FOOD = LOVE - Brooklyn Paper


Warm the heart: At Allioli in Williamsburg, the menu encourages diners to take the time to feed each other.
The Brooklyn Papers / Greg Mango

"Tell me about your first date with
dad," my daughter asked recently. .

"Well," I began, "we met in front of Cafe Figaro
in the Village." I then described our evening – mouthful
by mouthful: the omelet at Elephant & Castle oozing with
goat cheese; glasses of chardonnay at a wine bar later in the
evening; warm apple crumb pie with vanilla ice cream that we
shared early that morning in a romantic little dessert place
a few blocks from the bar.

She stared at me with undisguised preteen disgust.

"I wanted to know what you wore; what you talked about;
if you kissed," she said. "Not what you ate!"

"Oh. That I don’t remember," I confessed.

I didn’t bother to explain that for me the sign of a successful
date, or any other occasion, is remembering the food.

"What about Valentine’s days? Did you have romantic times
together?" she wondered. How do I tell a kid who still believes
in love at first sight, puffy white wedding dresses and two children
– first a boy, then a girl – that this made-up holiday is as
much about celebrating the pleasures of love as it is about enduring

"We’re having a romantic evening together this year,"
I assured her.

"Good," she said, "When you come back you can
tell me everything about it, except the food. Please, don’t tell
me anything about the food."

Below are a few restaurants whose chefs’ know what a great meal
can do for romance.

Chef William Snell of Cocotte, the popular country French restaurant
in Park Slope, is offering a special, three-course, prix fixe
menu for $65. The restaurant – all dark wood and candlelight
– is the perfect spot for a romantic twosome.

Start your meal with truffle-marinated, wild-mushroom bisque,
house-made foie gras terrine or prosciutto-wrapped tuna. Entrees
include roasted squab served in light cream and sundried cherry
sauce; a goat cheese-crusted rack of lamb with butternut squash
gnocchi; and the spicy "lovers’ quarrel lobster" served
with creamy polenta and a warm corn relish. For dessert, indulge
in a lemon souffle, chocolate cream puffs filled with custard
or "sinful" flourless chocolate cake.

Convivium Osteria on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue is a special restaurant.
The Mediterranean cooking of chef Carlo Pulixi, has won accolades
from local patrons, and has become a destination stop for diners
from distant neighborhoods. The dining room is charming with
ocher-toned walls, rough-hewn tables and candle-festooned wall
sconces casting a flattering glow over diners.

In addition to the restaurant’s standard entrees, Pulixi has
created a $45 prix fixe menu for the special evening. The meal
begins with an appetizer of scallops "Vierras" style
– pan seared with prosciutto and tomato. A pasta course of ravioli
stuffed with capon and porcini mushrooms follows. The fish course
is flounder with lemon and white wine sauce, then a meat course
that features roasted saddle of venison paired with a blueberry
and pumpkin puree. The meal concludes with a rich, flourless
chocolate tart scattered with berries and a glass of muscatel

What could be more romantic than dining in front of a roaring
fireplace? Executive chef Charles Statelman of Patois – a cozy
French restaurant that began Smith Street’s restaurant renaissance
– has added a number of special Valentine’s Day dishes to his

Four appetizers are offered to begin the dinner: a trio of fresh
oysters with a red wine Mignonette or spicy jalapeno relish;
a shrimp scampi with fried capers; a refreshing salad of roasted
organic beets with goat cheese; or a luscious smoked Portobello
and foie gras terrine served with a mustard seed and quince chutney.

Lusty main courses include filet mignon with bearnaise sauce
served with garlic-mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe; and a poached
arctic char paired with French lentils and wild mushrooms; and
a poached Maine lobster and scallops served with snow peas and
red peppers in a sweet wine sauce.

At Patois, vegetarians can feast on fettuccini with mushrooms
and truffles tossed in a chive-accented cream sauce.

It’s de rigueur that a Valentine’s Day dessert include chocolate,
and Statelman, caught up in the mood of the evening, offers two:
a rich, chocolate ganache cake with raspberries; and chocolate-covered
strawberries with whipped cream. An equally delicious walnut
tart with vanilla ice cream is another slightly less sexy option.

Just walking into the sweetly scented Provence en Boite in Bay
Ridge, a bistro and patisserie, is a pleasure for the senses.
Behind French country printed curtains are small tables where
couples and groups linger over chef Jean Jacques Bernat’s classic
French cooking. Bernat has designed a delicious, and well-priced,
prix fixe menu that includes six courses for $53.

At Provence en Boite, the dinner begins with a sampling of hors
d’oeuvres, and then proceeds to asparagus soup with black truffles
escoffier. Sea scallops wrapped in a tender crepe are napped
with a zucchini and chive sauce, or you can select a salad of
crisp vegetables topped with smoked duck breast in herb dressing.
A small cup of raspberry sorbet is served to refresh the palate.

Catch your breath before the next course of lamb roasted in a
crust of fresh herbs; filet of perch with morel mushrooms and
bay scallops; or a rustic "filet mignon" of pork served
with spinach and mushrooms in a cider sauce with apples.

Known for his fine desserts, Bernat offers a chocolate dessert
for two: a triple-layered mousse of milk chocolate, white chocolate
and dark chocolate served with creme Anglaise. A sorbet – passion
fruit, of course – is served in a wineglass with a swirl of sweet

A true romantic, Moni Ozgilik, who owns Allioli, a Spanish tapas
restaurant in Williamsburg, is planning on scattering the already
intimate dining room with rose petals. Ozgilik describes chef
Diego Gonzalez’s menu as "almost exaggerated, seafood-based,
aphrodisiac dishes." Ozgilik claims that Gonzalez’s creations,
heavy with oysters and lobster, are "meant for couples to
feed each other by hand."

The tapas dishes begin with a creamy clam soup and will conclude
with two desserts that are definitely not for the faint of heart:
A chocolate souffle filled with champagne sauce and splashed
with balsamic vinegar, and a sophisticated take on the Oreo:
layers of milk custard and prickly pear sorbet between crumbly
spice cookies.

Valentine’s Day dinners are popular with diners so make reservations

Allioli (291 Grand St. between Havemeyer and Roebling streets)
in Williamsburg, accepts Visa and MasterCard. Valentine’s Day
tapas: individually priced, approximately $40-$50 per person.
Standard taps: $6-$32. For reservations, call (718) 218-7338.

Cocotte (337 Fifth Ave. at Fourth Street)
in Park Slope, accepts MasterCard and Visa. Valentine’s Day prix
fixe: $65. Entrees: $8-$22. For reservations, call (718) 832-6848.

Convivium Osteria (68 Fifth Ave. between
Bergen Street and St. Mark’s Avenue) in Park Slope, accepts American
Express. Valentine’s Day prix fixe: $45. Entrees: $13-$23. For
reservations, call (718) 857-1833.

Patois (255 Smith St. bet Degraw and
Douglass streets) in Boerum Hill, accepts American Express, Visa
and MasterCard. Valentine’s Day entrees: $20-$23. For reservations,
call (718) 855-1535.

Provence en Boite (8303 Third Ave. between
83rd and 84th streets) in Bay Ridge, accepts MasterCard, American
Express and Visa. Valentine’s Day prix fixe: $53. Entrees: $15-$23.
For reservations, call (718) 759-1515.

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