The somewhat sickening time of year has come again — when people put pink and red hearts on everything, roses become currency and restaurants construct elaborate "romantic" menus for couples to swoon over. But just because Valentine's Day is near doesn't mean you have to bore yourself with a tired piece of meat for two or piles of overly sweet bonbons. This year, try something different, something daring, something delicious. And whether you do it with your sweetheart, your best friend or your mom, just make sure you spend the holiday having fun, spreading love and indulging however you wish.
A Feast of Aphrodisiacs
Finding aphrodisiacs isn't hard, given that the list includes favorites such as oysters, strawberries, chickpeas, chocolate and champagne. For something totally sensual, go for the complete Kama Sutra Lovers' dinner at Bombay Clay Oven (65 Steele Street). This four-course meal ($69.96 per person) consists of many aphrodisiac ingredients such as the lover's bisque with oysters and fresh ginger; baby shrimp pulao with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron; lamb ribs with ginger; and rose-studded milk hearts with cardamom. Call the restaurant at 303-377-4454 to reserve a table. If you don't want to spring for a whole dinner, you can get two chocolate samosas at the restaurant's fast-casual sibling, Saucy Bombay (2600 East Colfax Avenue), for just $3 for two — only on February 14.
Anti-Valentine's Day Shenanigans
So you hate Valentine's Day — we get that. Crush that chubby-cheeked Cupid by feasting on blackened goodies at White Pie (1702 Humboldt Street), which is partnering with TRVE Brewing for the occasion. The heavy-metal brewery will pour some of its darkest beers, and the restaurant will offer pizza with a black, charcoal-infused crust, black squid-ink pasta, a dish dubbed "death by calamari," and blood-orange f'rosé (otherwise known as a frozen rosé). Dishes will be à la carte and first come, first served during the pizzeria's normal business hours (5 to 10 p.m.).
And if you want to skip Valentine's Day altogether, consider heading to Citizen Rail (1899 16th Street) on Thursday, February 15, for the Lonely Hearts Late Night Happy Hour from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. The fete features an old-school-style high school dance with 1990s ballads, neon Jell-O shots and a bowl of punch — spiked, naturally. Call the restaurant at 303-323-0017 for details.
For a Ritzy Valentine's Day
The New York steak tasting at Urban Farmer (1659 Wazee Street) seems perfectly designed for couples; with eighteen ounces of pure meaty magic, the sampler is not only delicious, but it's also fun to taste and compare three different styles of beef: grain-fed, grass-fed and dry-aged. And, if you want to go all out, add the extra wagyu steak to the mix.
If you're in the mood for something classy but not quite as time-consuming as a full-on dinner, Poka Lola Social Club in the Maven Hotel (1850 Wazee Street) has a slew of kiss-worthy tipples, like the Bitter Hearts Campari Spritz and a chocolate-laced egg cream spiked with Fernet. For love bites, you can woo your honey with fried oysters, caviar-topped deviled eggs and a lobster blini.
Try Something Totally New
This year, RedLine Contemporary Arts Center (2350 Arapahoe Street) is hosting a special Valentine's Day dinner fundraiser with local artist Esther Hernandez. Yes, there will be food, but, it's not what you'd expect in the slightest. Instead of the usual knives, forks and spoons, Hernandez has created a set of unique utensils meant to help couples get to know each other better. That means navigating the food and interacting with your partner over an organic vegetarian dinner provided by the Mercury Cafe. Before settling down to this one-time-only meal, you can take in the art at the center and enjoy the sounds of Preteen OD and J Hamilton Isaacs. There are several seatings throughout the night for the $100-per-person ($75 for members) experience, so visit the RedLine website for complete details and to make online reservations.
Not Your Average Feast of Hearts
Hearts for your sweetheart? And, yes, we mean the kind you can eat. At LoHi's Colt & Gray (1553 Platte Street), the team is including a beef-heart carpaccio with smoked blue cheese and strawberry rosé vinaigrette on its holiday menu. The $75 prix fixe dinner also includes hiramasa crudo with gochujang ponzu; stuffed quail with chili confit dates; venison with preserved blood orange and manchego apple slaw; and a bourbon banana split. Call 303-477-1447 for details and reservations.
