Restaurants around the city are gearing up for Valentine’s Day, the second-busiest day for the business in America, topped only by Mother's Day. And there are a host of romantic spots just perfect for creating memories with your honey bunny.
But we thought it might be nice to curate a few of the more unique ways to celebrate this Hallmark holiday ... with food and drink, of course.
So here are six great options for celebrating, including an idea or two that are just as fun for singles or groups of friends heading out to paint the town their own shade of red. Read to the end and you'll even find an option for the Valentine's Day skeptics among us.
1. An elegant Spanish & Portuguese pop-up
Join Ana Docta of Kasana Catering for an unforgettable pop-up dinner in the elegantly unexpected Relics Vintage Warehouse at 126 S. 2nd St. The romantic dinner will feature eight elegantly prepared courses, wine pairings, flitting ballerinas (Eliza Schwartz and Julia Pareto) and music and vocal performances by jazz artists Pam Duronio and Tim Stemper.
- Papas Bravas featuring sauteed potatoes with roasted tomatoes, red peppers, chiles, garlic and Brandy de Jerez sauce
- Ensalada Roja with tomatoes, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, black olives, goat cheese en croute with chestnuts and cava vinaigrette
- Tamal Vegetariano featuring black beans wrapped in blue corn flour tortillas with olive oil and apozote paste, wrapped in banana leaves.
- Taquitos de Camaron featuring wild-caught shrimp with chipotle sauce, cilantro, onions, mango and hand-formed blue corn tortillas
- Stofado de Conejo (rabbit stew) featuring rabbit braised in Spanish red wine with garlic, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes
- Flan a la Ana: vanilla bean egg custard with Jerez chantilly cream, chocolate glaze and lavendar
- The Tree of Love showcasing spun sugar nests, nugget and treats served chocolate perfumed coffee and chantilly cream
The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with passed champagne and hors d’oeuvres with dinner beginning at 7 p.m. Cost is $95 per person plus tax and a 20% gratuity. Reservations can be made online at kasana-mke.com/valentines-evening.
2. A sugar rush
Maybe you already have reservations at your favorite spot. Or maybe you’d just like to treat yourself to something delicious on this pink and red-flecked holiday. Either way, here are two delicious ways to tickle your sweet tooth.
Batches bakery, 401 E. Erie St., might be the newest bakery on the block (they're opening Feb. 13). But thanks to the expertise of pastry chef Jaceleen Latin-Monagle and her crew, there’s plenty of deliciousness in store. Treat yourself to indulgent housemade truffles (white, milk or dark chocolate) for Valentine’s Day. They’ll be available starting Feb. 13 priced at two for $3 or four for $6.
From now through Feb. 14, you can also quell your sweet tooth with pink and red delights from the pastry case at Le Reve Patisserie & Cafe, 7610 Harwood Ave. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, all of the cafe’s desserts will take on pink and red hues in honor of the day of love.
3. An artistic view
Treat your Valentine to an evening of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine complete with lakeside views and the colorful, whimsical works of the Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon at the Valentine’s Day Dinner at the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Dr.
Starters include crab cakes, beef carpaccio with truffle and shaved parmesan, mussels with white wine, chorizo and frites and baby lettuce salad with champagne vinaigrette. Entrees include braised beef cheeks, mushroom and truffle risotto, duck breast with potato dauphinoise and pan-roasted sole with crab-crushed pink potato and grenoble sauce. The dinner will end with a sweet finale featuring a trio of chocolate, mini pavlova with lime curd and berries and poached strawberries with mint and champagne.
The dinner begins at 6 p.m. Cost is $175 per couple or $150 for MAM members, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations can be made online.
4. A gluten-free romance
Lazy Susan, 2378 S. Howell Ave. in Bay View will be offering a special globally-inspired aphrodisiac-filled multi-course dinner for two, which also happens to be entirely free of gluten.
Courses include oysters on the half-shell with pickled ginger, sesame, lemon and arugula pesto, duck and pear salad, North Indian black bean soup, grilled short rib mole and a finale of Persian Love Cake, an almond meal cake with cardamom creme anglaise and pistachios.
Cost is $65 per person with half-price bottles of wine available for purchase. Reservations can be made by calling (414) 988-7086.
5. A Galentine’s Day toast
Who says Valentine’s Day is only for lovers? Kick that old-fashioned notion right to the curb by gathering up your best girlfriends and celebrating Galentine’s Day with a night out, complete with these indulgently flirty cocktails.
Head to Clear at the InterContinental, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., where they’ll be serving up four special cocktails including the Queen of Hearts with Chambord and Freixenet sparkling wine ($10); the King of Hearts with Langley’s gin, Grahams 10-year port, Cointreau, Antica vermouth, lemon juice and agave nectar ($13); the Chocolate Kiss with muddled raspberries, raspberry vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, mint bitters and hot cocoa powdered rim ($9); and Night in Paris featuring muddled strawberry, Langley’s gin, St. Germaine, lemon juice, simple syrup and Freixenet sparkling wine ($13).
The Monarch Lounge at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. will be honoring thwarted love with their Romeo and Juliet cocktail featuring Patron Silver tequila, Grand Marnier, Chambord raspberry liqueur, chilled peach juice and a garnish of Maraschino cherries and orange peel ($8).
Or you can celebrate at the lobby lounge or Blu at The Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., where they will feature two delicious treats: Cupid’s Cup with vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Amaretto poured over ice and topped with a strawberry ($12) and The Pfister Chocolate Kiss with Rumchata, Godiva white chocolate liqueur and vodka shaken and poured into a martini glass and topped with a garnish of nutmeg and chocolate syrup ($14).
6. Beer. Cheese. And more beer.
Is there anything more Wisconsin than beer? How about cheese? You can have them both (alone or with someone special) at the Valentine’s Day beer and cheese pairing at Sprecher Brewery, 701 W. Glendale Ave.
During the special pairing, guests will be treated to 10 diverse Sprecher brews (many from the aging cellar) and ten delicious artisan cheeses ranging from mild to sharp and creamy to dry.
The event takes place Feb. 14 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Cost is $25 per person. Limited to guests age 21 and over. Reservations can be made at sprecherbrewery.com, or by calling the Gift Shop at (414) 964-2739.
Want to avoid Valentine’s Day entirely? There’s something for you too.
Despite what Hallmark would like to believe, not everyone thinks that Valentine’s Day is worthy of celebration. For those folks, Sprecher is throwing an extra special party on Feb. 16 from 6 to 10 p.m. Love Stinks, Let’s Drink is the ultimate anti-Valentine’s Day celebration. There will be music, snacks and beer. No cover charge and no drama. The event is free; a cash bar will be open all night long. Limited to those aged 21 and over.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.