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Possibilities for Valentine's Meal (Triangle, NC)

So I'm trying to decide where to go for Valentine's dinner (doing this on maybe the day before or after the actual date). I've been to Bonne Soiree, Four Square, Magnolia Grill, Vin Rouge, Rue Cler, Il Palio (for brunch when Jim Anile was running the ship), Herons (when it first opened before it's lull and before Chef Crawford), Elaines, and Tallulahs.

I'm curious about Fearrington, Crossroads and WaDuke both compared to one another and maybe some other suggestions aside from those posted above.

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    1. re: cervisiam

      i'm on their email list, and they will be open on valentine's day (sunday). they are doing 3 course meal (5:30 - 8 pm), glass of brachetto, rose and chocolates for $60/person, excludes tax and tip.

      1. re: cervisiam

        So right now I'm book for this, but am wondering if maybe a dinner at some other place wouldn't be better off. I've heard other good things about Pancuito, but I see that the renamed Bu.Ku is open and using their regular menu for that Sunday (though there are other places as well that are opened between Sat and Mon of course).

    2. Panciuto is excellent, and is on my permanent rotation of restaurants.

      Fearrington House really shouldn't be missed by someone who has gone to all those other places, if only for completeness. Often panned on this site (I never have figured that one out), it nonetheless retains the qualities of a traditional multiple star restaurant. Combining FH with an overnight stay at their B&B is also an excellent way to have a nice quick romantic getaway.

      Jujube is less formal and less fancy than some of these other places, but is a good alternative, and I always get treated very well there.

      1. I think doing your dinner either the night before or the night after is a great idea. Less busy, calmer. And do you think maybe if you really want it to be special you should go to a place you *know* you and the gf love? Trying something new is always fun and exciting, but it does give the chance that things won't be what you're hoping for.

        All that said, I'd say No to WaDuke. Basically like a country club, with food to match. Not bad, certainly, but not at all exciting. I've only been to Crossroads at brunch (which is silly since it is a 5 minute walk from my house!) but I'd like to try it too. Don't read much about it on these boards. The one time I went to Fearrington it was not at all good (sorry fussy!). I have heard excellent things about Panciuto. Maybe Piedmont? Have you been there? Or Provence in Carrboro? Glasshalful? They've just changed chefs, but my last meal there was still very good, and the atmosphere is comfortable but upscale. Good luck, and hope you and the gf have a wonderful valentines day.

        9 Replies
        1. re: LulusMom

          LulusMom - I saw one thing on Fearrington saying it was overpriced and not worth it. I have been to Piedmont, but I've heard it can be very hit or miss. I've been to Glasshalful for NYE and thought it was not great at all. I've not heard many good things about Provence. Yes I considered the surrounding days for dinner due to crowds, prices and restricted menus. Plus this leaves for a little creativity on the actual day.

          Regarding the other posts... I've never really considered Hillsborough and I know they have quite a few places that are good. I've looked at Panciuto in the past just to see what they have. I guess Hillsborough really isn't any further away than Duke (as far as driving time from Chapel Hill/Carrboro. I'm not sure about the 3 course meal.. is it an actual meal or is a tasting menu? The gf doesn't do wine so thats not really an issue unless it drasticaly affects the price. I wonder if they get their chocolates from Matthew's. In any case, depending it's location it could be nice to stroll around historic area and window shop. I'll keep it in mind though time is running down. I believe that most places are open Valentine's Day.

          Maybe we should give rechristened Bu.Ku a shot....

          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

            Definitely true about Piedmont being hit or miss. I've had great meals there, and then ones where one course was great and the next just so-so. But mostly mine have been good. Sorry to hear about Provence. It is true - we haven't been in about a year, but the last time we went it was wonderful. They do a whole roasted fish (they get it from Tom Robinson, so they only have what is available and sell out early) that is just like what I've had in the south of France. You might want to give GHF another chance - after all NYE is a horrible night for anyone working a restaurant, they're all overworked, and often with non-regular diners (who have higher expectations). That said, you might want to let the new chef settle in and get his barings before going back. I"m not a huge fan of set menus either, but again, I do hear very good things about Panciuto. Don't know the Raleigh scene at all, so can't help with the Buku thing.

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              Buku's vibe is more hip than romantic; although, their emphasis on sharable plates could be fun with a date. So, your dinner will include electronic world beats in the background and a raucus bar crowd rather than a quiet candlelight dinner. Keep in mind that they just opened, so I wouldn't expect perfection just yet.

