Yes, it is a cheap, attention-getting gimmick. The headline, I mean. What we are all about here at the Happy Hour Institute is not gangland-style killings in some distant northern city at another point in time.

We are actually performing a public service for you. We don’t want our headline to describe the scene around your house on February 15. You are receiving plenty of notice here so heads-up and play smart: Do something for Valentine’s Day. Doing nothing is not an option.

The story of the creation of Valentine’s Day is not terribly clear. While Hallmark Cards has been the beneficiary of a third-century Christian martyrdom (now there’s a stretch), it appears that there are actually three saints carrying the monikers Valentine or Valintinus. All were martyred by the Roman Empire, and at least one was a priest.

Actually about this time of year, mid-February, there was a quite popular pagan celebration, Lupercalia, which noted the beginning of spring. At this time the Roman people spent special time diligently cleaning their homes. Does spring cleaning ring a bell? Often in early Christianity, the Church built its feast days and holy days at the same time as the previous religion was celebrating theirs. I guess that meant the kids did not have two school holidays, nor did they have to make a choice as to what to celebrate.

Anyway, according to legend, one of the martyrs named Valentine fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and before his bitter end wrote love notes to her. There you have it; the first Valentine actually sent his own greeting cards to his beloved.

This is a lesson to you. With all that is on your mind and all you have to do, even when faced with death, don’t forget to do something for Valentine’s Day for the one you love. Or else.

Fortunately for you, we have scoured the earth, assuming you, like all other New Orleanians, believe the earth begins at the River and ends at the Lake, to bring you goods and experiences that will let your sweetie know that you care, that you want to be a decent and loving person, and can spend money with the best of them.

That’s in the spirit of modern martyrdom.

Let’s start with the obvious: candy. Sweets for your Sweetie(s). If your ladies are plural, and one of them is not your mom, we suggest you be especially careful not to leave anyone out, and to be certain you place the right gift, with an appropriate card speaking of your undying and singular love, into the right hands.

Southern Candymakers (334 Decatur St.) in the French Market here in New Orleans has created a rose and cardamom truffle, coated with light or dark chocolate. Sounds like these would be quite good with champagne. Sometimes candy can be a bit trite, but our neighbors here, Dawlin’, have come up with something imaginative and really tasty.  

It also appears that every spirits manufacturer fully believes in the ability of its beverage to make a statement on Valentine’s Day. Not much breaking news in that information as we knew in college that if we could get our date to imbibe just a bit, wonderful things could happen. Not always. In fact, truth be told, not often. But hope springs eternal in the soul of a young man.

Anyway, 1800 Tequila, quite a nice spirit, has a number of cocktail suggestions to make that romantic statement:

Sparkling Kiss

4 ounces sparkling wine 

1/4 ounce 1800 Silver Tequila

1/4 ounce Soho Lychee Liquor

1/4 ounce Raspberry Liquor

Combine last three ingredients in a mixing glass and pour into the bottom of a champagne flute.
Top with sparkling wine or champagne.


Raw Diamond

1 ounce 1800 Silver Tequila

1/2 ounce pear puree
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce agave nectar

Splash of Chambord

Combine first four ingredients into a cocktail with ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a lightly salted highball glass. 
Float with Chambord for a drizzle effect.


Pom Jewel

2 ounces 1800 Silver Tequila
1 ounce Pama pomegranate liquor

1/4 ounce pineapple juice

Pour all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a sugar rimmed martini glass.

Ah yes, just ask your best girl if she would like to have a raw diamond. Then hand her a cocktail. Romance is in the air. I can feel it already. Or maybe that’s a left hook.

On more traditional ground, several (most) New Orleans restaurants are putting together special Valentine’s Day dinners. The sure way to a New Orleans girl’s heart is dining out. Trust me on this one.

Valentine’s Day is simply not enough for Zea. They are going at it for a whole week, starting last Monday. See, you are already late to make an impression. A set-price meal includes one appetizer to share, two entrées, and one dessert with two spoons for $39.99. Two glasses of Mumm Cuvee Napa Sparkling Wine are $15. Available at all Zea locations.

I don’t have all the details, but Glen Hogh over at Vega Tapas is all over the spirit of the day with a menu designed around aphrodisiacs. You may want to check this one out, because it sounds like Hogh is not only putting together a feast, but he is going out of his way to do some heavy lifting for you. Vega Tapas Café, 2051 Metairie Road.

Mike’s on the Avenue is also offering a set-price, four-course dinner for only $30, plus tax and tip. Pretty reasonable. Mike Fennelly and Vicki Bayley, your hosts, are starting the meal with their creative tuna and salmon tartar, and included is steak for two, among the other courses. Mike’s is located at 628 St. Charles.

Then there’s the Rib Room four-course dinner, with a lot of choices to be made, at $95 per couple, tax and tip extra – another very good deal. Chef Anthony even tosses into the affair two glasses of Domaine Chandon sparkling wine (one for each of you, or however you want to work it), and a house made, heart-shaped chocolate bon bon. Everyone together: Awwwww! Ain’t that cute? The Rib Room is in the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, corner of St. Louis and Royal streets.

The hopeless romantic, Chef Duke LoCicero over at Café Giovanni in the 100 block of Decatur, has put together his usual overwhelmingly delicious menu which includes all kinds of choices for three courses, $45 per person plus tax and tip. He will also have his opera singers on the floor to serenade and add to the beauty of the evening. Chef has also done a great job at his Bella Baci Lounge, with a terrific tapas menu and a fun selection of fine wines and luscious, well-crafted cocktails.

The Windsor Court Hotel puts forth a number of activities on Valentine’s Day, all of which are certain to impress. There will be a special passion fruit Tea Service in Le Salon, with two seatings, one at 2 and the other at 4:30 p.m.

In the evening, in The Grill Room, Chef Drew Dzejak has created an entire menu with a strong reliance on truffles, the aromas of which are supposedly a powerful aphrodisiac. Here’s your chance to see if that theory is true. There is another, more traditional four-course, prix fixe menu also available. The Windsor Court Hotel is located at 300 Gravier St., and valet parking is provided. 

As for plying your date … er, showing your love for your love, sparkling wine and champagne seem to be a direct route. The quality of the beverage mostly depends on your budget, but don’t go too low in price. This is a special time, and she is going to figure it all out if you try to go on the cheap.

From Italy, Prosecco; from Spain, Cava; and from America, sparkling wine. All should be made in the methode traditionelle or methode champenoise, noted on the label and all mean the same thing, which is the manner that the best wines with bubbles are made around the world. The second item to note on the label is that the wine is sugar-level brut. You may like sweeter wines, but the lower the price, the less character and the more cloying sweet qualities the wines will present at the extra dry designation.

There are also quite a few rosés in the market, and these are not only pretty wines, but they are really festive. The best ones (remember the price rule: don’t go too low) are not sweet so don’t shy away from something that looks like it would draw ants if spilled. It might, but not necessarily. The new brut rosés are bone-dry with beautiful floral aromas and strawberry/raspberry qualities on the palate. Good by themselves and with fish dishes.

A few label suggestions, but not meant to be all you could consider:
Prosecco, Italy: Nino Franco, Dolce Vita, Bisol
Cava, Spain: Freixenet, Cordoniu, Segura Viudas
Sparkling wine, American: Domaine Carneros, Roederer Estate, Schramsburg   
Champagne, French, of course: Bollinger, Taittinger, Perrier Jouet

It’s good to be in love, to show someone how much you care for them, and together to enjoy fine food with drink – plus you live in New Orleans. How lucky can two people be?