game for (boar, quail, pheasant or venison), keep the cooking simple--roasted and unspiced. Or let a restaurant do the honors--preferably a romantic one, like Le Chardonnay, Le St. Germain, Studio Grill, all in Hollywood, Le Sanglier in Studio City, Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas; La Parisienne in Monrovia or at Pierre's Los Feliz Inn, where the game changes nightly.
Sushi-- Share a plate at some magical spot like Katsu in Los Feliz area, Horikawa, A Thousand Cranes, both Downtown or Imperial Gardens in Hollywood.
Belgian Waffles--An overnight stay calls for a hearty breakfast the day after. The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, International House of Pancakes and Magic Pan serve a lovable waffle.
Ribs--Anywhere, any size, any shape or flavor will do. We like the ribs at Tony Roma's in Beverly Hills or Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas Bar-be-cue in Van Nuys.
Martinis--There's a romantic message in every martini even before you take a sip--from stirring in the martini pitcher to the dropping of the green olive in the glass. They're especially wonderful at Musso and Frank's Grill and Trader Vic's, but try a favorite neighborhood pub.