Valentine's Day Dining, From Luxury to White Castle

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While many eateries stick with the tried and true on Valentine's Day, a growing number are showing some real ingenuity, letting the day become a celebration of culinary daring or promotional savvy. It's all about recognizing America's growing appetite for all things gourmet and distinguishing your establishment from the surf-and-turf-obsessed competition.

Here's a coast-to-coast survey of what 10 smart-minded establishments are offering this Valentine's Day.

Dinner in Bed

Yes, instead of breakfast in bed, how about enjoying your evening meal in romantic style? That's what Miami Beach's B.E.D. -- short for beverage, entertainment and dining -- promises. Its "Get in Bed on the First Date" package ($300 per couple) features a seven-course tapas-style meal, plus a bottle of Moet rose champagne, all served on a bed covered in rose petals.

Want some privacy? The beds can be closed off with flowing curtains.

B.E.D., 929 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach; (305) 532-9070

Chocolate as Nature

That's the theme of the Langham Hotel Boston's Chocolate Bar, a feature on most Saturdays throughout the year. (For Valentine's Day week, it will be offered on Saturday, Feb. 16, but that's close enough for us.)

Executive Pastry Chef Alejandro Luna features chocolate stations designed around the four elements: air (aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air), fire (anything fried to a crispy turn, such as a chocolate spring roll), water (chocolate fountain) and earth (chocolate with the "fruits" of the earth -- namely, nuts and fruits). Various special effects -- dry ice, a faux flame machine -- and other chocolate specialties add to the appeal of the lunchtime all-dessert feast, which is priced at $35 ($17.50 for children).

Langham Hotel Boston, 250 Franklin Street, Boston; (617) 451-1900

A Sinful Meal

Leatherby's Café Rouge in Costa Mesa, Calif. (located within the Orange County Performing Arts Center), is creating its Feb. 14 meal ($65 per person) around a "Seven Delicious Sins" theme.

The "gluttony" course is an indulgent appetizer of Hudson Valley foie gras with caramelized strawberries and aged balsamic vinegar, while the "greed" one is beef and more beef (filet mignon and short ribs on a single plate).

And what about "lust"? That's described as an offering of "chocolate, chocolate, chocolate."

Menu is being featured through Feb. 17.

Leatherby's Café Rouge, 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Calif.; (714) 429-7640

The Perfect Pairing

That's how New York's Astor Center, a new multipurpose wine, spirits and culinary facility, is billing its Valentine's Day feast -- it's a five-course foie gras tasting, paired with a vertical tasting of outstanding vintages of Chateau d'Yquem, one of the world's great dessert wines.

The chef behind the feast, priced at $1,295 per couple, is Ariane Daguin, founder of D'Artagnan, which sells foie gras and other gourmet specialties by mail.

And for dessert? Foie gras beignets, of course.

Astor Center, 399 Lafayette Street, New York; (212) 674-7501

The Seductive Side of White Castle

Who would have thought of White Castle as a romantic destination? Apparently, enough folks do: The beloved burger chain, famous for its "slyders," is offering "Valentine's Day at the Castle" ("The steam. The passion. The hot, little buns," the company teases in its advertising.)

It's a candlelit feast, replete with, well, burgers. How long before McDonald's(MCD) and Wendy's(WEN) catch on?

Reservations are required -- go to the White Castle Web site to find locations and phone numbers.

Love at Any Price

If money is no object, then Chicago's Spiaggia restaurant has the Valentine's Day meal for you. For $25,000 per couple, the restaurant is offering a feast in one of its four private dining rooms, with a special dinner created in consultation with James Beard Award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and sommelier Steven Alexander. But it's the extras that really make the meal so pricey, from the matching set of watches provided by a local jeweler to private musical accompaniment during the meal.

Spiaggia, 980 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago; (312) 280-2750

His and Hers Dinners

He likes steak, she likes fish. What's such a couple to do on Valentine's Day? Many restaurants play off this dichotomy, offering his and hers meals. Avenue 5 Restaurant in San Diego has a great $75-per-person offering. He gets herb-crusted tenderloin with forest mushrooms, she gets veal scaloppine. The his-and-hers concept extends to the side dishes, appetizers and desserts.

Avenue 5 Restaurant, 2760 Fifth Avenue, San Diego; (619) 542-0394

The Anti-Valentine's Day Dinner

Sick of all the romance? Apparently, you're not alone. A number of restaurants and bars are hosting "unromantic" dinners aimed at singles without a date on Feb. 14.

A case in point: Hi5 Restaurant in Raleigh, N.C. Its third annual "Anti-Valentine's Day Party" features such events as a frozen banana and muffin-eating contests, plus such very unseductive sports bar-style foods as pizza, nachos and wings.

Hi5 Restaurant, 510 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh; (919) 834-4335

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