Looking for some new ideas to show the love this Valentine’s? Here are a few spots in OC to amp up the romance…
Newport Beach | www.babettesnewportbeach.com
Who says your date needs to involve an evening out? Kick off the day when babysitters abound with brunch in this chic fireside courtyard before strolling off the amazing Benedict (house cured salmon, crispy herbed fingerling potato and champagne hollandaise) or the Tuscan Quinoa Bowl (organic kale, sunny up eggs, toybox tomato and pesto) with a hike through Crystal Cove’s seaside bluff trails — plenty of spots to drop down to surprisingly secluded beach hideaways. Don’t miss the cold pressed juices, which make a rather tasty mimosa or bloody mary.
ARC Food & Libations
Costa Mesa | www.arcrestaurant.com
With a tagline of “Dirty. Sexy. Happiness.” it’s no wonder this hotspot made the list for a night out to rekindle the spark. And sparks do fly, particularly since everything in this hip restaurant is stoked to perfection over an open flame. Sit at the counter for a social experience, or tuck yourself into a private booth to let things smolder over a nicely charred-though-tender Duck Breast or plate of Beef Cheeks with Brandy. Vegetarians will find plenty to love throughout the entrees, and a cornbread that is more dessert than side. Call a cab, as the creative craft cocktails are so intriguing you’ll want to sample away without a care.
Ritz Prime Seafood
Mariner’s Mile | www.ritzprimeseafood.com
Opt for Social Hour on this Newport Harbor staple’s patio, for romantic views of bobbing boats and a tasty selection of shared bites like Crab & Hamachi Roll with mango and tobiko caviar or the Crispy Pork Belly with Plum Gastrique. Social Hour wraps up at 5pm, right in time for a sunset stroll along the dock (before the babysitter has to run for her evening appointment).
The Blind Pig Kitchen + Bar
Rancho Santa Margarita | www.theblindpigoc.com
Get cozy on the lakeside patio under the glow of the heaters or belly up to the speakeasy-style bar to enjoy shareable modern American cuisine. The “adventurous eatery’s” seasonal menu jumps from a Braised Octopus with Roasted Bone Marrow and Black Garlic dish to a spin on comfort classic like the Grilled Cheese on Brioche with Bacon Jam and Tomato Bisque — allowing for endless pairing fun with the expansive selection of craft cocktails, which are the true stars here. “The Real Vinnie” and “The Mexican Bee Sting” were just a few of our faves.
Pelican Hill Resort | www.andreanb.com
This superb setting of this Northern Italy-inspired dining room screams special, even before chef rolls a giant wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano tableside to ladle a scoop of steaming risotto directly into a divot. He then scrapes the concoction to meld the flavors, before shaving delicate slivers of Winter Black Perigord Truffle on top. And in the gorgeous surrounds overlooking a championship golf course and the shifting sea in the distance, it all seems perfectly appropriate. (If risotto doesn’t pique your interest, 17 types of handmade pasta, created daily in the dedicated Cucina della Pasta, with imported stone wheat flour, organic eggs, filtered water and natural salt from Cervia, Italy, are an obvious second choice.)
The Ride 7D
Irvine Spectrum | www.theride7d.com
At first glance, this might seem like a cheesy way to spend part of your Valentine’s Day, but you’ll soon be feeling like teenagers as you don wild costumes to battle robot cowboys, zombies and a digi-creature in this rollercoaster-meet-laser-blaster experience. Follow with a smooch session in the Ferris Wheel or a slightly more grown up time at Cucina Enoteca where you’ll be able to buy vino from the rack at retail prices to enjoy with your meal. (We love the copper bottle Beau Joie Brut champers.)
By Sascha Zuger