In case you have not yet come up with that great idea for Valentine's Day, there are lots of choices in Chicagoland. From Prix Fixe menus to caviar and champagne for two, your options to treat your special Valentine are endless.
Benny’s Chop House on Valentine’s Day is Just Right:
A Warm, Beautiful Setting, Great Food and Drink plus Top-notch Live Jazz When planning this year’s Valentine’s Day celebration, you will want everything to be just right. Look no further than to Benny’s Chop House (444 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL, 312-626-2444), one of Chicago’s most beautiful restaurants – warm and cozy - and yes, romantic, with many specialty cocktails and wine choices to stimulate your senses.
Benny’s menu of perfectly prepared dishes set the stage for a passionate celebration. Top that off with Benny’s flawless service and a terrific live jazz performance by Cecile Savage and Calvin “Koco” Brunson who perform in both French and English—sexy, indeed; express yourself.
Begin your Valentine’s Day with one of the many Champagne selections from Benny’s award winning wine list, which has earned the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Champagne selections by the glass include Château de Lisennes Crèmant Bordeaux and Henriet-Bazin Selection Montagne de Reims.
Benny’s also features one of Chicago’s finest international wine collections, with 25 selections by the glass and more than 1,500 selections by the bottle.
Oysters have long been thought to have aphrodisiac properties and so, for starters, Benny suggests Oysters on the half shell, featuring eight different varieties from the American East and West Coast, flown in daily (half dozen, $14.99; dozen, $26.99). Other tasty starters include the unique House-Cured Maple Glazed Bacon ($14.99) and Prime Steak Tartare, served with waffle potato chips and violet mustard ($14.99).
You’ll also create an impressive start to your Valentine’s Day by sharing Benny’s magnificent Shellfish Tower for Two ($69.99). It’s a generous, delectable appetizer meant for sharing, featuring chilled lobster, shrimp and king crab.
Continue your Valentine’s Day celebration with flavorful salads such as the Roasted Beets Salad with goat cheese croquettes, black mission figs in bourbon-maple vinaigrette ($14.99), or Benny’s celebrated Grilled Romaine Salad with lemon-garlic vinaigrette ($8.99).
Benny’s will more than satisfy your culinary cravings with its selection of superb entrées. Benny recommends specialty seafood choices such as the one pound Whole Maine Lobster Tail, broiled to perfection ($49.99) or the Jumbo Sea Scallops served with crispy pumpkin polenta and a port wine reduction ($35.99). Meat lovers will enjoy the tender, perfectly grilled Colorado Lamb Chops ($42.99) and the comforting Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs ($24.99). For the best of both worlds, enjoy the Surf-N-Turf Style, featuring an 8 oz. Filet Mignon and a 10 oz. Cape Breton lobster tail ($52.99).
If steak is what’s on your calling card, Benny’s has Chicago’s most diverse selections. Choose from its menu of perfectly prepared 100% USDA Prime natural, dry-aged or wet aged steaks, including the USDA Prime Natural 7 oz. Filet Mignon ($36.99), the USDA Prime Natural 16 oz. Rib Eye ($42.99) and USDA Prime New York Strip (available with or without bone in - wet aged, dry aged and natural from $36.99 to $54.99) or Surf-N-Turf Style, 8 oz. Filet and 10 oz. Cape Breton Lobster Tail (52.99). Kick it up a notch by adding an enhancement "Benny's - style" to your steak, such as Bone Marrow, Oscar Style, King Crab, Blue Cheese, Maine Sea Scallop, Béarnaise, and Barbecue Chili Rub, among others.
Your after-dinner foreplay will begin with Benny’s amazing desserts. They’re generous and shareable, but they’re so good you’ll each want your own. Try the classic Carrot Cake ($8.99) made with roasted walnuts and sweet cream cheese frosting or the decadent Chocolate Layer Cake ($10.99) frosted with fudge buttercream, and garnished with rich chocolate sauce. Another unique creation is the Chocolate Pudding Cake ($9.99) accompanied by toffee ice cream and finished with a caramel crunch. And don’t forget the to-die-for Banana Cream Pie ($8.99) with caramel coated bananas.
Valentine’s Day Entertainment Featuring Jazz Artists Cecile Savage and Calvin “Koco” Brunson
This distinguished duo will pair their harmonic melodies with music fueled by African, French, and Brazilian traditions. They will be performing on Valentine’s Day from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Join them in the North Lounge and Bar and let their music transport you to another place.
