Love is patient, love is kind. Unless, that is, you screw up Valentine’s day.
Ladies, a little secret: for us, it’s just another day. But you probably already knew that, didn’t you? And you pretty much don’t care either, right? One of the prices of admission to congress with the fairer sex is making this day important. And part of that is Valentine’s Day dinner.
We’ll be dining in this Valentine’s Day, working on an ambitious attempt at Duck Confit. You’ve probably heard all the stories about Valentine’s Day, along with Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve, being among the worst times to dine out. Much of that is true: Valentine’s dinner means restaurants packed to the rafters. More importantly, they are packed to the rafters with people who almost never dine out. Otherwise lovely venues are overwhelmed with complaints about portion size, demands that the tuna be cooked medium well, rants about the fact that the sweetbreads aren’t sweet, and sure ain’t bread, and requests that they serve the steak tartar with the tartar on the side.
Blah, blah, blah..so what? Assuming celibacy was not among your 2011 resolutions, you really don’t have a choice, do you? You’re going to dinner one way or the other, and no amount of uber-foodie superciliousness is going to make it any better. (FYI, the guys at Blackened Out have teamed with Sucre for a Mad Lib Valentine’s Day contest in lieu of dinner. We think it’s a hysterical idea. If you’ve got the stones to substitute a Mad Lib for Valentine’s dinner and still somehow maintain conjugal access, we salute you.)
For the rest of us, where do you go? We’re here to help. First, make a reservation. Right now. Don’t be that guy, waiting till the day before and forced to grab a table next to the kitchen at Oceana where your special someone can listen to whoever’s channelling Gordon Ramsey tell the sous chef he’s a pathetic excuse for humanity. That’s not what you’re looking for.
What are you looking for? Well, duh, romance. This is not the night to review a restaurant. Tonight, first impressions are really everything. It goes without saying it needs to be a place she’s not been to before, and it needs to give her the wow factor when she hits the door. Forget about Gastropubs, and there should be no television in your venue of choice. So here are my top five, plus a few to avoid. You know what you have to do, so get on the phone and do it. Good luck and Godspeed.
5 Lilette: Very French, tres romantic. Good enough for Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson when they are in town. Whisper sweet nothings over the beet salad and the white truffle toast with marrow. Detailed review here.
Take her if she wears: Hermes
4. Bistro at Maison De Ville: French again, They know a little something about romance, don’t they? Without question the best choice in the Quarter. Cheaper than taking her to Paris (trust me), and nearly as satisfying. More info here.
Take her if she wears: Christian Dior
3. Gautreau’s: Nestled on Soniat uptown, this feels like a secret club. Fabulous food, divine atmospherics, and James Beard recognized chef Susan Zemanick make it an easy choice.
Take her if she wears: Chanel
2. Coquette: The most romantic space in the garden district, Coquette makes hearts flutter in a beautiful room on the corner of Washington and Magazine. Be sure to start with something from the amazing cocktail menu.
Take her if she wears: Stella McCartney
1. Dominique’s on Magazine: New, trendy, and the most gorgeous restaurant to open in NOLA in some time. The number one choice. You’ll score the moment she walks in. Keep it to yourself, but they’ll give her cotton candy at the end of the meal. Yes, cotton candy. If you can’t win with this, I can’t help you. More details here.
Take her if she wears: Agnes b
And as lagniappe, here are three to avoid:
Stella!: Brain food, not romance food. We love Stella, but not for Valentine’s. Shock and awe will be performed on your wallet while your date ignores you, wondering about the nitrogen smoke pouring off her entrée.
Meson 923: Big press, big reviews, big dreams for this newbie, but they are struggling under the weight of those right now. Too expensive to subsidise while they figure things out. Maybe next year.
Galatoire’s: The ultimate table-hopping party joint and the worst possible place for Valentine’s. If you end up crying in your drink while your date goes home with the king of Momus, don’t say I didn’t warn you.