Go beyond the usual dinner date for Valentine’s Day this year and go sailing, visit a museum or enjoy live entertainment while you’re eating dinner. Replace the usual box of chocolates with scrumptious French handmade caramels and step-up the bouquet of flowers with these artful blossoms. Any of the ideas below will get you on your way for a romantic date with a loved one or a special time with family and friends. Mix it up, try something new and spread the love.
A “Night at the Museum” takes on a whole new meaning at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and its premiere on-site restaurant, Ray’s. If you’re looking for an evening of art, culture and fantastic food, I can’t think of a better place to spend it than perusing the paintings and art exhibits at LACMA and dining on Chef Kris Morningstar’s delectable Valentine’s menu. Check out a brand new exhibit, “In Wonderland: the Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States,” in the Resnick Pavilion. This traveling exhibition represents nearly 50 female artists from the U.S. and Mexico including Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington and more. Women artists were largely excluded from past surveys of the surrealist movement. Also at the Resnick Pavilion is my personal favorite California Design: 1930-1965 “Living in a Modern Way,” with over 300 objects of California midcentury modern design. Another exhibit not to be missed is Chris Burden’s Metropolis II (2010), a complex “modern city” kinetic structure with a system of eighteen roadways, hundreds of buildings and 1,100 toy cars.
Ray’s and Stark Bar at LACMA
After touring the museum, sit back in a comfy chair outside at Stark Bar and enjoy one of their new winter cocktails. My personal favorite, Mike’s Medicine, combines Tariquet Armagnac, Licor 43, freshly squeezed lime juice and egg white. Fight off the winter chill and get warmed up with Bobbin’ for Bourbon, a hot cocktail starting with an apple-infused bourbon, raspberry rooibos tea and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
You’ll notice the sleek and retro-modern design of Ray’s (next door) that has quickly garnered a reputation as being one of the finest dining establishments in the city. The clean lines and mid-century elements fit in perfectly with the museum setting. White tables (with built-in drawers for napkins and silverware) pop with a spot of red from the corner bread plates. Get ready for some amazing plates of food that emphasize farm-to-table, seasonal fare. The Valentine’s Day Menu is a bargain at $68 for four courses. You might start with the beautiful crimson beets with blood orange, pistachio, mint and whipped Ricotta, followed by spinach ricotta dumplings in a balsamic brown butter, topped with pine nuts and sage. Next, dive into the Diver Scallops with a purple corn emulsion, vanilla, charred onion soubise and corn nuts and finishing off your feast with a fresh Citrus confection of a lemon budino, tangerine confit and Bergamot yogurt.
Show at Barre
Movie and music lovers looking for a less traditional Valentine’s celebration, look no further than “My Bloody Valentine: A Date with Tarantino” at the Show at Barre in Los Feliz. Arrive early and enjoy a romantic 3-course Tarantino-themed dinner and cocktails in the Vermont dining room or under the stars in Rockwell. Gourmet offerings include chilled lobster and asparagus salad, duck breast with a sour cherry-balsamic glaze and a decadent chocolate bundino cake with rosemary cream and brandied cherries. As always, guests can order from the ala carte menu in the Barre show room, before, during or after the show.
Tarantino fans will dig the live performances featuring music from 25 years of his film repertoire, including Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds and many more. Performers pop up all over the 360-degree dinner theatre, making for an intimate and interactive experience. This tribute to Tarantino, a master of film (and macabre) should not be missed! You can also catch the Tarantino show on two more Tuesdays through February 28. Also, For the Record: Baz Luhrmann is playing Wednesday through Sunday nights at the Show at Barre.
Cliffs Edge has long been a neighborhood favorite in Silver Lake with its inviting, outdoor patio space, bi-level dining deck and delicious rustic Mediterranean cuisine. Guests will feel as though they’re in a magical tree house as they dine under the spreading branches of an amazing Ficus tree draped with twinkly lights, growing in the center of the space. The restaurant was designed by Dana Hollister and Keith Greco and features eclectic decor – walls made from reclaimed wood, Moroccan encaustic tile and antique French art and mirrors.
Executive Chef Benjamin Bailly, a James Beard Award nominee, has recently taken the helm at Cliff’s Edge, crafting a menu of rustic, elegant food, with the emphasis on fresh, local produce. Stand outs include green beans with feta, curry, pine nuts, raisins and capers (the most amazing green beans I’ve ever eaten!), chickpea fritters that are surprisingly light and lamb cheeks with celery root puree, rapini and hazelnut gremolata. Finish your meal with a creamy and dreamy pistachio crème brulee.
The ethereal dining room at Naya Sunset is a dreamscape of billowy white lace, white leather booths and high gloss lacquered tables – a perfectly romantic setting to experience the exotic flavors of India at Silver Lake’s newest destination for modern Indian cuisine.
