Put A Twist In Your Valentine's Day Festivities

Rosebud Steakhouse's Chinatown-inspired fried lobster.(Photo: Rosebud Steakhouse)


The ideal Valentine’s Day event consists of a “Love Boat”-themed dinner party complete with The Captain, flirtatious Doctor and Isaac The Bartender slinging up strong, sensuous sippers. But since it’s highly unlikely anyone can get the original crew back together for a final bon voyage, it’s time for Plan B.


  • The Lobby at Peninsula doesn’t float on water, but you’ll be thrilled to find that the elegant restaurant’s set against a picturesque skating rink on a twinkling terrace level. Work up an appetite by twirling around the rink a few times, and then indulge in a feast in the main dining room. New Executive Chef Lee Wolen works his magic on several new seasonal dishes that are meant to share. Start with the roasted winter squash salad that’s topped with wild rice, smoked paprika and chocolate. A nice follow-up is the house-made gnocchi, which Wolen has made especially decadent by adding ricotta, sweet potato and black truffle. But on to the meat. Pescatarians will absolutely dig the gorgeous smoked Spanish octopus, whose flavor is well balanced by fennel and grapes. It’s also accompanied by morcilla, a juicy Spanish blood sausage. The skating rink is open until 9 p.m. Valentine’s Day and skates are $10 per person.

Peninsula Chicago skating rink (Photo: Peninsula Chicago)


  • Those in the mood for something interactive should head to Double A, the lower-level lounge of Mercadito. That’s where Executive Chef Patricio Sandoval and head mixologist Paul Sauter team up for a cooking-and-cocktail demo. Guests will learn how to make Mexican-influenced dishes such as lemon-and-butter poached lobster and potato leek fundido as well as the Agave Kiss cocktail. The event happens 5:30-8 p.m. and 8:30-11 p.m. Feb. 14. It’s $75 per person for four courses paired with cocktails.


  • If you’re more of a laid-back neighborhood type, then Due Lire Vino & Cucina should be perfect for your Valentine’s Day celebration. The charming Lincoln Square resto’s doing a San Valentino tasting menu for the occasion with unconventional dishes like roasted beet carpaccio; creamy polenta with wild boar ragu and shrimp-filled agnolotti. Dessert also looks promising: caramelized pistachio mousse with espresso. Guests choose three courses from a number of dishes; $50 per person. It happens Feb. 14-17.


Embeya's special cognac-based cocktail for Valentine's Day. (Photo: Embeya)


  • Embeya just sounds like a sexy place where you can seduce a significant other. Better yet, take a brand-new squeeze because Embeya’s certain to please with its chic, New York setting that’s industrial and romantic simultaneously. Feb. 14-16, the spot’s doing a four-course, prix-fixe menu (with two courses served family style). Thai Dang’s Asian-focused menu includes quail amped up with honey, garlic and a lime-chili sauce; an Australian wagyu comes with fingerling potato, roasted Maitake and shallot jam; and smoked salmon is drenched in a coconut froth. Beverage director Danielle Pizzutillo has also crafted two elixirs for the occasion, including a cognac-based cocktail made with five-spice gastrique, lemon and plum sake. It's $65 per person.


  • Frontera Grill’s Executive Pastry Chef Jennifer Jones has assembled quite the dessert collection at the award-winning restaurant as well as at Topolobampo and Xoco for Valentine’s Day. Her special at Frontera has been dubbed “gooey coconut-almond love” by the kitchen staff because it’s a chocolate-coconut milk ganache with coconut-almond pudding, toasted almond ice cream and Oaxacan chocolate sauce. Simply insane, right? Jones has also created a honey flan using the first honey harvest from owner/chef Rick Bayless’ home garden. Those on a budget will love that she’s also done something special at Xoco, from two heart-shaped churros served hot with Oaxacan chocolate-sugar to a chocolate ancho ganache by the slice. Both are about $7. And she goes all out at Topo, where she’s created Chocolate en Oaxaca, a bittersweet chocolate-mesquite cake with vanilla, almond, rosita de cacao and masa. Guests of Topolobampo will also get a surprise treat to enjoy at home.


Peninsula's house-made ricotta gnocchi (Photo: Freddy Love)


  • Popular Lakeview eatery Hearty takes advantage of the fact that Fat Tuesday falls two days before Valentine’s Day with a special prix-fixe menu for $65 per person. The four-course deal comes with comped Champagne, plus N'awlins–accented dishes like crawfish mirliton bisque, cheddar-onion beignets, and a crabmeat cobbler that’s topped with blue cheddar.


  • You can never go wrong with a steakhouse, but some of the newest stars at Rosebud Steakhouse outshine the red meat. We’re talking specifically the spicy Chinatown-inspired fried lobster that’s accented with peanuts, kaffir lime and chiles. Another stunner is the caramelized double-cut Berkshire pork chop, which is super juicy because it’s brined for several days. What makes it extra tasty are the accompaniments of sherry syrup and apple-fennel slaw.