              I enjoyed my lone trip to Fearington and it has a nice romantic atmosphere. But, I tend to equate romantic atmosphere with white tableclothes and nostalgic decor (I can't help it). If you agree, then you might also consider Second Empire if you're looking in Raleigh.

              1. re: dinersaurus

                I've thought about Second Empire before for other highlights and for when we do go to Raleigh for shows. Not sure if I've heard anything about it recently. have also thought about Bloomsbury Bistro on such occasions as well.

                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                  I've enjoyed both, but I would give the nod to Second Empire over Bloosbury. I enjoyed it a bit more, and it just seems more Valentinish.

                  1. re: dinersaurus

                    Lets see where else have I been.. Mo's and Saint Jacques and Four Square as well..

            2. re: LulusMom

              Going out the night before or the night after is just plain brilliant. I wouldn't expect a good meal on Valentine's Day. Many places have set menus and function more like a catering operation than a restaurant. Going out the night before or the night after is a great idea. You may be surprised and have a good meal, but to me it's no more worth the effort than going out for drinks on St. Pat's Day.

              Fearington was quite good when we went years ago. If you're up for a long drive, Chef and the Farmer in Kinston looks like a great place. Bonne Soiree would also fit the bill.

              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                many restaurants, because valentine's is on a sunday, may also offer valentine's menus for the entire weekend. but yes, i agree - valentine's day is like mother's day or new year's eve. those days make me want to hide. :)

                FYI, bonne soiree is completely booked for the weekend. (i only know because i was helping another friend of mine - poor guy!)

                1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                  I know Kinston well, but there is no way in the world my gf will find any sense in driving that far to dine.

                  Glad to know about Bonne Soiree and glad to know that despite it's location (a bit hidden and lack of menu) that word of mouth and press have kept it going.

                  Yeah I'll definitely call to ask if both menus are available if we got Saturday or Monday.

              2. In Raleigh, Tasca Brava has good Spanish cuisine.

                8 Replies
                1. re: JayL

                  This could be the ticket. They do have good Spanish food, which you won't find anywhere else around here. You can do several tapas and share things. Their olive oil flan is amazing - and I thought that I didn't even like flan. It's dark and cozy.

                  You might also enjoy chatting up Juan, the owner/maitre'd/waiter. Get him talking about Spanish food, wines, etc. Seems like an interesting guy. I believe his wife is the chef, so it's very much a mom n' pop operation.

                  Also, you'll be on Glenwood South, so you could always wander down the street for an after dinner drink or cup of coffee somewhere.

                  1. re: dinersaurus

                    Will keep it in mind... Though this brings up a different thought for me.. and that is that I'm totally overdue in my response to my time in DC and going to Jaleo again (my gf wasn't too high on the tapas there). I'll have to get on that. I had looked at Tasca Brava a long time ago before they moved.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      If she didn't like the tapas at Jaleo then dump her.

                      Valentines Day problem solved. :)

                      1. re: dinersaurus

                        She's picky.. Though she did like my favorite tapa there the Bacon Wrapped Fried Dates. She didn't dislike them but we ate at another Andres' place that she liked much better.

                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                          What does she like to eat? I'll try to match up some Raleigh ideas...
                          I remember you have mentioned that she is not as adventurous food-wise as you! Hopefully we can find someplace special that you both will enjoy.

                          1. re: meatn3

                            She tend to stick to fish or a salad. I think it is due to her being very weight conscious, but that is wrong of me to assume. She states that spicy food upsets her stomach. So yeah I think seafood and salads are fine. She likes mussels, fish and has claimed that she has eaten Korean and Vietnamese but I've never seen it though she states she likes Thai better. She does Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. I mean the standard things.. she is not a big red meat eater. What do you (or anyone else) know about Savoy? I don't hear it get talked about a lot. I know where it is and I know about the two guys who run it. Just don't see many talks about it.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I am not familiar with Savoy, so can't help you there!

                              I have two which have nice seafood options, atmosphere and service and options you will enjoy too. In Raleigh, Coquette at North Hills has been very good without breaking the bank. I always (except for brunch) have felt that the entire experience could have had a much higher price tag due to the quality, flavor and great staff. In Cary there is An. Kindof SE Asian fusion very well done. Lovely atmosphere, knowledgeable staff. Every detail of the dining experience has been thought through - even the restrooms are beautiful! Enough options that are fairly familiar for her, enough interesting flavor twists for you. Their desserts have been great too!

