POSTED ON FEBRUARY 7, 2007:
Our restaurant reviewer suggests a tasty, romantic treat
Sweets for the Sweet. Take your date to Tsunami Sushi, which offers Peanut Butter Orgasm, New York Cheesecake, Triple Espresso, Cr¸me Brulee and Mochi Wrapped Ice Cream.
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/ My soul can reach. . . or how about this one, "Come live with me, and be my love;. . .
Ah, romance is in the air, and who can say it better than these famous poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) and Christopher Marlowe (1564-93). Even some of the most famous love stories in history, Anthony and Cleopatra, Abelard and Heloise, and Abigail and John Adams have the ability to move even the most hardened heart to this day.
Valentine's Day is among the most anticipated days on the calendar year for children and adults alike. And retailers, too.
The National Retail Federation projects a 3.8% increase in Valentine's Day spending this year, to $13.7 billion from $13.19 billion last year.
But, like most holidays, it came of humble origins. Today, thanks to history and legend of Saint Valentine, a Roman Catholic priest, this holiday has become not only a booming commercial success, but also for many it is a day of love, a day purposefully set aside for showing and expressing love for each other.
It is estimated that possibly as many as 61% of consumers will celebrate this day, spending more than $100 on average for gifts for their loves, according to the National Retail Federation's 2006 Valentine's Day consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.
Almost half of those surveyed said they plan to buy candy. (Valentine's Day actually falls closely behind Halloween, Easter and Christmas for confectionery sales.) An evening out is estimated to be in the plans for 42%. While men buy mostly for romantic reasons, women also take part in this holiday with the own expression of love to their mothers, daughters and friends, as well as their sweethearts. Valentine's Day has also become a perfect reason for women to treat themselves on this day.
While history is important, what's on people's minds today is not who was this person, St. Valentine, but 'what do I do this year?'
Romantic dinners, giving candy, sending flowers and cards and giving jewelry are the most popular ways people recognize loved ones on this day. The least popular gifts include clothing and gift certificates. It's the personal, gift from the heart that counts for this holiday.
In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that jewelry stores sold more than $2.6 billion worth of merchandise. The estimated number of roses produced for St. Valentine's Day last year was 189 million with men more so than women being the big spenders. Around 180 million Valentine cards are exchanged which pushes Valentine's Day second only to Christmas.
If you are among the thousands who will flock to local restaurants with a loved one, Tulsa has a plethora of fine places to dine. (See Cuisine Scene, Pages 28-32.) But another idea, perhaps just as romantic might be to enjoy a fine dessert, wine or sweet treat after a dinner, movie or evening out of the house.
Desserts often take a back seat when dining out (too full, spent too much already, etc.), but they take a front and center place on this festive day of indulgences.
My suggestions in the downtown area include Lola's at the Bowery, 201 E. Brady St. (592-7995) in Tulsa's Historic Brady District who offer a myriad of fresh desserts daily.
Across the street from Lola's, Caz's Chowhouse 18 E. Brady St. (588-2469), offers such comforting and filling desserts as Apple Dumpling, Triple Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Key Lime Pie Cheesecake and Bread Pudding.
Tsunami Sushi, open until 11pm at the downtown location, 2nd & Detroit (582-4100) or south at RiverWalk Crossing (298-5200), offers Peanut Butter Orgasm, New York Cheesecake, Triple Espresso, Crème Brulee and Mochi Wrapped Ice Cream (a confection made from mochi--pulverized sticky rice--with an ice cream filling).
One unlikely place for desserts but open late is James E. McNellie's Public House (409 E. 1st St. (382-PINT). While beer is the main attraction here, simple sweets are available. The list includes White Chocolate Chip Brownie, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Fresh Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Baxter's Interurban, 717 S. Houston, (585-3134) are open until 10pm and offer Carrot Cake, Chocolate Torte, Turtle Brownie Sundae, Cream Brulee, Turtle Cheesecake, and a favorite of many, Tequila Bread Pudding--a warm dessert baked with fruity goodness topped with a tequila sauce).
