Valentine's Day is considered a mawkish, over-commercialized holiday by many and rightfully so. Plastic-wrapped roses, trite cards, supermarket boxes of chocolate; even the most devoted partner may balk at choosing these tokens of affection. Where is the romance?
It's in the food.
There is a good reason that Valentine's Day conjures up images of white linens, candles and soul-meltingly good food. Valentine's Day dinner with a loved one is an event. Instead of every-day durable plates and plastic cups, the fine china and crystal wineglasses come out. It is a physical and emotional reminder of why you share something as fundamental as eating with a certain someone.
Or several someones; dining with friends and family means that there are more options on the table from which to steal a bite.
Chef Brett Knipmeyer at Kinley's (3230 Seward Highway, 644-8953) has created a tropical fantasy with a prix fixe menu ($60 per person, available Feb. 14) that reads like a lush travelog. An appetizer of Caribbean lobster tail half with vanilla-scented risotto and mango beurre blanc, followed by mixed baby lettuces dressed with a coconut vinaigrette and the option of having taro root chip crusted mahi mahi or pineapple and sweet soy glazed New York strip steak. Is it hot in here, or is it just me? The fairy-tale ending is a pina colada cake or chocolate banana tart. Ukuleles optional.
Spenard Roadhouse (1049 W Northern Lights Blvd., 770-7623) enlisted Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge to help present the best of what Valentine's Day has to offer -- chocolate and fine spirits. Instead of the usual red with steak, or white with seafood, this eclectic tasting pairs handcrafted truffles with Kentucky bourbon (Feb. 12 and 13, 3-11 p.m.) Try a goat cheese and golden berry truffle with Woodford Reserve Master's Collection or blue cheese milk chocolate and smoked bacon sea salt confection with Willet Family.
Downtown Sullivan's Steakhouse (320 W. Fifth Ave., 258-2882) is the perfect jumping-off point for a night of dining, drinks and dancing. Live jazz in the bar and succulent steaks are par for the course, but Sullivan's has amped it up with a prix fixe menu ($89 for two, available Feb. 12-14) including crab-stuffed shrimp, lobster macaroni and cheese and chocolate-covered strawberries.
A more intimate setting can be found at the Marx Brothers Cafe (627 W. Third Ave., 278-2133), with its cozy tables and fantastic wine list. Chef Van Hale mixes haute cuisine with down-home comfort in his Valentine's Day prix fixe menu ($95 per person). The standouts include veal agnolotti with sweet potato ratatouille, pan-seared foie gras and beef bourguignon.
Haute Quarter Grill (11221 Old Glenn Highway, 622-4745) is where most of Eagle River, and some Anchorage residents in the know, will be taking their dates. Chef Alex Perez is in the process of opening a sister restaurant in Anchorage, but for now, Eagle River is the destination du jour. His a la carte menu includes butter-poached lobster tail ($39) and seafood crepes with lobster, scallops and whitefish with mornay sauce ($27). Perez dials up the decadence with a truly luxurious surf and turf; grilled petite filet with pork demiglace and two slipper lobster tails with sun-dried tomato beurre blanc ($42).
Muse, the restaurant inside the Anchorage Museum (625 C St., 929-9210, anchoragemuseum.org), is offering a love-inspiring six-course prix fixe dinner ($70 a person, $30 for wine pairing, Monday). After a salad featuring rose and orchid petals with vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh raspberries and chevre, diners can chose seared blue marlin or deconstructed beef Wellington. Dessert is a layered strawberry and raspberry mousse, served with fresh shortcake Frangelico whip, and creme anglaise.
If you have plans for pizza, Firetap Alehouse (10950 O'Malley Centre Drive, 561-2337) is offering a Valetine's Day pie with smoked salmon, chevre, red onion and kalamata olives on an olive oil crust ($14.75 small, $22 large). The restaurant also has a prix fixe meal ($40 per person) featuring prime rib with snow crab and mash potatoes, a dessert to share and a bottle of red, white or sparkling wine.
Where better to embrace l'amour than the City of Light? Paris Bakery and Café (500 Muldoon Road, 337-2575) speaks and cooks in the language of love. "Panier de fruit de mer" is a mix of seafood on a bed of crab bisque. "Coeur de filet" is an entree of beef medallions with a Bordeaux and mushroom demiglace. Dessert is iced berries with broiled sabayon and the meal is accompanied by a glass of bubbly ($47.50 per person). This special menu is available Feb. 14, with two seatings at 5 and 7 p.m.
This year, Valentine's Day falls on a Monday, which means the celebration will last all weekend at some restaurants. Take advantage of the extra nights to have a poly-amorous affair with Anchorage's sizzling-hot specials.
By Riza Brown
Daily News correspondent