                              http://www.ancuisines.com/index.html

                              http://www.coquetteraleigh.com/

                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        Even Lulu, last year at 2, loved the tapas at Jaleo! But I'm not letting you date her ...

                  2. 1. Panciuto (Hillsborough) OR Herons at the Umstead Hotel (Cary)
                    2. Cypress on the Hill (Chapel Hill)

                    We moved here from NYC a year ago but my family is from this area and we have been visiting here for years. I've been to all the usual suspects for "fancy" dinners, but Panciuto and Heron's offer the best fine dining in the area.

                    A special restaurant isn't just about great food. Panciuto and Herons understand that an amazing dining experience demands excellent service and a delicate atmosphere that doesn't feel precious or too heavy handed. The food is superb at both, but the style of the restaurants are very different. At Panciuto, you feel like you are supporting a food entrepreneur who is all about the locavore movement. We went on 1/15/10 for my husband's birthday and were greeted with liqueur glass filled with a bit of champagne. Thank you very much! The food was excellent. I was disappointed in the wine list. It was all Italian, and although it was reasonably priced, we weren't thrilled with anything we tasted. Our waiter was terrific though, and brought us several tastes before we settled on a very good bottle for under $40.

                    Herons is Fine Dining with a capital F for FANCY. This restaurant offers the best service I have had in years. I'm barely into my third decade, but I feel like the older I get the more this matters. The food is outstanding. We decided not to go with a tasting menu but crafted several courses a la carte. The sommelier here, Justin Tilley, is awesome. He completely understood our tastes and did a great job pairing wines, styles, and price points that were spot on for us.

                    Cypress on the Hill was excellent, but it has been a while since I've been there. I was really disappointed in our server, and the whole fried fish I ordered there this summer didn't rock my world, but I have recommended it to people who have been in the last few months and really enjoyed it. Good luck!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: MissFancyPants

                      What other places have you been to? I mean she's liked most of the places we've been.. as far as fancy goes though that is a short list and the sometimes the line between fancy and very nice (say a Bonne Soiree/Herons vs. Elaines/Vivace). I've been curious about Cypress but I was turned off by my one encounter with their staff as they seemed to be full of themselves.

                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        Try Revolution in Durham. Also, Fearrington is having a special for it's 3 course meal. I think that it is $45 pp. You may want to call to verify.

                        1. re: RaleighHound

                          As a slender vegetarian maybe I can help you with your girlfriend;-) Have you considered Sage, a veg restaurant in Timberlyne. I looked in and it is very romantic in a small bistroish way & the menu will cater to her....
                          I've been to Vin Rouge, nice atmosphere but it is way too fatty, cheese-laden for my taste. And I'm sure hers as well. GlassHalfFull has very good food, plenty for her and plenty for you. It is rather buzzy so consider that....

                          1. re: Rory

                            Been by Sage. Looks like a good spot for lunch but not a nice dinner. GlassHalfFull didn't impress and won't be hurrying back.

                            As far as Fearrington, I was looking at (and need to call) about their non Valentine's day menu. I believe at New Years my gf was interested in getting Vanilla poached lobster at Jujube (at that time) and I saw that it was available as an option on their regular menu. Of course, then I compared what you get at Fearrington with what you get at Herons.

                            Went to Revolution not too long after it opened, it was good. Went with a large group and didn't feel rushed or that we were being hovered over.

                            I think at this point the best option will be to give my gf a list of maybe 4 places and say choose.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Jujube is open that night and has a special menu. Looked really good to me. It may well be totally booked at this point though.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                I took at look at Jujube yesterday but must have missed the special menu.

                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                  eh, they're not great about updating their website. here's the email:

                                  Valentines Day at Jujube
                                  $45 per person

                                  First Course (choose one)
                                  Tempura oysters with Sichuan-style pea shoots and pickled ginger
                                  Arugula and fennel with spiced walnuts, maple-soy dressing, and tangerine chevre
                                  Beef carpaccio with arugula, fleur de sel, and wasabi grabiche

                                  Second Course (choose one)
                                  House-made gnocchi with slow-roasted cauliflower and black truffle
                                  Poached egg with bacala-toasted rice cake and yellow miso butter
                                  Foie gras pot de crème with tempura asparagus and black truffle

                                  Third Course (choose one)
                                  Grilled rib-eye with mushroom, shallot ragout and fingerling chips
                                  Poached lobster and bay scallops in a lemongrass scented, tangerine bisque
                                  Star-anise clay pot of royal trumpet mushrooms, silken tofu, asparagus, and cellophane nooodles

                                  Dessert (choose one)
                                  Chocolate orange mousse with crème chantilly
                                  Lime meringue pie
                                  Fried apple pie with marscapone ice cream

                                  1. re: cervisiam

                                    Thank you :-) I guess I just need to sign up for more restaurant email lists ;-)

                          2. re: RaleighHound

                            Revolution has a great look and atmosphere, but the food ... eh. I would be more than willing to try it again, but mostly for just having drinks and a light bite.

