Valentine's Day menus usually boast some cliched combo of aphrodisiacs--oysters, truffles, saffron, chili pepper, chocolate. But since Feb. 14 is also one of the restaurant industry's busiest days--second only to Mother's Day--the packed seats give chefs the creative flexibility to craft some truly unique specials.
One of this year's more off-beat Valentine's offerings is Bittercreek Ale House's duck hearts.
"Our butcher just has a hard time wasting stuff, so he's been saving these duck hearts because he personally thinks that they're great," said Beverage Manager David Roberts.
Bittercreek will tap a keg of New Belgium's oyster stout and Rogue's double chocolate stout to pair with the skewered, spicy duck hearts. Next door, Red Feather Lounge is offering a four-course menu--$50 for two people or $28 for an individual--including blood orange-poached crab dumplings and slow roasted beef tenderloin with pink peppercorn butter.
The Modern Hotel is serving a four-course Valentine's menu for $65 per person, including steak tartare, beet ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms, seared duck breast with celery root hash and steelhead mousseline with lobster sauce, plus a cocktail, gratis.
Modern Chef Nate Whitley describes the seafood mousseline as a "sort of fish sausage."
"It's a variation where we're using steelhead, a little bit of cream and egg, and pureeing it, so it just becomes smooth," he said.
Café Vicino Chef Richard Langston is whipping up a few V-Day seafood specials, including a yellowtail crudo with local Meyer lemon sauce, chilies and slaw, and a unique entree.
"I've just started working with this new Hawaiian fish called Monchong; it's this really awesome deep-water fish, kind of in the tuna family," said Langston. "It's got great flavor and great texture so I'm just going to grill it and do a puttanesca sauce with it."
Those looking for a less traditional date environment can check out Archie's Place's six-course pop-up dinner hosted at Pre Funk Beer Bar. Including cracked pepper potato soup with roasted cherry tomato pistou, blood orange herb salad with goat cheese, and stout-braised beef and onions with manchego polenta. Tickets are $40 per person and include beer pairings from Payette Brewing.
Boise Art Museum is taking pop-up dining even further with a four-course, vampire- and werewolf-themed dinner catered by Cacicia Cucina's Old World Sicilian Foods called Love Bites. Tickets are $60 for BAM members and $75 for nonmembers, and must be purchased by Monday, Feb. 10.
The menu includes deep-fried ravioli, a mixed green salad with raspberry vinaigrette and a curried carrot soup. Cacicia's Shane Anderson said the ravioli will sport two dots of marinara, a la vampire bites. For the main course, he decided to keep it simple: charbroiled beef tenderloin layered over fingerling potatoes with a rosemary reduction.
"We stuck to meat and potatoes and just tried to dress it up; make it look sexy. But none of the food will be sparkling, unfortunately," said Anderson, in a Twilight jab.
Looking for something sweet that's still offbeat? Alavita is offering a dessert pasta featuring housemade chocolate ravioli with orange-cardamom mascarpone filling, a chocolate drizzle and fresh berries.