Valentine's Day is just around the corner (it falls on a Tuesday), and we've got you covered with some ways to show your affection-beyong the usual roses and a card:
You don't need the excuse of Valentine's Day to take your sweetie to lunch or dinner at La Bastide Bistro. Nor do you need a crash course in French to enjoy the ambience and food. No intimidation here-the menu is in French and English and well-versed servers will help you with any questions about the food. This delightful place, just off Interstate 15 at Pomerado Road, is Scripps Ranch's best-kept secret, tucked away in the Vons shopping center. It's a simply appointed room for well-priced classic French bistro dishes, consistently prepared with impeccably fresh ingredients and served with unassuming good service. Owner Gilles Fougeres works the front of the house while Chef Patrick Ponsaty tends to the food.
Unlike other local French restaurants that serve classic bistro food in more formal settings, Fougeres set out to design the restaurant to give patrons the feel of a home. He created an unpretentious and comfortable room with food that is straightforward and honest in taste and presentation.
Lunch features salads, quiche, sandwiches and a specialty of the Brittany area of France: savory crepes with ham and cheese and other fillings. One of my favorite salads is endive and frisee (think slightly bitter, curly lettuce, also known as chicory) with a poached egg, duck confit (slow braised duck leg) and a bit of bacon with a vinagrette dressing. I love the huge bowl of fat Canadian mussels done in a simple chardonnay broth that doesn't overpower the shellfish. Soup lovers will enjoy a small cup of divine onion soup that perfectly combines seasoned broth, velvety onions, cheese and bread-it's so rich you don't need a huge bowl.
Though you might wince at the thought of escargot (snails), be adventurous and give them a try because here they arrive in a well-balanced sauce of garlic, parsley and butter-you can taste the delicate snails and not be overwhelmed with garlic. A lovely coq au vin (chicken braised in red wine) with mushrooms and an undertone of bacon comes with pommes frites (fries). Many of the other dishes have the frites, including the mussels and a filet. Try them catsup free-mayonnaise perhaps, but in the French tradition, frites come unadorned so that you can use them to sop up the juices of the chicken or the mussels.
Desserts will not disappoint-classic profiteroles, sweet crepes with various flavors, including Grand Marnier and Nutella (hazelnut spread) and chocolate mousse. Lunch prices from $7, dinner from $9 for starters to $25 for filet mignon, desserts from $3 to $7. 10006 Scripps Ranch Blvd., #104. 858-577-0033. Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday. www.labastidebistro.com
If you're new to the joys of bubbly, you can try different champagnes before you buy at Carlsbad's Sonoma Valley Market on Feb. 13 and 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. Along with the champagne, there are sweets from Karen Krasne's Extraordinary Desserts. Both would make a lovely ending for any meal. 300 Carlsbad Village Drive, Suite 107, Carlsbad. 760-720-7700. www.sonomavalleymarket.com
Perhaps a night out is more your style. In Hillcrest's Uptown Shopping Center, Terra offers a Valentine's Day dinner that includes a choice of seafood, filet or quail and a trio of chocolate desserts for $49, plus tax and tip. Call 619-293-7088 for reservations, Uptown Shopping Center, corner of Vermont Street and University Avenue in Hillcrest. www.terrasd.com
At JRDN in Pacific Beach, the ocean and Crystal Pier view make a romantic backdrop for watching the sunset. Here you can dine early and choose from roasted chicken for two, wild salmon or a Meyer's Ranch New York steak as part of a three-course dinner for $40. 723 Feldspar, Pacific Beach. 858-270-5736.
Downtown at Café Sevilla, you'll have choices of courses that include their signature dish of paella (think of a seductively seasoned saffron rice casserole with seafood, chicken and chorizo) or beef tenderloin. Prices from $59 to $79 plus tax and tip depending on whether you eat at the tapas bar, main dining room or the club. 555 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp. 619-233-5979. www.cafesevilla.com
La Jolla's Nine-Ten Restaurant features "His and Hers" five-course prix-fixe menus for $80 each or $125 with wine pairings. His menu includes scallops and beef two ways, while Hers features lobster ravioli and seared tuna. Nine-Ten, 910 Prospect St., La Jolla, 858-964-5400. www.nine-ten.com
Join the Wine Vault & Bistro's e-mail list and learn about upcoming wine dinners and wine tasting. Call or e-mail Chris at 619-295-3939, Chris@WineVaultBistro.com. 3731-A India St. (above Saffron), Middletown.
With the sale of Thee Bungalow ["City Eat," Jan. 25], Ed Moore will put his energy-and money-into an overhaul of the well-known Quigg's Bar & Grill. The new restaurant will be sister to Nick's at the Beach, the popular Pacific Beach eatery. 5083 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach.
St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro is open in Mission Valley-the sixth location of the original Encinitas store-serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, including everything from eggs Benedict to savory crepes, salads, soups, pastries and, of course, espresso. The grand opening is Thursday, Feb. 2 from lunch until closing. 5664 Mission Center Drive, Mission Valley, 619-491-0335.
Write to email@example.com.