.Where to Dine on Valentine’s Day

Named for two third-century Christian martyrs who rubbed the Roman Empire the wrong way, Valentine’s Day is to restaurateurs what Steph Curry is to Under Armour. Smart lovers (an oxymoron, perhaps?) plan ahead for that special Valentine’s dinner. On Feb. 14, smile at your sweetheart from across some of these romantic tables.

Gabriella—now that’s a no-brainer if ever there was one. Everyone feels attractive and flirtatious in these charming rooms, bathed in the glow of Prosecco and something beautiful from the kitchen of chef Gema Cruz. A plate of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, or some grilled quail—and whatever you do, do not pass up one of the exciting desserts from pastry chef Krista Pollack.

One of the corner tables at La Posta down on Seabright might be the perfect spot for a Valentine’s dinner tryst. Share a few appetizers, an amusing bottle of Nebbiolo, and one of chef Katherine Stern’s unexpected pastries or gelati to finish.

Over in that South County village-in-progress, better known as Aptos, lovers adore the enduring Cafe Sparrow, whose sheer coziness offers instant romantic vibes. And there are a few choice tables at Shadowbrook that encourage significant eye contact, such as the one next to the enormous redwood that grows straight through the restaurant. Or the tiny two-top perched in the stairway alcove of the great stone fireplace dining room. You know the one. Ask for it when placing your reservations, and keep your fingers crossed! Shadowbrook is running a special Valentine’s menu the entire week surrounding the holiday.

The dining room at Hollins House feels like Valentine’s Day all year long, and the menu created by John Paul Lechtenberg will put you in a romantic mood from the first bite. Do not fail to split one of this restaurant’s sensational desserts! As true lovers know, any place can be a romantic dining spot—the beach, Lulu Carpenters, the plaza of Abbott Square Market—as long as imagination is involved. Use yours, and see what happens.

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Ultimate Salad

If you had told me that one of the best salads in town is available every night at one of the top pizzerias in town, I might have questioned your culinary intelligence. But I know better. At Pizzeria Avanti on Mission, the house reigning genius blows us away every visit with special salads of local seasonal ingredients. Invariably fresh harvests of baby lettuce, dotted with some fruit, avocado, and cheese form the main concept. Last week it got even better when the evening salad featured tender butter lettuces tossed in the outstanding house shallot vinaigrette, dotted with avocados, shaved fennel, bits of mandarin citrus, and shreds of Dungeness crab. Fabulous! Always refreshing and invigorating to the palate, Pizzeria Avanti’s salads are the perfect set-up for one of the stellar house pizzas.


Soquel Gold

Congratulations to the winemakers of Soquel Vineyards, whose outstanding Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs—plus one Chardonnay, all from vintage 2016—took a half dozen Gold Medals at the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Two of these wines took Double Golds! the 2016 Soquel Vineyards Pinot Noir from Estate grapes, and another from Partners’ Reserve Lester Family Vineyard. Congratulations to winemakers John Morgan and the Bargetto twins, Peter and Paul. And to viticulturist extraordinaire Prudy Foxx, the guru of Lester Family Vineyard, among other plots of great grapes, for another award-winning vintage. Cannot wait to taste these wines! Look for these outstanding examples of our Santa Cruz Mountain appellation at your favorite wine emporium, or at the panoramic winery itself on Glen Haven Road, above Soquel. Open for tasting Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. soquelvineyards.com.


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