Romantic Restaurants for Valentine’s Day in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County…
Taking your sweetie out for a romantic Valentine dinner is about the sweetest thing ever. So make sure you don’t screw it up.
Valentine’s Day (Sunday, Feb. 14) is the second most popular holiday for dining out, according to the National Restaurant Association (Mother’s Day is first). But not all Valentine dinners are created equal. With most of you heading out for a romantic evening to get those passionate engines revving over a glass of wine and a tasty meal, we’ve collected a handful of restaurants (and a couple bonus ideas) we think are worth the V-Day cost, either because of the food or their romantic atmosphere (or both).
Consider it our Valentine to you.
Note, unless specified, you’ll need to make an advanced reservation for all of these dinners or expect the maitre’d to (rightly) laugh hysterically in your face.
Warm-Up to Love: Cheesemaking
Cheesemaker Sheana Davis hosts a sweetheart cheese class where you’ll not only learn how to make fresh ricotta (there is nothing better), but nosh on the fruits of your labor with raspberry rose petal jam. Also, winter salad with asparagus and lemon parsley vinaigrette, seared Sonoma duck with cherry reduction and rose water polenta cake with candied rose petals. Of course there’s plenty of bubbly to round out the fun. $95 per person, 6:30-9:30p.m., Ramekins, 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 933-0450, ramekins.com.
His and Hers Menu: Spoonbar
Husband and wife chefs, Casey and Patrick Van Voorhis duel for your tastebuds with each cooking two courses, and collaborating on dessert. Casey leads with caviar and egg cream, with Patrick doing a beet and coca sable appetizer, followed by Casey’s lobster with smoked butter and his lamb with asparagus. You decide who really wears the pants in their kitchen. Can be bustling, so factor that into your plans. $90 per person, 219 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 433-7222, website.
Dinner and Breakfast in Bed: Dry Creek Kitchen
Chef Charlie Palmer’s five course prix fixe for $89 per person is a stunner if you’re steppin’ out in style. Fennel-crusted ahi starts the show, followed by truffled parmesan risotto, sauteed quail and veal sweetbread with porcini puree, Kobe beef loin with bone marrow jus and a chocolate Madeleine cookie with milk chocolate sauce. Plus you’ll get “Breakfast in Bed” donuts to take with you. (Which ain’t a bad way to start a Monday morning). Quiet and romantic. Feb. 12 and 13, seatings from 5:30 to 10p.m.; Sunday from 5:30 to 9:30p.m., $89 per person, $79 for additional wine pairing. 317 Healdsburg Ave. Healdsburg, 431-0330, website.
Early, early bird: Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro
Doors open at 3p.m. for early Valentines (which we think is kind of brilliant), with free corkage for the 3p.m. diners. Dinner goes until 8:30p.m, but frankly we’d rather be snuggling on the couch with our sweetie after dark. Dinner includes a champagne flight ($22), petite tender loin ($48) and a lobster tasting ($52) with lobster vol-au-vent and lobster risotto. Tres romantic. 3535 Guerneville Road, Santa Rosa, 546-6462, website.
Meaty Treats: Zazu Kitchen and Farm
The meaty focus of butcher-chefs Jon Stewart and Duskie Estes seems especially appropriate for a holiday focused on the heart, if you’re into taking the whole holiday literally. Three courses include fried oysters with sriracha aioli; duck with black rice and blood orange; aged ribeye with ruby chard or porchetta with black lentils. Non-carnivores can enjoy artichoke fritti, chestnut and ricotta ravioli with ruby beets and rhubarb-raspberry pie. Convivial atmosphere, maybe not as conducive to whispering sweet nothings. Perfect for a double date. $79 per person, 6770 McKinley #150, Sebastopol, 523-4814, website.
