Valentine’s Day Dining: Cupid or Stupid?

Valentine’s Day is the busiest night in the restaurant industry. For many restaurants, that single night in February pays for the entire month’s operation and beyond. Following are some helpful tips to maximizing your experience on this special night. Show your lover as well as your favorite romantic restaurant some love. Feast your eyes on the restaurant-column-turn-romance-advice column.

-Make reservations early or late. Some local restaurants are taking reservations on Valentine’s Day as early as 4 pm and as late as 10:30 pm. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, book dinner either early (Friday) or late (Sunday) when restaurants have more availability, lending to the intimacy Valentine’s warrants.

“Typically, it is a night you want to be romantic but the restaurant is busy. Perhaps, it’s not the best setting,” reasons Walter Pisano, chef at Tulio at the Hotel Vintage Park and at Shaker and Spear at the new Palladian Hotel in Downtown Seattle.

-Refrain from making reservations at multiple restaurants to give you options on Valentine’s Day. Plan ahead. It’s sexy. It shows you put thought into the evening.

“Don’t make a reservation at three restaurants…to only decide that night on where to go,” warns Brian Scheehser of Trellis in Kirkland. “Not cool to the restaurants, or others who are trying to find a place to dine with their sweetheart.”
-Mention allergies, food preferences and other restrictions when making reservations. Many restaurants offer set menus on special nights such as Valentine’s. Check the menu before making reservations. Restaurants are accommodating to diet and preferences. However, most kitchens also are unable to cater to special orders with short notice.

-Once you make reservations, arrive on time. Timing is of the essence at restaurants, especially on the busiest night of the year.

“At some restaurants, if you arrive 20 minutes late, your table might be gone,” says one restaurant industry veteran who wished to remain anonymous.

-Sports fans, think of Valentine’s Day as the big game. Enhance the Valentine’s Day experience by making an entire evening of it, pre-funking and post-funking around dinner. For example, on his days off, RN74 Wine Director Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen takes his wife on a romantic stroll to their secret romantic spot where they indulge in a half bottle of Champagne out of paper cups and caviar straight out of the tin before dinner. Seattle Caviar Company makes the task effortless offering Champagne and caviar at their Eastlake store.

-Making special requests from a restaurant such as placing a long stem rose on your table may be counterproductive. It is far more romantic if you present the rose to your date yourself rather than give the impression that it was standard service and on the table all along. Putting thought and effort into the evening goes a long way. The more personal touches you invest in the evening, the less luck you will need to get lucky.

-Libations, especially Champagne, are romantic and appropriate. Too much alcohol may lead you to believe you are a better lover than you are. Even more alcohol, could impair your ability to make love altogether.

As Kurt Gandee, general manager of Blackfish Wild Salmon Grill and Bar, simply puts it, “don’t get wasted.”

-When dining, finish in a timely manner, two hours to two and a half hours tops. The quicker you turn over, the quicker you get to the main event. Linger too long or drink too much and you run the risk your partner may not be in the mood later.

-The quality of hotel restaurants has improved dramatically in Seattle in the last 20 years. Choose a restaurant at a destination hotel, the better to retire to your room immediately, kick off your shoes and curl your toes … and make your partner’s toes curl.

Miller’s Guild at the Hotel Max, Loulay at the Sheraton, BoKa at Hotel 1000, Andaluca at the Mayflower Park Hotel, Lola and Assaggio flanking the Hotel Andra, Pearl at the Westin Bellevue, Stoneburner at the Hotel Ballard, The Georgian Room at The Fairmont, ART at The Four Seasons (and Vespolina across the street), as well as the aforementioned Trellis at The Heathman in Kirkland, Tulio and Shaker and Spear are excellent hotel restaurant options.

The Willows Lodge in Woodinville offers the “Do Not Disturb” Romance Package, which includes dinner at its restaurant, Barking Frog, and overnight accommodations. While lovers are dining at Barking Frog, the resort’s crew draws a rose petal bath in their room and arranges dessert, plus a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries and Champagne for two.

The most important piece of advice for dining on Valentine’s: don’t go out. Cook at home. Romance your special someone with the sensuality of the culinary arts and do all those things in the privacy of your own home that would be, at best embarrassing, at worst get you arrested, if done in public.

The Do Not Disturb package at Willows Lodge maximizes romance on Valentine's Day.

The Do Not Disturb package at Willows Lodge maximizes romance on Valentine’s Day.

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