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Recipe for Romance: Chefs Share Their Special Meals

Most chefs and restauranteurs are too busy cooking and serving on Valentine’s Day to darken the door of any local restaurants, but that doesn’t mean they never make time for a special meal. We asked 6 local food personalities to tell us the most romantic meal they’ve shared.

Liz Prueitt, Tartine
“So the place that we’ve had THE MOST romantic meal was Manka’s [in Inverness]. Pretty much hands down. You can’t beat that lovely drive—it makes you feel further away from the city than you actually are. And that dining room! One time that we went Chad and I were the last diners in the room. There was a fire slowly burning down in the fireplace, and they turned off all of the lights except for a spot on our table and put a bottle of Germain Romain between us and told us to turn out the lights when we left.”

Elizabeth Falkner, Citizen Cake and Orson, seconding the motion
"Oh, man, Sabrina (Riddle) and I have been married eleven years and we don't do so many romantic meals anymore. I should work on that! But I think I'd have to say Manka's—I've never found a replacement for Manka's [Ed note: the restaurant had a devastating fire several years ago—while some of the lodging is still open, the restaurant has not yet reopened]. It's so cool out there in the fog—the oysters, the rooms, the unique appointments. One particular trip was especially great—let's just say it involved caviar, but there were no crackers. It doesn't get much better then that."

Sharon Ardiana, Gialina
“Funny enough, the most romantic meal of recent memory was my first date with my new girlfriend, six months ago. It was at Bar Tartine, which has a really lovely atmosphere—the lighting is right, dim and sexy. But the person I was with definitely helped. We had a nice waitress, I saw other people from the restaurant industry who I know—it just felt like we’d walked into some little neighborhood bistro in Paris. For dinner, we had the really, really good savory bread pudding and the chicken with giblet gravy but—and no offense to Bar Tartine—that night, the food didn’t really matter.” 561 Valencia St., 415-487-1600.

Melissa Perello, Frances
“You’re going to laugh, but Danny (Dunham, co-owner/co-chef of Sebo) and I like to go to Il Borgo. It’s not a scene there at all, we never see anyone we know, so we can just go there and disappear, just spend time together. We always get the Insalata del Borgo, and they have a pretty good sausage ravioli. Danny orders the fettucine Bolognese.” 500 Fell St., 415-255-9108

Shelley Lindgren, A16 and SPQR
“I think a place that is always in our hearts is Suppenküche, since that is where Greg (Lindgren, co-owner of Rye, 15 Romolo and Rosewood) and I had our first date ... even though it was for breakfast, given the bar hours we keep. Those bowl-size cups of coffee and great brews made you feel like this little enclave was transported right from Deutschland. When we walk through those doors for dinner, we still go straight back to “our” little nook behind the bar, eat root vegetables, bratwurst, cucumber salad and weiner schnitzel, drink Riesling and Spaten and reminisce about our dating days and how it seems like yesterday, more than 11 years later.  The festive environment always is a plus.  I'm craving it just talking about it!” 525 Laguna St., 415- 252-9289.

Annie Stoll, Delfina
“Craig and I decided to elope six days before we got married!  We called our friends that day (May 25, 2000) and said, "What are you doing this afternoon? Wanna come to our wedding?" We had an amazing ceremony at City Hall, followed by a small last-minute get-together at Le Colonial on one of the outside porches. The most romantic part was dinner at Gary Danko. It was just the two of us and somehow Gary knew we didn't have time to plan a wedding cake. So he made a wedding cake for two and surprised us with it at the end of our meal ... it was beautiful and totally unexpected. Definitely the most romantic dinner of my life! We are returning to Gary Danko on May 25 to celebrate our 10 year anniversary! Can't wait!” 800 North Point St., 415-749-2060

Chad Newton, Fish and Farm
“The most romantic meals Gracie (Nguyen, chef de cuisine of Out the Door Bush) and I have shared are lunches at Bouchon. Their lunch is amazing and we feel so comfortable dining there. We often go up to Yountville on our one day off, usually Sunday. We feel like we cannot be touched by our restaurants when we are up there and usually stay at Lavender Bed and Breakfast, ride bikes around the town and eat at four or five different places, but always Bouchon for lunch. Its something about the feel of France, the oysters and Sancerre, the straightforward but dialed in bistro fare and of course the amazing service. It just does it for us ... we feel so in love when we dine at Bouchon.” 6534 Washington St., Yountville, 707-944-8037.