The Polo Grill, 2038 Utica Square (744-4280) has a very romantic atmosphere to go with their fabulous desserts: Chef's Pot-au-Crème, Java Lava Cake, Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, House Baked Fudge, Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Chef's Tasting of Sorbet & Ice Creams, Mango Sorbet and "Plain Vanilla" Ice Cream.
In the Brookside district, Table Ten with the lofty ceilings, white linens and waterfalls, is open until 11pm at 3512 S. Peoria (749-3310); the dessert menu features French Apple Tart, Vanilla Pana Cotta and a special dessert of the day.
Privé, 3523 S. Peoria (747-WINE), is open late to 2am and offers a select menu of desserts. Part of the enjoyment here is not only the sweets, but the romantic, get-away-from-it-all atmosphere.
The Brasserie Restaurant and Bar, 3509 S. Peoria (779-7070) features some of the best French desserts in Tulsa: Chocolate-Orange Pots de Crème, Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée with Fresh Berries, Profiteroles Ice Cream in Éclair Pastry with Chocolate Sauce, Apple Tarte Tatin Black Pepper Crème Anglaise and Rosemary Caramel, Crepes, Pain Perdu and Soufflée. With Digestif of Courvoisier V.S or Sandeman's Founders Reserve Port, the night will be spectacular.
Italian restaurants for a classic Italian dessert on Peoria include Ciao, Baby! (3308 S. Peoria, 293-9333), Garlic Rose (3509 S. Peoria, 746-4900) and Biga (4329 S. Peoria, 743-2442).
A bit south and east is another Italian favorite, Ti Amo Ristorante Italiano, 6024-A S. Sheridan (499-1919). Open until 9am, Ti Amo's offers traditional Italian favorites such as Spumoni Ice Cream and Tiramisu, but also Strawberry Ti Amo (fresh strawberries sautéed with Burgundy wine ladled over ice cream and finished with whipped cream), New York Style Cheesecake, Chocolate Torte, Crème Brulee, and a special dessert of the day. Couple that with one of Ti Amo's Café Latte drinks such as The Godfather (Bailey's Irish Cream, Amaretto and Tia Maria) or Al Capone (Kahlua and Chambord) or even Bugsy Siegel (Bailey's Irish Cream and Butterscotch Schnapps).
Walk on the Romantic Side
South at RiverWalk Crossing, one of the latest and most hip tenants, JooJooBee's Club and Deli, 500 RiverWalk Terrace, Ste. 135 (299-3099), will offer a special dinner menu for Valentine's Day, and for dessert have their two "staple" favorites, Baked Fudge (a gooey, very rich cake-like fudge) and Bread Pudding, as well as a few new desserts, Lemon Mist Cake and Cheesecake.
The Melting Pot another option at RiverWalk Crossing has to be one of the most decadent desserts you can have with a date: the Chocolate Fondue. Variations of this romantic dipping experience include The Original (signature milk chocolate), Amaretto Meltdown, Cookies'n'Cream and Marshmallow Dream, Flaming Turtle, Bailey's Irish Cream Dream, Ying Yang, Chocolate S'Mores Pure Chocolate and Special Event, where you can be creative with your selections. Dippers include strawberries, pineapples, bananas, cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies.
Heading east? Bonefish Grill, 4651 Kenosha St., Broken Arrow, (252-3474), will be open until 10:30pm serving some of the best desserts in Broken Arrow: Chocolate Macadamia Nut Brownie Cake (served with raspberry sauce, creamy vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream), Deep Dish Key Lime Pie (graham cracker and roasted pecan crust topped with fresh whipped cream) and Crème Brulée (topped with fresh whipped cream and berries).
Rather stay home rather than fighting the restaurant crowd? Why not purchase a favorite dessert, locate a DVD of one of the greatest love stories in film, and enjoy both in the comfort of home. There are many notable places around town for sweets and desserts.
