Yes, dear. It’s that time of year again, when the calendar declares St. Valentine’s Day as the one day the entire population is expected to set the stage for romance. Although the legend of St. Valentine is murky, this sympathetic hero of the Middle Ages was alleged to be the first person to sign off a notecard with “From Your Valentine.”
Beyond the notecards, the dozen red roses and the heart-shaped boxes of candies, there are lots of opportunities to shower affection on your sweetheart. Expressions of appreciation are abuzz with restaurant specials and sweet activities sure to land you a bullseye from Cupid’s arrow. “If you have something sweet to tell her, say it with music, beautiful music,” sang Irving Berlin in his immortal love song. And if you can’t sing—say it with food.
As a precursor to dinner in Marin County, opt to set sail on the San Francisco Bay with that someone special for Valentine’s Day in Sausalito. Take a beautiful evening sail on the Schooner Freda B on Feb. 14, 4:30–6:45pm ($69 per person), and cozy up under a blanket as you take in the bay’s most iconic sights—the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the sparkling San Francisco skyline.
Now that you’ve set the stage for romance, dinner at the Michelin-starred Madcap Marin restaurant in San Anselmo is set to serve up a sweet menu on Valentine’s Day ($135 per person). Take a seat for dinner that begins with a lobster miso shot and evolves to the taste of a Shinjuku oyster with elderflower mignonette, shima aji with blood orange and young ginger, Stonington sea scallops with Ossetra caviar and salsify, Onsen tamago with black truffles and lemongrass, roasted Nantes carrots with pistachios, Flannery filet mignon, and a dessert course that features mignardises (sweet pastries).
Also in San Anselmo, L’Appart Resto is ready for the lover’s holiday with a prix fixe menu ($80 per person). Along with the regular menu, chef Alex has created a menu that lists lobster gratin with morels and spinach, paired with Laurent-Perrier’s Brut La Cuvée Champagne. Choices continue with herb-crusted roasted rack of lamb served with a butternut squash purée, crosnes (Chinese artichokes) and a black truffle sauce, paired with a 2015 Les Hauts de Lynch-Moussas, Haut Médoc.
For those sans sweetheart, there are more options to celebrate love. The EV Lounge in San Anselmo has you covered with a Valentine’s Day Celebration for Singles ($5 per person). The Society for Single Professionals invites you to dress to impress, with unattached adults of all ages looking to connect in the name of romance.
In San Rafael, Wine & Design ($90 per couple) offers a signature Valentine’s Day Picasso portrait if you prefer to opt for a fun and hilarious celebration while seated across from your loved one, friend or family member (so that you cannot see each other’s canvases). Artists on-site will guide you with shapes and colors to create portraits of each other Picasso-style. You’re not allowed to peek at each other’s pictures until the Big Reveal at the end!
If you’re set to impress your favorite foodie, you’ll want to reserve one of the last spots available for the Valentine’s Day dinner at SingleThread Farm, Restaurant & Inn in Healdsburg ($325 per person). The 11-course dinner at this Michelin three-star restaurant is menu-driven by ingredients secured from the property’s Alexander Valley farm, local Sonoma ranches, and coastal waters of northern California.
In the heart of downtown Healdsburg, Spoonbar—h2hotel’s signature restaurant—offers a sweet and savory four-course Valentine’s Day menu prepared by recently appointed chef Matthew D’Ambrosi ($65 per person). The menu begins with a petite shellfish platter, followed by a butter lettuce endive salad and main choices of Mediterranean branzino with roasted lemon potatoes, garlic beet greens and shaved beets—or Tuscan-style prime ribeye steak. The meal concludes with a warm, flourless chocolate cake paired with chocolate ice cream, wild berries, candied pecans and gold flakes.
For those who want to send a truly over-the-top message of love, head to the Rooftop at Harmon Guest House in Healdsburg, the only publicly accessible rooftop bar with a fire pit and views of Fitch Mountain, the Sonoma Hills and downtown Healdsburg. On Feb. 14, an elegant three-course Valentine’s Day menu ($59 per person) begins with several canapés such as warm Dungeness crab cake, chilled prawn cocktail, beau soleil oyster, mignonette and warmed blinis topped with caviar. Lobster risotto is planned as the first course, followed by choices of red-wine-braised prime beef short ribs and mahi-mahi with crispy shiitake mushrooms and scallion salad. Dessert will not disappoint—a warmed Valrhona chocolate “ganache” fondue.
If your goal is to take romance up a notch, the best gifts are those that are handmade. Even better, why not forego the cost of a dozen red roses and make your own floral arrangement for your sweetheart? On Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in Petaluma, Angela Faustino of Faustino’s Valentine’s Succulent & Roses Arrangement Class will be at 101 North Brewery to offer a special class all about building a succulent arrangement with roses. The $35 class price includes the glass container along with everything you need to make what will be your favorite valentine decoration for you or your sweetheart.
One of the most romantic ways to swoon your special someone is to ride the rail on the Napa Valley Wine Train ($165 and above per person). During a three-hour evening rail tour of vintage Napa Valley, you’ll pass spectacular landscapes on a ride that reflects old-world charm through one of the most romantic places in the world. The tour begins with a glass of sparkling wine, and a multiple-course dinner is enhanced with a serenade by a strolling violinist.
At TORC, a high-energy restaurant in Napa, a four-course Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu ($115 per person) begins with choices of boar terrine or Ossetra caviar ($250 supplement). Move on with more choices of duck, tagliatelle with truffles, short rib or 28-day dry-aged N.Y. strip steak, and finish with a choice of desserts that include rouzaire affineur with quince jam and pistachio.
In downtown Napa, the CIA at Copia is cooking up some fun with the Chef’s Table Special Edition: Valentine’s Day ($150 per person). In this interactive dinner event, guests will gather around the table in the Napa Valley Vintners Theater demonstration kitchen and watch Culinary Institute of America chefs work their magic as they teach tips and techniques. Guests will enjoy food and beverage pairings, and chocolate truffles, departing with recipes to prepare shareable dishes for two.
Farther north in the Napa Valley, tickets are still available for a three-course Sweetheart Dinner at the CIA at Greystone in Saint Helena ($125 per person). This event will take place in the historic barrel room and will showcase the talents of CIA chefs along with live entertainment of Marc Teicholz.