Valentine's Day is Over, but it is Still Valentines Day MONTH!
By Margit Bisztray, Food Critic
Well, it's February again. I can remember when this was my least favorite month (with the exception of Valentines Day, of course) because it tends to be the depth of winter and the gloomiest part. But in all the Tourist Network markets it's, well, one of the best months! Clear skies, cooler weather, the thrill of the New Year still fresh. Here in Key West we've had days that can literally take your breath away, they're that stunning. I love going to the beach with a sweater on and warming up in the sun!
Ok, so Valentine's Day is over, but it is still Valentines Day MONTH. I do not go out for dinner on Valentine's Day. There's too much expectation, too many over-the-top menus with too many chocolate lava cakes, and too many stressed out couples at the nearby two-tops. I like Valentine's Dinner the day after the 14th, or the day after that, etc. So what I thought I'd do in this newsletter is tell you what I believe are the most romantic restaurants in our markets and why.
Here in Key West, I'd have to say Cafe Marquesa. You get a cozy table in the corner, the lighting is amazing, the food is the right balance of comfort and exotic (share a conch and crab cake, then see what she's doing with local fish that night) and the wine list makes me crazy it's so good.
In Atlanta, I'd have to say Pura Vida. The food is unbelievably sexy and layers in things like chocolate in the savory dishes, and every presentation is like a jewel on a plate. It's tapas style (poached shrimp with coconut ginger sauce, anything with the huitlacoche, or corn mushroom, on it you must try). There's also, a very delicious wine list with lots of Spanish selections, and yummy fresh-juice-cocktails.
In New Orleans, my new obsession is Iris in the Bienville Hotel. It's a small, boutique-style dining room with dishes like skate with Indian eggplant and lemon brown butter. Here, you must try the cocktails mixed by a chef of a bartender, and featuring additions like herbs, teas, reductions, exotic fruit purees and spices.
In Myrtle Beach, my pick would be a place I heard about on a tip, which is Oliver's in Murrell's Inlet. Not only is this charming house the setting for many a storybook wedding party, but they have all the she-crab soup and crab cakes and crab a crab lover like me could want.
Last but not least, on the Emerald Coast for romantic, I still say Onano in Rosemary Beach. It's similar to Café Marquesa–––so cozy and quaint and private–––and it's down this little road on a corner, so you feel very away. The food is delicious, always different according to season, but great fried calamari, a lobster ravioli that is incredible, and delicious meat and seafood dishes, both. In fact, of all the places, this is where I'd most like to be right this minute.
Hope you fall in love, too.
NOTE: Margit Bisztray has been reviewing restaurants and writing about food for ten years. She has published three editions of The Complete Key West Dining Guide, and her work has appeared in such publications as Vogue, Gourmet, Islands and Metropolitan Home. To read more restaurant reviews, log your own personal opinions, rate your favorite restaurants and watch streaming video archives of these shows and other reviews, visit Margit's Top 5.