Valentine's Day approaching means restaurants are scrambling to pull together romantic multi-course menus that set the mood for love. Dishes that incorporate oysters, chocolate and lobster are sure to be served by the ton for couples' special night.
Among these special V-day offerings by eateries and bars in the Washington area, here are some that stood up for their unadulterated, cheesy embrace of the holiday or their sassy nod to helping singles get by uncoupled.
With "Fifty Shades of Grey" just days away from its theater debut, many establishments are hitting the S&M theme hard. Ping Pong Dim Sum is inviting guests to "pleasure their senses" with a special Fifty Shades-inspired, flavor-tripping dessert experience for two that, naturally, includes props. Guests get a silk blindfold and two flavor-tripping tabs that block all sour receptors on their tongues, making the sourest of food sweet while they sample a selection of food including sriracha, Guinness beer and champagne. Ping Pong's package includes a goodie bag of bedroom accessories for those looking for something extra — and non culinary — at the end of the evening.
Not to be outdone, Farm to Feast Catering has the priciest and most involved Fifty Shades offering around. For $1,500, there's a double entendre-filled menu of dishes served on a gold leaf table and delivered to patrons' homes. The courses include such dishes as tied up breast of muscovy duck with bok choy and bitter greens and a dessert of wearable chocolate dipping fondue. The fun doesn't stop with the food though; the deal includes a restraint kit featuring gold encrusted handcuffs and a leather and chrome riding crop.
And on opening night of the Fifty Shades flick, Friday, iPic Theaters is introducing a specialty hand-crafted cocktail for guests to enjoy throughout the entire February: the Red Room of Pain. The concoction has red rum, red jalapenos, blood orange, homemade ginger beer and red rose petals. And as a bonus, the first 100 people to purchase the cocktail on Valentine's Day get a free pair of red fuzzy handcuffs to, as iPic says, "spice up their night."
A few area restaurants are particularly playing up the 14 number tied to Valentine's Day through their holiday specials. Mio Restaurant has a whopping 14-course tasting menu of Puerto Rican culinary goodies at the two-seat Chef's Counter.
Sushi-Ko Chevy Chase is advertising a Valentine's-specific Omakase, a seven-course menu that breaks down to a Champagne toast, five original small dishes, a sushi course, and dessert. Naturally, the tab is $140 per couple.
Of course, beyond 14, there's a lot of cheese happening in the naming of Valentine's Day-created dishes. Nage Bistro's menu of Executive Chef Dwayne Motley's Southern favorites has some sexy course names working for it. Foreplay is oyster Rockefeller, hamachi crudo or shecrab soup; this is followed by Intercourse — 45-day dry aged beef loin, lobster crab cakes or pappardelle al pesto di noci and a choice of Happy Endings — Coffee and Cigarettes, a cheesecake dish called Ménage a Trois or a banana split.
In Cleveland Park on Valentine's Day, Ardeo+Bardeo is starting diners off with a Caviar Kiss of bellini custard, creme fraiche, and chives amuse. Following the amuse, guests get their choice of over-the-top, love-themed dishes like Hearts to Hearts with baby beets, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and feta or petit filet mignon with truffle whipped potato, baby zucchini, and a "Ménage à Trois" reduction.
D.C. newcomer Mango Tree, as well as featuring a Fresh-Caught Seafood Platter, also has a Bangkok Seduction beverage with Beefeater gin, fresh lemongrass, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, fresh strawberry, and Champagne for $12. Also in the drinks department, Sonoma beverage director Woong Chang has created what he calls His & Hers cocktails -- A Man's World and Ain't Nothing without a Woman.
Not part of a twosome? Plenty of restaurants are latching onto the anti-Valentine's Day sentiment or trying to set up singles in accordingly cheesy fashion.
The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown will have a Cupid's Communal Table situated in the hotel's Living Room. Singles are invited to sidle up to the table over a shareable, family-style dinner by the fire.
Taking the pain of being single up a notch, Fainting Goat is doing brunch on Valentine's Day to help heartbroken patrons drown their sorrows with bottomless Goat-Mosas and Bloody Goats. The menu also has all the break-up excuses covered: "It's Not You, It's Me" (soft scrambled eggs with goat cheese, avocado & roasted cauliflower), "I Thought We Were In an Open Relationship" (eggs in a basket with jamon Serrano & red eye gravy), "Let's Just Be Friends" (sunny side egg with chicken & potato hash) and "We Were On A Break" (lobster quiche with leeks & fontina cheese.)
Meanwhile Carmine's is encouraging to gather their friends and, dateless, to eat as much garlic as they want...because why not? The "My Heart WILL NOT Go On" package is for a group of six and includes Prosecco and the Titanic dessert (five scoops of ice cream on a flourless chocolate torte, whipped cream, bananas, chocolate sauce, strawberries and candied pineapple). Or, there's the "Girls Gone Garlic" package for six that includes a full fleet of salad, pasta, bubbly and dessert.
Similarly, Bar Pilar has "date-ender dishes" for the loveless that focus on offals such as smoked head cheese and country ham-wrapped rabbit offals as well as especially bitter anti-Valentine's Day drinks named things like "The Cactus Where Your Heart Should Be" - (mezcal, Cactus, lime, spice) and "Dead Flowers to My Wedding" (rose petal-infused vodka, green tea, soda).
Or there's always a singles party for supreme cheesiness. Jack Rose will be partnering with Capitol Standard magazine for QLIKD, a Valentine's Day party where men will get a complimentary grooming service from Roosters of Georgetown and ladies can enjoy a braid bar by Haute 202 Salon. PennSocial is channeling the 90s with a "Singled Out" game show portion of its Singles Soiree. Jenny McCarthy and Chris Hardwick might even approve.