Look at these sassy Valentine's Day cookies from Pastry Chef Carter Holton at Sasha's Baking Company. Ahhh . . .these remind me, it's almost Valentine's Day.
Are you in LOVE right now? Do you wish you were in LOVE? Do you want to rekindle an old LOVE? Do you have faith that there is a LOVE out there for you? Do you pray for that LOVE to reveal itself to you? Are you disappointed by LOVE? Are you losing faith that "the one" is out there waiting to LOVE you? Have you given up on LOVE? Do you not believe in LOVE anymore? Did your LOVE break your heart? Do you loathe LOVE?
Just look at the emotional highs and lows that the word LOVE can invoke in people. There is the giddy feeling of the possibility of a new love. Then there is drunk in love. (Then there is just drunk, know the difference, people, this is important.) There is the fevered hope of a rekindled love. Then there is the public declarations of love that tell the world that you are desirable. It's amazing the power we give to some dumb little thing from CVS and what we think it says to all of our co-workers about our desirability. (Thank you, SNL for finally saying what most of us are thinking about Valentine's Day gifts.)
Now, take all of those people who are full of swinging emotions, insecurities and hormones and at various types and stages of LOVE and try to stuff the celebration and declaration of their LOVE into just one 24-hour period known as Valentine's Day. Then take all of that stress and pressure and dress it up and send it out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Oh, and by the way, this restaurant must deliver the most perfectly romantic Valentine's Day experience on the planet, while dealing with crowds they haven't seen since the Holidays. Let us not forget the chefs, bartenders and staff at the restaurant who are spending Valentine's Day away from their loved ones because they are working to make your Valentine's Day a TKO success.
Anyway you look at Valentine's Day, it is a lot of pressure for everyone involved. Some love it. Some hate it. Almost everyone in the restaurant industry, considers it the greatest show on earth. Truth is, those in the industry know that Valentine's Day is worth it. It is worth dealing with the stress for the sales spike that you hope will kick-off your Q1 sales with a smile. It is worth it for your staff, as they slick on some red lipstick and locate their wine key preparing to make some serious cake after the dark, dreary and dull month of January. It is worth it as a Chef, as they get a break from the regular menu to do some new food in the form of a Valentine's Day special that usually involves a creamy pasta dish and some form of serious surf & turf, along with a chance to see how their kitchen works with dine-in and to-go orders flying through it all at the same time. In other words, Valentine's Day is the very heart of a restaurant's business in February, usually pumping at full capacity and those who work there can't deny that they LOVE it.
I have always believed that you should show your love and appreciation for your special someone all year round, and not just on Valentine's Day. That said, I do believe, that Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to book time to do something together. It's not about the money you spend, it's about the time you spend with each other. Read that last sentence again, my friends.
So, let's put down the heart-shaped boxes of candy and the red and white teddy bears, and let's pull out our calendars instead. Valentine's Day can be romantic, playful or just plain sexy. You get to choose your own adventure. (Do you remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books as a kid? I loved them. You would make different decisions while reading the story and they would lead you to various and different endings? What fun!)
No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine's Day, whether you are looking for romantic, playful or sexy ideas on where to go and eat. . .I can help. See below. As a reminder, Valentine's Day is this Friday this year which means the entire weekend is fair game. Valentine's Day doesn't have to mean dinner either. It could mean a romantic brunch after a morning spent cuddling in bed, or lunch in a neighborhood in KC you have never explored before. Heck, it could even mean going out for just dessert and coffee if you have more of a sweet tooth. The important part is that you are doing it together.
For those of you who want it: ROMANTIC. Everyone has a different definition of what a romantic restaurant is . . .I say a romantic restaurant is truly anything that puts the two of you in the mood for LOVE. It can be the place where you had your first date, or the place you got engaged . . .or it can be the place that has the drop dead sexy atmopshere with flickering candle light that makes everyone look beautiful and serves an incredible meal. For me, these are the places that I think are romantic in Kansas City. I'm sure you have a list of your own.
The American Restaurant - Celebrating 40 years in 2014. Still the best views with the best food in the city. Talented Executive Chef Michael Corvino's American cuisine has an Asian heartbeat that is sure to please and impress. Fantastic wine and service, and amazing desserts from Pastry Chef Nick Wesemann. You will fall in love all over again at The American.
Story - Executive Chef/Owner Carl Thorne-Thomsen along with his lovely wife Susan have built an incredibly special restaurant in Prairie Village. The atmosphere is sleek and sexy, the food dazzles in it's flavor and refinement and the staff is perfectly attentive. Story makes you feel like you are dining in a large metropolitan city, not a suburban hamlet. This is the perfect place to go get lost together.
Novel - Executive Chef/Owner Ryan Brazeal takes his NYC talents and applies them in a very personal, and delicious way at his low-key and intimate restaurant Novel. With a warm and rustic wood interior you will feel like you have escaped to a cabin in the woods together. Located inside of an old house on the Westside, this place is waiting for you two to discover it.