An Offal Valentine's Day
Really show your dedication to the sultry things in life and order a spread of loving poultry parts. Yes, we mean the turkey testicles at Rebel Restaurant (3763 Wynkoop Street). Rebel has created a dish based on a classical French charcroute garnie. To make it, the turkey's tenderest parts are cured in salt, pepper, lemon, garlic and thyme. "The turkey testicles have a very similar taste and texture to the French sausage boudin blanc," says chef/owner Bo Porytko. The protein is fried and tossed in sauerkraut, pig head jus, caraway seeds, cream and mustard." We finish it with some fine herbs and breadcrumbs," says the chef. "It’s a pretty classical dish done with balls." This dish is more than a one-day special; it's part of the restaurant's February menu.
Perfect Prix Fixe
The Bindery (1817 Central Street) in LoHi has a special menu for the holiday that includes oysters with pink peppercorn, smoked rabbit pecan pie, uni orange risotto, steak with black truffle and dark chocolate, white chocolate panna cotta and more. Each epic feast runs $75 per person and there are two seatings, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (call 303-993-2364 for reservations).
Sushi is also a great option, and the special Valentine's Day omakase spread at Bamboo Sushi (2715 17th Street) proves perfect. Starting at $45, couples can tailor the experience with options such as the scallop and albacore yakumi, a signature roll or the oysters with yuzu mignonette. As a bonus, bottles of sake are all half-priced the whole evening. Call 303-284-6600 to score a seat.
How could anyone deny their love with a spread of San Gregorio de Polanco Siberian reserve caviar, tater tots, potato chips, capers, a lemony crème frâiche and a bottle of Champagne? Indulge in just that when you order the ballerific caviar service at Bar Helix (3440 Larimer Street). Too much? Well you can always dial it down and just get the Bump and Bubbles, which includes a spoonful of the aforementioned caviar served on the back of your hand and a glass of sparkling wine.
If fish eggs aren't for you, the "surf and turf " at Stoic & Genuine (1701 Wynkoop Street) downtown is also sure to wow. This stunning dish is made with tender New York strip steak wrapped around ahi tuna. Pair that with a pile of fresh oysters and you have one of the most luxe meals in town.
Sweets for Your Sweetheart
Share a picture-perfect, double-straw chocolate malt at Sweet Cooie's Ice Cream and Confectionary (3506 East 12th Avenue). It's great for two, and if you're feeling frisky, you can get one in flavors including salted Oreo or mint julep caramel.
If you want to go all out on the sweets this year, book dinner at the Chocolate Lab (2504 Est Colfax Avenue). Choose from an array of savory dishes laced with chocolate, including flatbread with jamón serrano, fig, basil, milk chocolate and Parmesan; ravioli with butternut squash, brown butter and shaved dark chocolate; and an eighteen-hour slow-roasted pulled-pork sandwich topped with a bourbon-chocolate barbecue sauce. For the eatery's special Valentine's Day dinner, make a reservation at 720-536-5037.
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Treats for Two
Add a little heat to your dinner by heading to Panzano and ordering the pollo arrosto diavola. This two-person platter features a spiced, whole roasted chicken with grilled endive, rosemary, marble potatoes, chicken foie gras jus and olive aioli.
Another great spot for a shared meal is Quality Italian (241 Columbine Street), a busy joint in Cherry Creek that serves a chicken Parmesan that's big enough for the whole family, or just the two of you. It's fun, too, since it comes to the table looking like a pizza, complete with toppings to sprinkle on. The surprise is that what looks like a pizza crust turns out to be chicken sausage.
For a special meal for two that can only be had on Valentine's Day, Beast + Bottle (719 East 17th Avenue) is offering beef Wellington for two, served with huckleberries and kale, as well as a rich chocolate-ricotta cheesecake with candied rose petals and dark chocolate for dessert. Call 303-623-3223 for pricing and reservations.