The five-course pre-fixe Valentine’s Day menu is $55 and includes a complimentary after dinner drink in the lounge. This lavish meal begins with a vegetarian samosa and a rose-scented champagne cocktail, followed by a curried vegetable soup or salad with baby beets and roasted cumin-lime dressing. Among the choices are Tandoori garlic prawns with pomegranate chutney and veggie lovers will swoon over the Vegetarian Naya Crusted Royal Biryani. Also accompanying the meal is garlic naan, raita and a choice of yellow lentils, sesame cauliflower or fenugreek and green pea curry. Afterwards, cleanse your palate with the sweet and refreshing cardamom-infused rice pudding with rose ice cream.
The lounge – a dark, moody, Moroccan-gothic fantasy – is tailor-made for exploring the night’s more lustful possibilities. Indian burlesque dancers and sultry fire artists mingle among guests moving to the entrancing sounds of live doumbek drummers. Dancers and live music begin at 7pm.
Sailing Away in Marina del Rey
What could be more romantic than sailing away together at sunset? For Valentine’s Day, Angelenos can rent a boat in Marina del Rey and sail up the coast for the best views of the city from the water. Even if you’ve never sailed before, you can rent a sail boat with an instructor and impress your date with your very own “captain.” Blue Water Sailing, California Sailing Academy, and UCLA Marina Aquatic Center all have friendly and knowledgeable instructors who will teach you from stem to stern! After working up an appetite on the water and returning to dry land, you’ll be ready to indulge in some fresh seafood at Café del Rey, a local favorite
Cafe Del Rey
Café del Rey has long had a reputation as being one of the most romantic restaurants in Los Angeles with its stunning waterfront location overlooking the Marina, superb food and attentive service. On the menu you’ll find a daily raw bar with the freshest seafood (locally sourced) and coastal Mediterranean dishes, such as Eggplant Panzanella, a delicious bread salad made with arugula, eggplant, pickled onion, fresh mozzarella, pieces of toasted focaccia and grape tomatoes. Another winner is the Basted Salmon, which is perfectly cooked and served on a bed of parsnip puree, red chard, poached beet and a drizzle of beet coulis – the combination of flavors is outstanding. A special Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe Menu features a variety of dishes and includes three courses for $65. Start off with some oysters or hand-made agnolotti with wild mushrooms and truffles in brown butter, then move on to a sea bass with fennel and tomato confit cous cous, avocado crema and a beautiful blood orange reduction. Finish off your meal with a plate of long stemmed strawberries, mascarpone, pistachio dust and sabayon. Simply divine.
For Candy and Flowers…
Le Bon Garcon
Tired of the usual, factory-produced heart-shaped box of chocolates? This Valentine’s Day impress your loved ones with a sophisticated alternative – handmade caramels from Le Bon Garçon, an artisanal caramel company located in Los Angeles. Touted by Oprah as one of her favorite things and recently featured in O Magazine’s “2011 Holiday Gift Guide,” Le Bon Garçon caramels are smooth, buttery and simply… the best caramels I’ve ever tasted (I knew Oprah and I had much in common).
Justin Chao, the confectioner behind Le Bon Garçon graduated from the prestigious Ecole Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil and furthered his training at Le Meurice in Paris. In addition to signature flavors Macadamia Nut, Mango-Passion Fruit and Salted, Chao has created a unique, limited-run flavor, Caramour, for Valentine’s Day with pureed blood orange sanguine, subtle notes of vanilla and spicy peppery undertones. Eat it slowly and enjoy every bite as it melts in your mouth with a long, resonate finish. Like all Le Bon Garcon caramels, Caramour is made in the artisanal French tradition, using all-natural ingredients and slowly stirred by hand to creamy perfection.
Chao’s artistry and attention to detail are also evident in his Valentine’s Day gift boxes, with each piece of caramel individually wrapped and a folded note card enclosed with “je t’adore” on the front. Each box can be filled with a single caramel flavor or an assortment and comes in two sizes — 4 oz. ($15) and 8 oz. ($27). Orders should be placed by February 7 to ensure delivery before Valentine’s Day.
Lillà Bello Studio at Bergamot Station
Lilla Bello Studio customizes each floral arrangement with the most gorgeous seasonal blossoms, turning them into artistic creations of love. These lush arrangements are absolutely stunning and will definitely make an impression. Each piece is hand created by couture designer, Toby Kassoy, in her charming studio located off the beaten path at Bergamot Station , Southern California’s largest art gallery complex in Santa Monica. Once flourishing with Bergamot mint flowers, the historic trolley station offers inspiration for her exceptionally unique and artistic floral designs. Wander hand-in-hand throughout the art complex that still retains its industrial look and visit the numerous galleries where creativity blooms (and hopefully your love will too!).
Lilla Bello Studio is offering 10% off any arrangement when you mention CBS LA.
Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.