Cécile Savage was born in the Island of Martinique yet raised in Paris, France. She studied piano for many years and brought that knowledge with her when she moved to New York City and joined the Living Theater. Later she studied guitar with Ted Dunbar through the program Jazzmobile. She increased her repertoire to include electric bass with the blues harmonica legend Sugar Blue while she toured with Memphis Slim and Willie Mabon. Subsequently, she moved to Chicago and performed jazz and blues with many notable musicians such as Jimmy Dawkins. Ultimately, this led her to perform at the 2008 Jazz Festival: Tribute to Malachi Favors. All this shaped Cécile’s musical identity to comprise of a blend of French Cabaret and American Jazz.
Pianist and vocalist Calvin “Koco” Brunson’s accomplishments range from being the musical director for “Ain’t Misbehavin” to “The Great Nitty Gritty” and “Journey Through Forever.” He also won the prized Jeff award for the musical composition “In De Beginnin”. Being the cultural ambassador for the city of Chicago has led him to perform in European festivals like Moers in Germany, and Nichelsdorff in Austria.
Bistro Voltaire (226 W. Chicago Ave. Chicago IL; 312-265-0911), Chicago’s most romantic t French bistro nestled in the heart of River North, is offering a special three course Prix Fixe Menu for Valentine’s Day curated by Chef Farid Oualidi. The first course offers a choice between Risotto aux arômes de truffes (truffle scented risotto and porcini mushrooms), Salade de Jambon et melo (fresh melon and cured ham salad, parmesan tuile and port reduction), Potage d’asperges a lachaire de crabe (asparagus veloute topped with crab meat) and Huîtres gratinées (baked fresh oysters with Champagne Sabayon).
The second course is an exquisite selection of Filet Mignon au Roquefort (roasted beef tenderloin, Potato Anna, baby vegetables, blue cheese sauce), Loup de mer Provencal (seared Mediterranean Sea bass, braised cherry tomatoes, baby artichokes, bouillabaisse sauce, olive tapenade) and Magret de Canard aigre doux (pan roasted duck breast, glazed apples, wild rice cake, sweet and sour reduction).
The menu speaks for itself yet the romanticism is magnified by the warm decor and cozy Parisian bistro atmosphere. To finish up this meal, only truly decadent dessert options will do. Take your pick of Charlotte aux fraises, Mousse au Chocolat and Fruit de la Passion parfait.
Maxwell’s at the Club’s
On Valentine’s Day, Maxwell’s at the Club (500 N. Kingsbury St. Chicago IL) is offering a Prix Fixe four course meal, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. You and your guest will be treated to an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. Appetizers include the choice of Pan Roasted Scallops and Cocoa Crusted Pulled Pork. Types of salads available include Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese and Baby Red Romaine. The entrée course will feature Petite Filet and Lobster Tail, Pan Roasted Snapper, Roasted New York Strip Loin and Rotisserie Amish Chicken.
For dessert, choose from a Pistachio and White Chocolate Torte, Ginger Crème Brûlée and more. Make your reservations for Maxwell’s Valentine’s Day Dinner, $45 a person, by calling (312) 527-5800 ext. 301.
Prairie Grass Cafe
Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd. Northbrook, IL; 847-205-4433) is the perfect family friendly place to spend Valentine’s Day. This restaurant focuses on locally grown fresh and organic ingredients. Chefs Sarah Stegner and George Bambaris invite families to enjoy Valentine’s day by ordering off the regular menu, no special Valentine’s pricing. Entrées like the Lake Superior White Fish with Portobello mushrooms, sautéed broccoli, and lemon butter sauce ($21) and Crispy Half Duck from "Maple Leaf Farm" with rainbow Swiss chard, herb stuffing "cake" and sautéed pear ($28) are two of the tasty treats that await you at Prairie Grass Cafe.
Chicago French Market- Bello Tea
Spending Valentine’s Day at home or going to a potluck party? Bello Tea at the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., Chicago; 312-380-0707), has offered up delicious recipes for two tasty Valentine’s Day drinks. The Bello Mojito is made with delicious hibiscus spearmint tea, freshly squeezed lime juice, sparkling water and finished with a touch of sweetness. For an adult only beverage, try your hand at making Lara’s Caipirinha Bubbly ‘’Champagne.’’ This easily prepared drink combines Bello Organic Lara’s Caipirinha Herbal Tea with sparkling juice or champagne with a fresh strawberry. Look below for step by step instructions on how to prepare both of these drinks.
- 8 oz. of Bello Hibiscus Spearmint Tea
- 1 oz. of Fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2 oz. of Simple Syrup ( ½ water, ½ sugar)
- 1 oz. of Sparkling Water
- Fresh mint
- Slices of lime
Brew Hibiscus Spearmint Tea and chill it until ready to prepare. In a martini shaker, muddle mint and lime slices together. Add simple syrup, lime juice and tea. To that add ice and shake well. Strain it into a martini glass and add sparkling water. Garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of lime. For a fun twist add your favorite rum. Substitute sugar with agave, if preferred.
