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Not Your Average Valentine's Day Guide

By Scott Kearnan
February 3, 2014

Long-stemmed roses and rose wine aren't for you. You're the unique sort (that's what your other half says, anyway) who would rather find a creative, untraditional way to spend Valentine's Day. We're at your service, with a handful of options that will appeal to everyone from mingling singles to lovebirds ready to pop the question - unusually, of course. 

  • For the music lover

    You know what's better than sweet-talking with your honey? Both of you being quiet and listening to this awesome band, that's what. Harvard Square restaurant-slash-concert-hall The Sinclair understands, offering a three-course Valentine's Day prix fixe menu titled, "(I Just) Dined in Your Arms Tonight." Dinner starts at 5 PM so that you can head in to see soul singer Eli "Paperboy" Reed at 9 PM - and maybe buy a last-minute Valentine's gift from one of the pop-up shops from local vendors that typically populate his shows. 

    What to order: The song-themed selections include "When I Look Into Your Pies," by Firehouse; "The Last Kale," by Dan Fogelberg; and "Ballad of Peter Pumpkin Bread," by XTC. 

    How much it will set you back: The prix fixe dinner is $65 per person, with wine, cocktail or Broken Hearts bourbon flights available for an additional $20. Concert tickets will run you $13.50 in advance or $15 at the door. 

    Date points scored [On a scale of 1 to 5]: 5. Your date will soon be a groupie in the palm of your hands. 

    Plan B: Music and movie lovers can also head to Area Four, which will temporary transform into a "haven for the brokenhearted" playing strictly breakup songs overhead and screening breakup movies (like 500 Days of Summer and Blue Valentine) on the TVs. As for the menu? It will include an Arrabbiata ("angry") pizza spiced to hilt with jalapeños, poblanos, bell peppers, banana peppers and cubanelles. (Yikes.) There will be "Voodoo doll cookies" shaped like gingerbread men, tortured/decorated with pins, swords and more. Mean-spirited "Hate Candies" will be dropped with the check.

  • For the jaded single

    "Valentine's Day is nothing but a Hallmark holiday used to promote candy and flower sales." Sound familiar? Whether you're single or just want to live like you are, Abby Lane has an "Anti-Valentine's Day Party" at 9 PM that should be right up your alley. Hell's Kitchen runner-up chef Jason Santos will serve up a menu of quirky comfort food. A DJ will spin. Dancing will ensue.

    What to order: This spread involves the kind of stuff you'd scarf down after a bad breakup. Expect "mini Big Macs," individual Ben & Jerry's cups, fried Snickers with whipped cream, and a platter of spray cheese, fruit and a cracker pack. 

    How much it will set you back: It's cheap to be single! The bites average $5 each, with several priced lower. 

    Date points scored [On a scale of 1 to 5]: 0. You're not looking for a date. But if the category is, "connecting over cocktails with a fellow lovelorn single and seeing what ensues," rate this a fierce 5. 

    Plan B: Spurned lovers can also head to MJ O'Connors, which is hosting its Tainted Love Party at 10 PM. Entry is free, and inside you'll find $6 "love bites" from the late-night menu, Guinness samplings, a DJ, and a photo booth for taking angry selfies. 

  • For those who want to eat their heart out

    Eating heart. Strange and morbid or perfectly suited to the spirit of the day? Find out at chef Michael Schow's Tico, where the special menu will include beef heart alla plancha, lacquered with spiced honey, crunchy cashews and fried egg purée. 

    What to order: Heart not making your pulse race? Also on the agenda are razor clams with pineapple, horseradish and pickled red onion; 

red snapper with yogurt, shiitake mushroom, watercress and bone marrow salsa; and oyster escabeche with pomegranate granita.

    How much it will set you back: We love that the heart dish will only cost $12. The oyster escabeche is $14, and the razor clams and red snapper will go for market price. 

    Date points scored [On a scale of 1 to 5]: 1 or 5, depending on if your date is easily grossed out or incredibly awesome. 

