Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and that means love - and opportunities for romantic and delicious meals - soon will be in the air.
Of course, this year, Valentine's Day falls on a Monday, and that can make it tough for happy couples to have their romantic night out on the actual holiday. Luckily, most area restaurants in southern New Jersey are offering Valentine's Day specials that are lasting the entire weekend leading up to Feb. 14, so lovebirds have multiple opportunities to have a date night.
"The reservations for us are spread out throughout that weekend," says Jahanna Edson, food and beverage manager at The Ebbitt Room at The Virginia Hotel in Cape May. "We're going to have piano music in the lounge, roses on all the tables, so this will be something a little more romantic."
The Ebbitt Room's Executive Chef Lucas Manteca and Executive Sous Chef Matthew Rutter have once again cooked up a unique holiday menu offering for guests, with a four-course chef's tasting menu for $75 per person. Offerings include house-made saffron and duck, filet mignon stuffed with crab and blue cheese and pan-seared scallops with roasted dates. A special Valentine's intermezzo course of passion-fruit sorbet for the women and spicy chocolate chili for the men is also on the menu. The meal includes complimentary champagne and an additional wine pairing with the meal available for $45.
"We have a smaller, intimate setting with low light, a twinkling candlelight," Edson says. "It's a sparkly sort of special occasion feel, complete with the piano in the background." Call 609-884-5700 or go to
When thinking of a romantic date spot, many might think of fondue hot-spot The Melting Pot in Atlantic City. This year, The Melting Pot offers a recipe for romance with special "Lover's Lane" tables in a secluded area and a four-course menu for $80 that includes a framed photo from the evening.
"Our lover's lane tables are the most requested, and we've had many husbands or dates order flowers and celebration packages from us in advance to be presented at the tables for special occasions," says Charlie Haney, owner of the Atlantic City Melting Pot.
The Melting Pot is offering a special Valentine's Day menu Feb 11 to 14 that includes starters such as a trio of bruschetta, followed by champagne Swiss cheese fondue or cranberry-walnut cheddar. A main course includes samplings of filet mignon, shrimp, New York strip, salmon, chicken and pork. Dessert includes Snickers chocolate dream fondue or any of the restaurant's chocolate fondue recipes for dessert.
"Eating together is one of the best ways to spend quality time with each other," Haney says. "And what could be more romantic than an engaging conversation, a little laughter and sharing great food and drink with the person you love on Valentine's Day." Call 609-441-1100 or visit www.meltingpot.com.
February marks the busiest month of the winter for the Inn at Sugar Hill in Mays Landing, and it's easy to see why. The picturesque waterfront locations, complete with nine fireplaces and an on-site bed and breakfast, make the inn an easy choice for romance.
For $75 above the room rates, couples can enjoy the "room keeper's rendezvous," which includes a four-course dinner of the couple's choosing. The menu is all a la carte, says owner Larry Boylan, and the $75 includes everything except liquor and gratuity.
"We also offer a first-kiss martini, and we do chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert with dark and white chocolate," Boylan says. "We reconfigure the entire dining room to be all tables of two, with maybe just one or two tables of four. We try to keep it as romantic as we can." Call 609-625-2226 or visit www.innatsugarhill.com.
On Valentine's weekend and Valentine's Day, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar inside The Quarter at Tropicana Casino and Resort (2801 Pacific Ave, Atlantic City) will offer a "Taste of Romance," a lovers' tasting menu, made with aphrodisiac ingredients.
The holiday menu will feature samplings of Cuban fare from Chef Guillermo Pernot. The menu includes 18 "tastes" for $39 per person.
"Aphrodisiac ingredients like chilies and avocados are so much fun to use and they really do put our guests in the mood for romance," Pernot says. "Specifically, the Cocktail de Viagra was created with a variety of aphrodisiacs, including shrimp, oysters, tomatoes, jalapenos, tequila, avocado and coconut."
"Taste of Romance" dishes include fire and ice ceviche, with big eye tuna, jalapeno-coconut-ginger sauce and red onion escabeche, torticas de cangrejo, mini crab cakes with crema de yuca, blood orange mojo, young tendrils and coconut-date vinaigrette and churrasco a la Cubana, a grilled skirt steak with parsley, lemon and onion, served with rosemary-mushroom escabeche salad.
And couples can't leave without trying the torta de chocolate y dulce de leche, a fallen chocolate souffl� with dulce de leche and chocolate-orange sauce.
"Cuba Libre feels like Havana before the revolution," Pernot says. "It's got to be one of the most romantic places on earth. Our atmosphere and menu evoke the forbidden pleasures of the island and brings them to life."Call 609-348-6700.