Brewing Hibiscus Spearmint Tea
Add 2 tsp. of Hibiscus Spearmint tea to a tea pot then add 8 oz. of boiling water. Let it brew for 5 minutes. Strain and chill.
Lara’s Caipirinha Bubbly ‘Champagne’
- 1-2 oz. of Bello Organic Lara’s Caipirinha Herbal Tea
- 6 oz. of Sparkling Juice or Champagne
- A fresh raspberry or strawberry
Pour Sparkling Juice or Champagne into a glass. Add Lara’s Caipirinha tea and garnish with fresh raspberry or strawberry.
Brewing Organic Lara’s Caipirinha
Add 3 tsp. of Lara’s Caipirinha to a tea pot, and then add 8 oz. of boiling water. Let it brew for 5 minutes. Strain and chill. It yields 4-8 servings.
Chicago French Market - Delightful Pastries
Delightful Pastries at the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., Chicago) has arranged an assortment of gift packages filled with delicious pastries and sweets for Valentine’s Day. Treat your sweetie to a dozen fresh strawberries dipped in bittersweet dark chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate ($25). Delightful Pastries also has a Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Tart ($30), this luscious treat is a sweet buttery tart layered with chocolate ganache and covered in fresh raspberries.
The Heart Shaped Chocolate Mousse Torte ($6.75) is perfect for two to share. This moist chocolate sponge cake is layered with chocolate mousse and decorated with rosettes of whipped cream. Also Delightful Pastries has a number of Valentine’s Day gifts under $20. These mini bundles include an assortment of raspberry and chocolate Parisian macarons, beautifully decorated gingerbread and sugar cookies, sweet gift boxes of handmade truffles and other chocolates. Place your orders at (312) 234-9644.
Delightful Pastries gift options don’t end there. Here are two gift box packages with loads of Valentine’s Day goodies.
Sweetheart Gift Box- $30
- ginger bread and sugar cookie hearts
- small box of raspberry and chocolate Parisian macarons
- cookie bag of your choice
- ¼ lb. handmade chocolate bark or ¼ lb. handmade truffles
You're Amazing Gift Box- $50
- heart cookie sandwich with chocolate butter cream
- black and white cookie and cupcake
- large box of raspberry, passion fruit and chocolate Parisian macarons
- box of rum balls and chocolate pecan turtles
- maple cranberry almond granola
- two chocolate dipped strawberries
Chicago French Market- Lavazza Espression
Lavazza Espression at the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., Chicago; 312-207-0500) is featuring two special Valentine specials, the Strawberry Èspessone™ and a gift with purchase promotion.
Strawberry Èspessone™ (small $2.95 – large 3.75)
It’s love at first taste with a fresh and velvety strawberry foam layered over decadent Italian drinking chocolate or a smooth espresso shot.
Lovely Shopper Promotion
Receive a complimentary “Falling in Love with Coffee” Shopper tote with the purchase of a pound of whole bean coffee ($13.50 - $14.75) through February 14.
Chicago French Market- Vanille Patisserie
Vanille Patisserie, the French bakery at Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., Chicago), is offering a variety of Valentine’s Day treats for the big day. In lovely heart shaped pre-packaged Chocolate, Vanilla and Raspberry Macarons are available in sizes of 8 ($15) and 18 ($32) pieces. Vanille’s French Conversation Sugar Cookies ($3 each), Mascarpone Heart Cheesecake ($5.75 serves 1) and heart boxes of handmade chocolates also are available (3 piece $5.95, ½ lb. box $25, 1 lb. box $47). Place your orders at (312) 575-9963.
Chicago French Market- Wisma
For an affordable, organic and local dining option for Valentine’s Day, Wisma at the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St., Chicago; 312-382-1805) will be offering holiday savings consisting of 25% off any two dinners when purchased February 13-14. Try Wisma’s featured Vegetable Lasagna ($11) or Shells Carbonara ($9).
Give your Sweetie the gift of Visual Freedom with Lasik
This Valentine’s Day your loved one might be expecting chocolates or a fancy night on the town. But you can give her a lifetime of perfect vision with Lasik from Doctors for Visual Freedom (875 North Michigan Avenue Suite 1550, Chicago, IL 60611; 312-291-9957). With an office in the John Hancock Center on the Magnificent Mile, Dr. Golden is one of the earliest pioneers in the techniques of Lasik, having performing over 23,000 procedures.
If she already possesses 20/20 vision then you can help her bring back a more youthful glow with Botox® Cosmetic. For the special price of $12 per unit, women everywhere have been improving their appearance by ridding away extra fine lines. This Valentine’s Day, stop in to Dr. Golden’s office for Botox Cosmetic and learn more about the wonders of Lasik.
Photos: Courtesy of Kurman Communications