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Photograph by Stephen Laufer

Everybody's Got a Hungry Heart: Make reservations if you're hoping to see the Valentine's Day spread at Michael's on Main.

Eat of Passion

A look at what local chefs are serving up for Valentine's Day

By Jessica Neuman Beck

Imagine it's three days before Valentine's Day, and you've just called the Shadowbrook and discovered that--surprise!--they're completely sold out for Feb. 14. You're trying to convince yourself that the object of your affection would be just as happy with some takeout and a rented DVD.

Give it up.

Love and food have been linked ever since the first caveman handed a freshly roasted mammoth leg to his cavewoman. Takeout may have a certain cachet, but nothing says "Be my valentine' like a night on the town.

We at Metro Santa Cruz under-stand procrastination. We also understand the need to make up for all that procrastination with grandiose expressions of love, so we've compiled this list of local restaurants with something special to offer this Valentine's Day. Remember, all menus are prix fixe, and reservations are strongly recommended. Good luck!

Michael's on Main (831.479.9777) offers a witty, informative menu, which includes an appetizer choice of baked oysters ("restores lift to lagging libidos") and a pre-dessert "nibble" of apricots soaked in port and served with farmstead cheeses. The four-course menu, which includes dessert as well as a glass of champagne with strawberries, is $45 per person.

The Inn at Pasatiempo (831.423.5000) has a St. Valentine's Special on Feb. 13 and 14 that includes a night of lodging in a Deluxe King Size room, a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider and a continental breakfast in the morning for only $99. The Inn also features Peachwood's Steak House (831.426.6333), whose Valentine's menu includes a champagne toast, dessert and coffee, in addition to dinner, for $50 a person.

The Crow's Nest (831.476.4560) has a special Australian lobster tail dinner for $85 per couple, which includes wine and dessert. Live music will be provided by the Smokin' Bananas.

Theo's Restaurant (831.462.3657) serves Valentine's dinner on Feb. 13 and 14, offering a menu which begins with poached quail egg with caviar and includes an entree choice of herb-seared California halibut, slow-roasted rack of Colorado lamb or Tellicherry-peppered American buffalo. Appetizers and dessert are included in the $55 per person cost.

Pearl Alley Bistro (831.429.8070) calls its Valentine's menu "Carnevale in Veneto" and offers entree choices of rack of lamb, pan-seared pheasant breast or linguine with smoked salmon in addition to salad, appetizer and dessert for $50 per person.

Gabriella Cafe (831.457.1677) offers a choice of pork chop with kumquat, liberty duck confit, New York steak or stinging nettle lasagna with its menu, which includes appetizer, salad and dessert as well as champagne for $75 per person.

Cafe Max at the Hilton in Scotts Valley (831.440.1000) has several menu choices, ranging in price from $35.95 for the filet mignon to $28.95 for the ravioli. All dinners include curry-apple bisque and endive pear salad, as well as coffee or tea and a selection of desserts.

Southern Exposure Bistro (831.688.5566) serves its Valentine's menu on Feb. 13 and 14 and offers a five-course menu. Entrees include pancetta-wrapped fillet, Dungeness crab-stuffed lobster tail or foie-stuffed lovebirds, in addition to appetizers and salad. For dessert, choose between molten chocolate cake with passion fruit coulis or Grand Marnier berries with lavender crème patisserie, all for $70 per person.

In the Sunset Dining Room at Chaminade (800.283.6569) you can choose from several a la carte menus for $59.95 per person.

Seacliff Inn (831.688.7300) has a special Valentine's package available Feb. 13-15 for $149 per night, which includes a bottle of wine in the room. There will be live music all weekend, and a special Valentine's dinner menu at Severino's Grill.

Chocolate (831.427.9900) will be serving a special Valentine's menu for two 5-10:30pm on Feb. 14, which includes appetizers, salad, fresh-baked pasta and a dessert orgy of bite-sized treats for only $45 per pair. They also offer a bottle of Heart of Darkness wine for $28 a bottle.

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From the February 11-18, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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