For some of the best chocolates in town, KÿKÿa Chocolatier is the destination--3410 S. Peoria (742-4069). KÿKÿa features Gelati, Patisserie and the freshest hand-crafted Belgian chocolates in town. A suggestion is to lovingly purchase a box of 12 artisan crafted fresh cream truffles--these would put any chocolate lover into ecstasy. A few favorites include Klim (milk chocolate--name is milk spelled in reverse), Dutch West Indies, Cassis (black currant), Costa Rica (coffee flavored), British Columbia, Champagne with edible gold dust on top, Yucatan Express, Polar Bear (white dusted and mint in flavor), Key Lime and KÿKÿa Nut. KÿKÿa will feature special Valentine chocolates, and a second, stand-alone location will open February 14 at 510 S. Boston in the Philcade Building.
Sweet Tooth Candy and Gift Co., 3747 S. Harvard (712-8785) is full of one-of-a-kind sweets, from hand-made chocolates to buying in bulk from the shelves of canisters. Retro candy, sugarless candy and fancy gift wrappings for your sweet are available.
Queenie's, 1834 Utica Square (749-3481) is great place to purchase sweet delicacies of all sorts--lemon bars, cookies and fine cakes.
At KerriCakes, 2911 S. Harvard (794-5149), you can special order a round layered cake, bunt cake or a specialty mini cheesecake.
And, of course, Merritt's Bakery (3202 E. 15th, 747-2301; 12400 E. 86th St. N., Owasso, 272-4103; and 11123 E. 71st St., 252-0553).
Get cozy with the sweets of your choice, put on a favorite love movie, and just enjoy the experience. A few favorite classic movies of love include Casablanca (1942), Gone With the Wind (1939), Roman Holiday (1953), An Affair to Remember (1957), Love Story (1970), When Harry Met Sally (1989), A Shop Around the Corner (1940), GiGi (1958), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and Lady and the Tramp (1955).
Creativity is the best approach. No matter how you say it--Je t'aime, Kocham cie, Ich liebe Dich, Ti amo or Te amo, it's all about "I love you" on St. Valentine's Day!
How it all came to be, this holiday for lovers
Valentine's Day has inched its way up to one of the top holidays in America. On average, Americans will spend $100.89 for Valentine gifts for loved ones--with the average male outspending the average female to treat their sweet, $135.67 to $68.64.
What's the history of this romantic holiday?
As with many customs and traditions celebrated today in Western Civilization, the feast of Saint Valentine has a Roman Catholic background based on a lot of history and a little legend.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Saint Valentine: one was a priest in Rome; another a bishop in Terni, Italy (the Umbria region); and of the third, not much is known except he died while in Africa.
Interestingly, all three saints are said to have been killed for their Christian faith--their love of Christ--on February 14.
Most scholars who have explored Saint Valentine say that the Valentine celebrated on February 14 was a Roman Catholic priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270.
At this point, the factual ends and the legend begins. According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. In defiance of Claudius II, Valentine continued to secretly perform the sacrament of marriage, but he was eventually caught by the Romans and put to death.
Another version is that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed "from your Valentine."
Probably the most plausible story surrounding Saint Valentine is one not focused so much on eros or passionate love, but rather on agape or Christian love: Valentine was martyred for refusing to renounce his faith.
In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical facts are questionable. St. Valentine was one of the saints, along with immensely popular St. Christopher, who were not listed on the new calendar.
Over the years, the legend grew in various ways, but it was not until the 14th century that this Christian feast day became associated with love, and the candy, flower, jewelry and restaurant industries have the famous British poet Chaucer to thank for that.
It is said he was the first to link this saint with romance in his poem "The Parliament of Fowls," written in honor of the royal engagement between England's Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. As was the poetic tradition of the time, Chaucer linked this occasion with a feast day.
Through the years since Chaucer's time, this current love holiday evolved into one of gift giving and exchanging of hand-made cards on Valentine's Day in England.
Eventually, this tradition made it to the colonies of America with the giving of hand-made Valentine cards of lace, ribbons and featuring cupid and hearts.
And the tradition continues today among people of all ages.
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