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Valentine's Dinner: The 11th Hour

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The workload is a little cumbersome this week due to a wealth of good stories to work on—as we speak, I’m juggling a salad, a telephone and a keyboard, while wiping off a really not-that-great balsamic vinaigrette from my pile of yellow stickies. So please accept my apologies for the limited, last-minute listing of Valentine’s Day dining options below. The good thing about the current state of the economy is that reservations take a little longer to hit “no room at the inn” status. (Generally, I aspire to not simply regurgitate information that lands in my inbox, but on a day like today, well, I’ve got to bend the rules just a little.) Here’s what we’ve got:

Restaurant Alba (7 W. King St., Malvern; restaurantalba.com) is offering a four-course prix-fixe dinner Feb. 14-15. The cost is $60 per person, plus tax. Call (610) 644-4009 for details and availability.

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Food and love come together Feb. 13-14 from 5 to 10 p.m. at Radnor’s Pond and Bistro Cassis, where chef Abde Dahrouch will prepare two Valentine’s Day menus sure to heat up your evening. Choose between a six-course tasting menu for $95 per person, or an abbreviated a la carte menu. Call (610) 293-9411 for reservations. Menu includes:

• Chef’s Selection of Canapés
• Pan-seared Diver Scallops, Lobster Bisque with Tarragon Oil
• Wild Mushroom Ragout, Yukon Potato Gnocchi
• Duo of Maine Peekytoe Crab Cake, Saffron Coulis, Petit Filet, Cabernet Wine Sauce
• Intermezzo, Green Apple Sorbet
• Imported Cheeses, Walnut Cranberry Toast, Grapes, Chestnut Honey
• Adam and Eve Chocolate Cake

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The Spring Mill Café (164 Barren Hill Road, Conshohocken; 610-828-2550, springmill.com) is also throwing a Valentine’s feast, dubbed “Le Terroir Parisian,” on Saturday. The cost is $80 per person, plus tax and gratuity. The menu features:

Starters
• Soupe de Lentilles Rouges
• Choice of: Escargots de Bourgogne, Pissaladière Provençal or Oysters Mignonette

Entrées
• Choice of: Cornish Game Hen with a Currant Jus and Mushroom Risotto, Red Snapper with Tapenade and Carrot Flan, Rack of Lamb with a Rosemary Béarnaise and White Bean Purée, or Beet Salad with Artisinal Goat Cheeses

Assortment of Desserts
• With coffee or tea

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Conshohocken hotspot Gypsy Saloon (128 Ford St., West Conshohocken; 610-828-8494, gypsysaloon.com) is stepping things up with a Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Menu (below), offered thru Feb. 14 from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (an a la carte menu is also available). I think chef Ralph Pallarino has the same cookbook at home that I do: InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. Check it out!

First Course
• Flash-fried oyster sliders served alongside a ginger rémoulade with spicy Chinese ketchup on crostini, $12. Chef’s Note: Oysters and their aphrodisiac effects were greatly acclaimed by Casanova, who called them “a spur to the spirit and to love.”
• Grilled asparagus, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and toasted almonds, $9. Asparagus has more than suggestive form. It’s rich in vitamin E, a vitamin considered to stimulate production of sex hormones and which may be essential for a healthy sex life.

Second Course
• Brown butter scallops, artichokes and butternut squash, $25. As legend has it, the goddess Aphrodite was carried to Earth on the shell of a scallop. And thanks to this very high-profile job of one lowly bivalve, scallops have enjoyed an aphrodisiac reputation since the time of Ancient Greece.
• Almond-crusted striped bass coconut, sweet basil and pineapple broth, with sticky rice, $24. Almond crust reveals the silky, sensual texture of striped bass. The addition of sweet basil makes this dish even more seductive.
• Cinnamon-coffee-rubbed venison, orange reduction, served with winter squash, $24. There’s something about eating wild animals that brings out the beast in a man. Useful for producing “heat” within the body, cinnamon has been measured to increase appetite, both physical and sexual.

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Also at Gypsy: A Get Lucky party for singles and lovers alike on Feb. 13 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Slip into your PJs and indulge on complimentary food, champagne, drink specials and chocolate treats, while dancing to the music of DJ Gino. People who come in their pajamas will have the chance to win special prizes, including a basket filled with romance-inspired gifts.
 

