Go downtown — Peruse this week's Short Order section for romantic spots far and wide for this upcoming Valentine's Day. Naturally, we have a soft spot for downtown Detroit, and there's no shortage of places to get a drink and a bite in a setting perfect for your personal love story.
Take Cliff Bell's (2030 Park Ave., 313-961-2543): That glorious art deco splendor smacks of a more sensuous era, when patrons haunted smoky little cabarets with relish. With their nattily attired staff and live jazz music, it'll be hard not to get lost in the illusion of Detroit's bustling past. With everything from a standard fillet of beef tenderloin to cassoulet, the French-inspired eclectic food menu speaks for itself. Since Valentine's Day weekend coincides with the club's fifth anniversary weekend, there will be several dinner specials offered (anniversary night itself is Feb. 10, and the event is sponsored by Metro Times!), as well as two special drinks — the My Sweet Valentine and the Cliff Bell. There will also be a live burlesque performance by the Detroit Dizzy Dames on V-Day (tickets $15).
Or drop in at the casinos for a bit of razzle-dazzle. The good people at Bourbon Steak (1777 Third St., inside MGM Grand Detroit; 313-465-1648; mgmgranddetroit.com) are already known for their "modern American classics," such as all-beef burgers and Colorado lamb. On Valentine's Day, in addition to their normal a la carte menu, they'll also offer a $65 tasting menu, including Dungeness crab, Thai lobster bisque, American Kobe eye of rib-eye and, for dessert, chocolate mousse. A $45 wine pairing option is available that matches a wine with each course. For reservations, call 313-465-1644.
Also in the MGM Grand Detroit is Michael Mina's Saltwater (313-465-1646; mgmgranddetroit.com), an oasis of tranquility amid the chiming gaming floor, where exceptionally skilled servers take good care of you. And the food is marvelous, designed by San Francisco's Chef Mina. On Valentine's Day, they'll have a $65 tasting menu of caviar parfait, laughing bird shrimp, medallions of tuna and foie gras and, for dessert, chocolate peanut butter torte. Call for reservations.
Last but not least, how about the top-floor experience at Iridescence (2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-237-7711)? Located in the Motor City Casino, Iridescence provides a romantic atmosphere with breathtaking panoramic views of Detroit. The AAA Four Diamond restaurant is on the 17th story of the casino and includes an open kitchen. The menu is infused with local flavors such as Michigan cherries and morel mushrooms. Impress your date by ordering off the award-winning wine list. To complete your evening, get a little decadent and enjoy the desserts created by Patricia Nash, the 2007 Pastry Chef of the Year.
Food/Thought — In At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka Madhur Jaffrey (Knopf, $35), author Jaffrey reveals techniques and tips for the home cook, accompanied by color photos that will tempt even those who are reluctant to take on this cuisine, with its complex blends of seasonings. In the recipe for chickpeas in a sauce, aka chole, she substitutes organic canned chickpeas in a natural broth rather than the slow-cooked version that uses dried peas. Begin with the appetizer of shrimp with garlic and chilies, a spicy dish that exhibits the flavors to follow.
Bottoms Up — It's tangy; it's earthy; drinking it is like sliding down a muddy chute through a mountainside lime orchard while villagers pelt your nostrils with small granite stones. It's like a pile of Granny Smith apple peels and hazelnut skins on a wet dog. It's not an average beer. Drie Fonteinen's Oude Geuze is produced in Belgium using only 100 percent spontaneously fermented lambic beer aged in oak casks. One-, two- and three-year old lambic beers are classically blended and then refermented in the bottle for a brilliantly effervescent, tart and barnyard funky drink.
The Works — The photo says it all, especially if you lack the patience to hand-cut the julienned strips that look good while garnishing soups and salads with uniform strips of firm fruits and vegetables, Apple matchsticks for Thai salad or coleslaw or hash browns are a breeze. Rosle, known for high-quality products that are stylish as well, is the manufacturer of this julienne peeler, simplifying the task. One side of the swivel device peels thin strips; the other makes fast work of precision cutting. Made of stainless steel, it is dishwasher safe.