    Plan B: Over at Tavolo, you'll find a Valentine's Day menu with a "Heart Beet Salad," the earthy root veggie with smoked carpaccio of veal heart. 

  • For those ready to pop the question - literally

    You're not hiring a skywriter, and you're not broadcasting your proposal on a Jumbotron. Ready for a cheap, creative way to woo your significant other? With 24 hours' notice, Farmstead Table owner and pastry chef Sharon Burns is offering "Proposal with a Popover," where she'll bake a ring into one of her delish flaky rolls. (Fine print: consult your jeweler, because they're not holding themselves responsible for damaged rings that can't take the heat.) Definitely one of the more inventive opportunities we've seen - and an easy way to butter up your other half. 

    What to order: Well, the popover. But this rustic American offers plenty of fish, steak and veggie-based plates to satisfy your other appetites. 

    How much it will set you back: $3 per popover, and no extra cost for the proposal service. Entrees average in the mid-$20 range. 

    Date points scored [On a scale of 1 to 5]: 3. We'll play this down the middle, because your lover will either find it super creative, or be really upset when they swallow those 24 karats. 

    Plan B: If you're willing to splurge, Hotel Commonwealth is offering a "Shake it Up" engagement package for cocktail lovers. The $259 February overnight includes a champagne breakfast in bed and a personalized cocktail for the couple, created by Jackson Cannon, major Boston mixologist and the bar director of top tippling spots Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne. (You'll get the recipe and a shaker for anniversaries to come.)

  • For those who'd rather skip the day altogether - sort of

    You're a rebel. A nonconformist. Let the other love fools drive themselves crazy trying to score a Valentine's Day reservation - you're going to celebrate when you want to, and Estelle's Southern Cuisine is going to help. The South End restaurant is going to serve its special V-Day menu all weekend long, so you can stop in from 5 PM-1:30 AM on Friday, February 14, or Saturday or Sunday. Whenever suits your contrary whim.

    What to order: The Estelle's Valentine's menu is all about spicy seafood. Selections include Cotuit Bay oysters two ways: with pickled watermelon rind and jalapeño mignonette, or baked with lump crab, cornbread crumbs and Cajun butter. Pepper grilled yellowfin tuna comes with a mustard-chile-soy sauce, and blackened-bacon-wrapped scallops are served with tomato-chile-chutney.

    How much it will set you back: Special starters are in the mid-teens, entrees in the mid- to high-$20s. 

    Date points scored [On a scale of 1 to 5]: 4, if you explain beforehand that you'd like to do your date on a different, well, date. Otherwise you're demoted to 2 because they'll just think you forgot. 

    Plan B: Empire is also running three days of Valentine's specials, from Thursday, February 13, through Saturday, February 15. Pick your date, then decide between a $49 prix fixe menu with crab "cocktail" and stir fried udon noodles, or special à la carte options like lobster "cupcakes."

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Places Mentioned

The Hawthorne

Bar • Fenway/Kenmore

Atmo.26 Decor26 Service25 CostM
 
 
 
Estelle’s Southern Cuisine

Southern American • South End

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Area Four

American • Cambridge

Food24 Decor22 Service22 Cost$25
 
 
 
Abby Lane

American • Theater District

Food- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Tavolo Ristorante

Italian • Dorchester

Food24 Decor22 Service22 Cost$30
 
 
 
Island Creek Oyster Bar

Seafood • Fenway/Kenmore

Food28 Decor26 Service26 Cost$49
 
 
 
Eastern Standard Bar

Bar • Fenway/Kenmore

Atmo.27 Decor26 Service25 Cost 
 
 
 
The Sinclair

Bar And Grill • Cambridge

Atmo.- Decor- Service- CostM
 
 
 
Empire Restaurant and Lounge

Asian • Seaport District

Food26 Decor27 Service26 Cost$47
 
 
 
Tico

Latin American • Back Bay

Food23 Decor23 Service20 Cost$37
 
 
 
Farmstead Table Restaurant

American • Newton

Food23 Decor19 Service19 Cost$41
 
 
 
 
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