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Sibling Stella Blu (101 Ford St., West Conshohocken; 610-825-7060, stellablurestaurant.com) is featuring a different aphrodisiac-themed menu, also thru Saturday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. The offerings:

First Course
• Arugula, shaved fennel, orange, Parmesan, pine nuts and warm lemon vinaigrette, $9. Chef’s Note: The aphrodisiac powers of arugula were first made known in ancient Rome and Egypt, as it was associated with fertility. The hormone-like compounds that fennel contains mimic the female hormone, estrogen.
• Grilled oysters oreganata, garlic, oregano, breadcrumbs and olive oil, $12. These slippery critters are full of zinc, which controls progesterone levels that have a positive effect on the libido.

Second Course
• Pappardelle, porcini mushrooms, walnuts and truffle oil, $22. Many parts of the world believed that eating mushrooms could endow men with superhuman strength. Mushrooms grow upward with such surprising force that they are said to push up stones. Ancient Romans threw walnuts, instead of rice, at weddings because they associated walnuts with fertility. The musky scent of truffle is said to stimulate and sensitize the skin to touch.
• Seared cocoa-dusted duck breast over cinnamon-sweet potato puree, with sweet coffee cream, $24. Cocoa was viewed as an aphrodisiac by the Aztecs, who thought it invigorated men and made women less inhibited. The aroma of cinnamon is known to increase blood flow, causing sexual arousal. Thanks to its high dose of caffeine, coffee stimulates the body and mind.
• Lobster tail, carrot pineapple and yellow curry, with scallion-lime risotto, $35. Lobster’s aphrodisiac history can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks, who believed their goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born of the sea and that all ocean creatures were her playthings in the games of love.

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Cosimo (209 Lancaster Ave., Malvern; 610-647-1233, cosimorestaurant.com) has a moderately priced—$50 per person, excluding tax—menu for lovers:

First Course
• Lobster bisque with brioche croutons and a sherry cream 
• Arugula salad with roasted beets, Bucheron (a goat’s milk cheese) and fennel in a balsamic dressing
• Braised short rib risotto, roasted cauliflower, Sottocenere (a truffled cheese from northern Italy)

Second Course
• Certified Angus filet mignon with spinach, potato puree and sauce beurre rouge
• Plancha seared salmon served with braised lentils in a tomato-fennel broth
• Roasted game hen with country mashed potatoes, French beans and natural jus 
• Orchiette pasta with roasted mushrooms and a Parmigiana-porcini

Third Course
• Warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream and a berry sauce 
• Key lime tart with passion fruit sorbet and crème Anglaise

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At Maia (789 E. Lancaster Ave., Villanova; 610-527-4888, tastemaia.com), executive chef Patrick Feury has created a three-course menu for $35, plus tax and gratuity, featuring the flavors of romance. A few seats remain for this special offering. The menu includes:

Appetizers (choice of)
• Lobster bisque, tarragon crème fraîche
• Two oysters, apple cider ice, lobster cocktail, iced spicy tomato granite
• Corned duck, foie gras, stuffed Napa cabbage, duck consommé
• Scallop en croûte, winter truffle
• Crispy goat cheese, organic branch creek farm greens, citrus vinaigrette
• Arugula salad, chilled asparagus, herbs

Main Course (choice of)
• Striped bass, crisp potatoes, vegetable fondue
• Duo of seared rib eye, black angus braised short rib, potato croquette
• Filet mignon, roasted lobster, gratin of potato, asparagus
• Roasted duck, seared confit roulade, cherries
• Seared bigeye tuna, water chestnuts, soba noodles

Dessert Tasting for Two (choice of)
• Brownie with creamy cappuccino ice cream
• Cherry semifreddo
• Dark chocolate crème brûlée

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Savona (100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills; 610-520-1200, savonarestaurant.com) is offering a seven-course Valentine’s Day menu featuring aphrodisiac ingredients for $98 per person from 5 to 10 p.m. An additional offering of Osetra caviar and a half-bottle of Gosset Rose champagne is available for $200 per couple. Savona’s a la carte menu will also be served.
 

Link of the Day

“Top 10 Aphrodisiacs: Food That Puts Us in the Mood”
 

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