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[whitespace] Basket of Love: For Valentine's Day, the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center offers Champagne Breakfast Baskets.

V-Day Countdown

It's never too early to start planning that perfect Valentine's Day surprise

By Janet Blaser

IS IT EVER TOO EARLY to plan for Valentine's Day? No, certainly not, especially if your idea of a romantic celebration includes anything that involves food, flowers, candy or overnight accommodations. And while two of those categories are none of my business (at least in this column), the remaining pair are definitely right up my alley. Weeks ago, in fact, I received a press release from Thomas and Elizabeth Vinolus, owners of Bittersweet Bistro, outlining their Valentine's Day dinner schedule. "Don't wait till the last minute," pleaded Thomas. "Why suffer the pains of procrastination--don't be left out or dead at the hands of your loved one."

So don't delay, make your reservations now. As would be expected, Bittersweet is offering a no-calories-barred, seven-course, candle-lit dinner featuring everything from petrosian osetra caviar to the deservedly legendary dessert sampler plate for two. Entrees include oak-roasted rack of lamb, medallions of veal, chateaubriand, grilled ahi and more.

Due to the extreme demand and guaranteed sellout on this particular night, Bittersweet requires prepaid reservations, at $80 per person, for either of the two seatings. This is nonrefundable--if for some reason you can't attend, well, pass your seat on to a friend. For more information, call the Bistro at 662.9799, log on to www.bittersweetbistro.com or visit the restaurant in the Deer Park Shopping Center in Rio del Mar.

Sometimes what's romantic is the unknown, that touch of mystery, coupled with the familiar. If that's the case, then go somewhere new to you but tried and tested by others. Opt for a restaurant that's been around a long time and consider ordering one of the specials, as you can usually trust that the chef has been inspired to make it (hence the name, silly). That might mean Severino's, another destination spot that sits solidly on its reputation and easy midcounty location. Chef Francisco "Ponch" Farias has come up with a special menu full of red foods--a variety of entrees that all include something red, priced at $16.95 and up. And even though you may think you "should" skip dessert, this is one night when you should throw caution to the wind and order the chocolate swan filled with white chocolate mousse and drizzled with raspberry sauce. Call 688.8987 to make that romantic rendezvous come true at Severino's, 7500 Old Dominion Court, Aptos.

Now, should you opt for a simpler but still romantic solution to the annual Valentine's Day dilemma, the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center has a novel idea: Champagne Breakfast Baskets delivered to your (or their) doorstep the morning of Feb. 14. Each basket includes two fresh-baked scones from the Buttery; several Bagelry bagels along with cream cheese and jelly; a bottle of champagne or Martinelli's sparkling cider; chocolate for that sweet tooth and a flowering plant in full bloom. Delivered throughout Santa Cruz County, each basket costs $29.95. And again, you must order in advance of The Big Day, by Feb. 11, in fact. All proceeds go to the nonprofit Toddler Center; call 476.4120.

Aspirin Age

Reader Jeanne Bower emailed me a heads-up after reading my "Y2Koed" article a few weeks ago. Seems that those in the medical profession also know that aspirin, or asa, as it's known, taken before bed with lots of water can indeed help prevent a hangover. FYI, though, if you take aspirin before going out to drink, it will actually make you drunker. You've been warned.

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From the February 2-9, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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