Here are a few more area options for Valentine's Day:
Ram's Head Inn will feature a $62-per person four-course meal with seven entrees to choose from, including grilled rack of Australian lamb, pan-seared salmon filet and a duet of cherry-stuffed pork and braised pork belly. Located at 9 W. White Horse Pike, Galloway Township. Call 609-652-1700 or go to www.ramsheadinn.com.
Congress Hall is offering a $50 per person fixed menu that includes lamb shank, butternut squash risotto or jumbo lump crab cakes, in addition to appetizers and three dessert options of chocolate truffle cake, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake or vanilla panna cotta. Special runs Feb. 11 through Feb. 21. 609-884-8422 or www.congresshall.com.
Smithville Inn is offering a special Valentine's Day a la carte menu, with prices ranging from $23 to $34. Options include a seafood duet appetizer and a bruschetta sampler, and entrees include a mixed grill for two and beef tenderloin for two. Smithville Inn's staple chocolate Kailua mouse cake will be on the dessert menu, as well as chocolate-dipped strawberries and a special lemon curd pastry designed by the in-house pastry chef. Located at 1 New York Road, Galloway Township. Call 609-652-7777 or go to www.smithvilleinn.com.
Washington Inn is offering a special Valentine's Day four-course dinner for $39 per person Feb. 11 through Feb.14. 801 Washington St., Cape May, 1 to 7 p.m., 609-884-5697.
Fin is offering a $70 per person Valentine special on Sunday, Feb. 13, that includes seared Cape May Day boat scallops with white cheddar grits, applewood smoked bacon and black truffle butter, a mixed grill of cold water lobster tail, wild Pacific shrimp and prime filet mignon. The evening includes the chocolate lover's dream, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, as well as a chef's gift bag for the ladies. Located inside Tropicana Casino and Resort. Call 800-345-8767.
Il Verdi's $70 per person menu includes lobster arancini with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto-filled risotto balls, filet mignon and shrimp saltimbocca with prosciutto, fontina Cheese, parmesan risotto and Grilled Asparagus. Like Fin, the evening includes the chocolate lover's dream, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, as well as a chef's gift bag for the ladies. Located inside Tropicana Casino and Resort. Call 609-340-4000.
Carmine's offers a special romantic dessert, a chocolate torte cut in a heart shape that is sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with fresh whipped cream, four chocolate covered strawberries and finished with a strawberry/chambourd sauce. $15.95 and served Feb. 11 through 14. Call 609-572-9300.
From Feb. 11 to 14 at Ri-Ra Irish Pub, choose one appetizer, one entr�e and one dessert, including shrimp cocktail, baked brie, bacon wrapped filet, stuffed chicken, prime rib and many other selections. $28.95 per person. Specially priced bottles of wine will also be offered. Call 609-348-8600.
The Palm Restaurant is offering its 4-pound lobster dinner for two; includes two salads and a side dish for $89.95. Valid now through May 31. Call 609-344-7256.
Valentine's Day weekend gets the full treatment at Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah's Resort, Bally's Atlantic City and Showboat Casino-Hotel, featuring several dinner packages.
Beginning Feb. 11 there will be special menus at Nero's and Primavera within Caesars; The Reserve and Arturo's at Bally's; the Rib and Chop House and Casa Di Napoli inside Showboat; and Polistina's and The Steakhouse at Harrah's.
The price is $160 per couple for dinner, and includes a variety of appetizers, entrees, specialty cocktails and desserts, made just for two, of course.
Tomatoe's will be offering specialty Valentine's Day cocktails in addition to holiday specials, including lobster in a lemon and white wine butter sauce, chargrilled filet mignon with blackened shrimp, and chocolate cherry bread pudding served warm with vanilla ice cream and cr�me brulee for dessert. Each couple receives Jagielkys chocolate to go. Located at 9300 Amherst Ave. in Margate. Call 609-822-7535.
Special Valentine's Day room packages at Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City include dinner at Joseph's Restaurant or Gourmet Restaurant at Renault, a bottle of Renault champagne, rose, a winery tour, two welcome cocktails and six chocolate covered strawberries. Call 609-965-2111 to reserve.
Gaspare's in Egg Harbor Township will feature its signature seafood "clammer," with broccoli rabe and clams, in addition to traditional menu items and chocolate covered strawberries. Located at 501 Zion Road. Call 609-653-2112.
Goodfish Grill, 3805 Pacific Ave. in Wildwood is offering at four-course meal Feb. 12 and 14 for $40 per person. Diners can choose among an assortment of appetizers, soup or salad, and entrees including pan-roasted Alaskan halibut, espresso-marinated chicken and steamed lobster. Featured desserts include a jumbo red velvet cupcake and butterscotch bread pudding. For reservations, call 609-729-2232.