Tres Francais: Bistro 29
We love the Valentine menu for this charming French bistro that are hearty enough to keep you and your sweetie full and happy ’til sunrise. Prix fixe menu includes roasted beet and fennel soup, foie gras with fig compote, seared filet mignon and panko-crusted braised endive and potato terrine with Gruyere, Mornay and dandelion greens, $75 per person, $35 additional wine pairing. 620 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, 546-2929, website.
Guild The Lily: Madrona Manor
Don’t think of it as a dinner, think of it as an investment in your relationship. Osetra caviar on brioche, three freaking grams of Perigord truffle risotto(!), local black cod with oyster dashi, dry aged beef loin with fava leaves, chocolate mousse truffle. $165 per person, $80 for additional wine pairing, with 20 percent service charge added to all checks. Luxe, intimate, memorable. 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 433-4231, website.
Swirl and Sip: Reserve Room at Mayo Family Winery
We fell a little in love with this sunny, cheery tasting room that features a luxe-yet-fun seven course wine and food pairing — mostly because of its new chef, Sam Frumkin. The millenial chef has serious cred after working at Eleven Madison Park and Sante at the Sonoma Mission Inn, as well as a sommelier certificate, but greets every guest with a smile and a glass of bubbly. Sans ‘tude. His winter menu includes small bites of corn bread and short ribs with zinfandel, chicken mole tostada with Petite Sirah and panna cotta with mango to pair with off dry Gewurtztraminer. There’s an additional dessert over Valentine’s weekend made with zinfandel port. The tasting is $40, or $25 for club members. Appointments strongly recommended at mayofamilywinery.com/reserve-room. 9200 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, 833-5504. Now, can we get some more of that mole to go?
Picture Perfect: Barndiva Restaurant and Gallery Cafe
Chef Ryan Fancher is one of the best Wine Country chefs that you don’t know. The former French Laundry and El Dorado Kitchen chef has been quietly turning out some of the most beautiful plates of food we’ve ever seen, using both local and exotic ingredients. On Valentine’s Day, he’ll be serving up chilled crab with potato and bacon salad, lobster tortellini with soy butter, filet mignon with artichoke ravioli and Meyer lemon frito misto and a fresh raspberry roulade for (we think), the very affordable V-day prix fixe of $87 per person. Next door, at the more casual gallery bistro, Fancher does vichyssoise, coq au vin and steak frites for $68. 231 and 237 Center St., Healdsburg, 431-0100, website.
No Prix Fixe: Willie’s Wine Bar
Willie’s Wine Bar, and all of the Stark Reality Restaurants (Bird & Bottle, Monti’s, Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Willie’s Seafood, Bravas) will serve their regular menus because really, how do you improve on filet mignon sliders, roasted Brussels sprouts with blue cheese, brown butter and Andouille sausage? Terri Stark said the move is intentional, letting people who go out on V-day order the familiar things they like, rather than a set menu. 4404 Old Redwood Hwy, Santa Rosa, 526-3096.
A Little On The Side
Adults Only at Montgomery Village
Put a little “Oh my!” in your Valentines plans with some saucy romance writers and the latest in, uh, let’s call it couples’ therapy from Spice Sensuality Boutique. The fun kicks off at Copperfields Bookstore at Montomery Village (775 Village Court, Santa Rosa) at 6p.m.. Not a couple? Relationship coach Kira Asatryan discusses human closeness from her book “Stop Being Lonely”, at the Petaluma Copperfield’s (140 Kentucky St., Petaluma) at 7p.m. on Feb. 12. Both events are free.
Better Than Sex Sauce: Patisserie Angelica
This fudgy chocolate sauce lives, quite possibly, up to its name. I mean, who would you rather wake up next to? Made with Callebaut chocolate, organic sugar, cream and butter, we suggest maybe painting a bit on your partner as part of the evening activities. Or, you know, on some ice cream. $17. Did we mention that their goodies are non-GMO and organic, along with a variety of gluten-free treats for your sweetie. Open Thursday through Sunday, 6821 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, 827-7998, website.