Room 39 on 39th - Executive Chefs/Owners Andrew Sloan and Ted Habiger opened their first restaurant on 39th Street, and still to this day it is my favorite of their two locations. This place delivers a 5-star dining experience in terms of food and service for an incredibly reasonable price tag. For dinner, there is no place more romantic that this cozy little spot for the money.
bluestem restaurant - Executive Chef Colby Garrelts IS the "Best chef in the Midwest" right now according to the James Beard Foundation, and I can't disagree. His original restaurant located in Westport is bold, creative and cutting edge in their cuisine. Not to be outdone by the rest of your meal, desserts by Chef Megan Garrelts, Colby's better half, are a must-see-it-to-believe-it here. For an mind blowing experience, book a table here.
Potpie - Located right next door to bluestem, Potpie is worlds away in terms of the type of food and atmosphere, but it is one of those restaurants that you realize may be one of the most subtly sexy in the metro. Owners, John and Sarah Williams cultivate the vibe with low lights, candles, exposed brick walls, chalkboard menu with comforting and delicious dishes that immediately puts you at ease. You may have to elbow some regulars to get a seat at the bar, but most of them will welcome a new face in their favorite place.
Le Fou Frog - Executive Chef/Owner Mano Rafael and his lovely wife Barbara have taken a quiet industrial corner near the City Market downtown and turned it into wild and wonderful French outpost. The red light atmosphere is electric, the service is entertaining and the food is absolutely marvelous. Every night is a party at Le Fou Frog, and lucky for you, it is a party that you are always invited to attend.
Justus Drugstore - Executive Chef/Owner Jonathan Justus and his wife Camille have worked hard to create a place in Smithville that is worth the drive from Kansas City and they have succeeded madly. They took their family drugstore and turned it into an outpost for local farm to table cuisine. You will hear people complaining about the drive. Don't listen to the naysayers, they aren't dreamers like you. Instead, rent a limo and drink bubbles all the way up to Smithville and make out all the way home. The trip will be worth it for some fine food and fantastic conversation with Chef Jonathan, himself.
For those of you who want it: PLAYFUL. Those of you looking for something playful and fun to do together, should look no further. Consider going out to eat a cuisine that neither of your have tried before . . .Japanese, Thai, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Korean, Indian or Middle Eastern. Forget KC BBQ and your "favorite" restaurants and try something outside your comfort zone. Do a little research on the cuisine, so you will know what to order or just wing it and go with your server's advice. Try to eat with your fingers only, if it is Ethiopian . . .or chopsticks if that is what the cuisine demands. Keep and open mind, and be down for the whole experience, including dessert. I'll list some of my favorite ethnic places below to get you started. Meat-eaters? Try Brazilian or Korean. Chili-heads? Try Thai or Indian and ask them to dial up the heat to your liking. Pasta lovers? Try Chinese noodles or Dim Sum dumplings. Who knows? You might just find a new cuisine that you both just LOVE.
Brazilian: Taste of Brazil located inside the City Market downtown for sandwiches and beach snacks from Brazil, on the weekends look for their Feijoada or black bean stew. A must, as it is the national dish of Brazil. Fogo de Chao on the Plaza is the place for a Brazilian steakhouse experience.
Chinese: If you have never tried Dim Sum, you must. Bo Ling's on the Plaza and Pine & Bamboo Garden are some of my favorite spots for Dim Sum on Saturday and Sundays only until about 2 pm. ABC Cafe is another authentic choice that serves day or late into the night during the week & weekends. Another recommendation is Iron Horse in Olathe for their Beijing hand-pulled noodle dishes.
Ethiopian: Blue Nile Cafe in the City Market does a really nice job.
Korean: Chosun is my favorite located out in Leawood.
For those who want it SEXY: Those of you in this group, I am right there with you. You don't need hearts and flowers you just need to be ALONE. A cheap and cheerful solution to this is simply to send the kids to Gam-Gam's, light some candles, pop open a bottle of local wine from Amigoni Urban Winery or a bottle of Chocolate Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company along with chocolates from Andre's, Annadore's or Christopher Elbow, then hit your hot tub in the back yard . . .or the backseat of your car in the garage . . .or the dining room table . . .wherever inspiration strikes. If you are really looking to get away, take a "staycation" and book at room at any of the beautiful hotels around town that have a Chef-driven restaurant and solid bar. There you can both enjoy a great dinner and a . . .ahem, show. May I suggest these to start: The Elms Hotel & Spa, Hotel Sorella, Ambassador Hotel, Hotel Phillips, President Hotel, InterContinential Hotel, and The Raphael Hotel.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine's Day this year, if you choose to dine out please consider a locally-owned restaurant first, and generously tip the waitstaff that will be taking care of you.
If you want to know where I will spending my Valentine's Day this year, I, like most of the restaurant industry will be working a wedding reception at Amigoni's Urban Winery . . .trying to make another couple's Valentine's Day amazing.
Now get out there and LOVE each other this Valentine's Day.