- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

February means Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air. It appears that everyone wants to honor the Umbrian bishop who may be the originator of the holiday — unless it is an old English spring festival having more to do with birds and bees than hearts and flowers.

Oceanaire (1201 F St. NW; 202/347-2277), appropriately, has an oyster festival running throughout February and March. Chef Rob Klink is introducing his favorite oyster preparations with boutique-farmed oysters. Flights of six oysters will be available for diners who prefer them raw, but oysters also will be prepared with soba noodles and soy beurre blanc, in a traditional oyster stew, or as oysters Rockefeller.

Chef Frank Morales of Zola (800 F St. NW; 202/654-0999) has introduced a casserole-inspired tasting menu to showcase one-pot dishes this winter. For Valentine’s Day, he is featuring “Red Hot Pots for Two,” incorporating red elements and seductive ingredients.

In Georgetown at the Four Seasons Hotel (2800 M St. NW), the Garden Terrace Lounge will feature a cascading chocolate fountain through the Valentine weekend for guests to dip an assortment of fruits, cakes and marshmallows from 6 to 10 p.m. for $40 per person. The hotel’s Seasons restaurant (202/944-2055) will serve a five-course Valentine-inspired menu Monday for $150 per person ($180 with wine pairings). The menu includes oysters, an aphrodisiac salad with edible flowers, foie gras, rack of lamb, veal tenderloin, and a white and dark chocolate mousse.

At 1789 (1226 36th St. NW; 202/965-1789), chef Ris Lacoste is celebrating our kissing cousin Canada (and her own French Canadian roots) by incorporating the wines, cheeses and chocolates of Canada into her menu during February. Lobster, smoked haddock, duck, venison, ice wine and the “great Canadian butter tart” will all make appearances.

Georgetown in general is awash with Valentine’s Day chocolate: Clyde’s (3236 M St. NW) has its warm brownie sundae. La Madeleine (3000 M St. NW) will feature chocolate croissants in February. Patisserie Poupon (1645 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202/342-3248) is baking a sensational petal cake made with rich, dark Equadorean chocolate. The cakes come in three sizes and are divinely delicious. They have a liquid glaze in the top center and are crowned with a frosted rose petal and a white chocolate ribbon decorated with red hearts. The bakery also makes heart-shaped individual tarts and cakes for Valentine’s Day, as well as little marzipan teddy bears carrying pink hearts.

Chef Alison Swope of Andale (401 Seventh St. NW; 202/783-3133) is asking romantically inclined Washingtonians, for the Mexican restaurant’s annual Valentine contest, “If you were to create the perfect three-course menu to serve your loved one on Valentine’s Day, what would it be and why?”Contest applications are available at Andale and must be returned no later than Monday. (No purchase is necessary to win.) The grand prize is an all-expense-paid trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, for two. Andale’s Aphrodisiac Menu from Friday through Monday includes oysters, creamy garlicky garbanzo bean soup, seafood with garlic and chilies, and avocado-macadamia-nut ice cream.

Chef John Wobeck at Firefly (1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202/293-2476) “lures lovers to feed each other” for the big day. His prix fixe dinner ($125 per couple) will be served Saturday through Monday and will include pizza with crispy oysters, wild mushroom risotto, chateaubriand for two and “mildly boozy” adult chocolate pudding.

The Kamasutra inspired chef Vikram Garg of IndeBleu (707 G St. NW; 202/333-7200) to create a menu of oysters, asparagus cream, poached shrimp, baked lobster tail and choco sutra (chocolate over strawberries and nuts) for $95 per person.

At Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW; 202/547-8100), the $95 Valentine’s menu includes wines chosen to go with the six courses. Oyster, tuna sashimi, olive oil poached cod, duck and foie gras with braised Belgian endive, roast sirloin, and braised short ribs and chilled strawberry soup are accompanied by wines from New Mexico, California, New York and Oregon. The menu must be ordered for the entire table.

Santi Zabaleta, executive chef of Taberna del Alabardero (1776 I St. NW; 202/429-2200) has chosen classic Spanish cuisine for his $80-per-person prix fixe dinner, available from 4 to 11 p.m. Valentine’s Day.

Spain is also the inspiration for chef Jose Andres at Jaleo (480 Seventh St. NW; 202/628-7949), where Valentine’s Day features lobster with cauliflower puree, scallops and blood-orange salad, cold almond soup, clams in a green sauce, and rib of lamb with orange sauce. Mr. Andres’ Mediterranean restaurant Zaytinya (701 Ninth St. NW; 202/638-0800) has two seatings on Valentine’s Day, from 5 to 7 and from 8 to 10 p.m. Dinner is $75 per person, and belly dancers will perform at both seatings. Lobster spanakopita; prawns; duck; caviar; tuna; and, of course, oysters are on the menu.

A “feast for sharing” is being prepared at Potowmack Landing restaurant (1 Marina Drive, Alexandria; 703/548-0001). Crab and corn fitters accompany tempura lobster tail; salad is enhanced with apples, blackberries and sun-dried tomatoes; and crab cakes are paired with Chilean sea bass and filet mignon for $99 per couple.

February, though, has more than Valentine’s Day. From 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 28, Poste (555 Eighth St. NW; 202/783-6060) will host a silent auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and an employee, Charlie Davis, who was forced to retire because of the debilitating effects of diabetes. The $25 ticket will go to the foundation, and the proceeds of the auction will go to Mr. Davis. To raise additional funds, Poste chef Robert Weland will offer a special three-course menu for $30.05 in February. Fifty percent of the proceeds will be added to the Feb. 28 fund.

Chef-owner Cesare Lanfranconi of Ristorante Tosca (1112 F St. NW; 202/367-1999) is following a tradition of his native land to celebrate good fortune in the new year with an extravagant feast of luxury foods to guarantee prosperity throughout the year. His luxury menu ($95, or $140 paired with wines) will be available throughout the year, changing seasonally, except that after February, those interested in the menu must make arrangements 48 hours in advance. The menu now includes salmon prepared three ways, scrambled eggs with white truffles and caviar (served in the eggshell), seared foie gras with cannelloni beans and black truffles, a splendid lobster risotto, beef with a porcini and Gorgonzola cheese sauce, and a combination of chocolate desserts.

The Fairmont Washington’s pastry chef, Pierre St. Pierre, has created three 16-inch chocolate-and-sugar imitations of Faberge eggs. The eggs are on display during February at the hotel’s Juniper restaurant (2401 M St. NW).

Life is short; art is long; chocolate is the name of the game in February.

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