                      2. Bergama's on Hillsborough St. in Durham is a wonderful restaurant. They have a great mixture of Turkish/Greek/Italian foods (menu has everything from sandwiches to seafood dinners), a very quiet and relaxed atmosphere, they do serve beer and wine, are reasonably priced, and are running special's for Valentine's Day. The Owners are alway around to make sure everything they serve comes out perfect. Their Spinach Pie appetizer is amazing (my picky 84 year old Grandmother gets it every time!), the men in my family normally go for the Lamb Kabobs or a Calzone, while us girls mix it up between Seafood or the Chicken Kabobs. All the deserts are homemade and the Owner serves you Turkish Coffee if you ask for it.

                        1. Man, I'm exhausted just THINKING about how hard you're working coming up with the perfect place. : ) Am I missing something, or how come Nana's hasn't come up at all? Hope you find the perfect spot and hope she's worth it.

                          28 Replies
                          1. re: suse

                            It's my own fault. I try to hard and making decisions is a tough choice when they all look good. I think it was due to some mixed reviews of Nana's much like Piedmont.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              They all are good. Your odds of a bad meal at any of the places you're thinking about is quite low. In this situation, you (the restaurant chooser) will look brilliant by default. If you draw a bad meal, you can always blame those internet food geeks who clearly don't know what they're talking about. See, win-win.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                We used to go to Nana's somewhat frequently for special occasions back when we were still in a bit of a poshy restaurant mode. I will say it wasn't always awesome - sometimes it was just fine, but there were a few dishes that really rocked. I liked sitting at the bar and sharing things - that's my idea of romantic. These days we're way less into fancy pants places and, my hub would set himself on fire before he would set foot in a restaurant on Valentine's Day proper. Happy Valentine's Day!

                                1. re: suse

                                  I'm with your husband, but due to babysitter availability (thanks UNC- NC State game!) we're having to go out on Sunday night this year. I avoid Valentines day, new years eve, mothers day and halloween in bars and restaurants like the plague.

                                  Let me wish all of you a wonderful time that evening, and another year of love and appreciation from the one you love (and lots and lots of good food).

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    My idea of sheer restautant hell is a Mothers' Day brunch. I long ago told the Spouse that he will take me to one of those on pain of torture, dismemberment, and other icky things.

                                    When we were child- and parent-free V-Day always meant staying home and cooking wildly luxurious food together - things like magret of duck, assorted risotto, over the top chocolate desserts, you know, the fun stuff. Wouldn't even consider a restaurant. These days things are a bit more prosaic but still no restaurants.

                                    1. re: rockycat

                                      That is still our prefered way to spend V-day (although we eat a LOT earlier when we do serve the wonderful meal). Something about cooking and eating something incredible together, complete with a nice bottle of wine or two.

                                      I told Lulu a week or two ago my perfect mother's day (trying to get the plan to her father): I lie in bed and they bring me up a toasted bagel with salmon and the goodies along with a bottle of champagne, and let me just lie there. She looked at me and said "But Mama, salmon isn't for breakfast." Have I taught you NOTHING child?!

                                      1. re: rockycat

                                        Actually we tend to do that as well. This year my menu is:

                                        Porthouse steaks (from grass-fed, pastured anti-biotic hormone-free local cattle), Sea Scallops, Caesar Salad with my own homemade Caesar dressing (olive oil, anchovies, etc), Asparagus or Snow Peas, and Lascivious Lemon Cheesecake for dessert. Asti Spumanti and a nice Ripassa Valpolicella to round it out.

                                        1. re: rockycat

                                          We had reservations at Panciuto, but the cost wasn't justified when I can get a 4 course meal for less than what they are charging for their 3 course (I don't care if you have a rose or chocolate.. I can do those by myself). So it looks like we are going to wind up cooking something together. I'm not sure what (she is going to pick). It won't be beef or pork that is for sure unless the former is kosher.

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            I can always cook at home cheaper than out, much much cheaper. Given that both of us are excellent cooks ourselves, we can also cook *better* than your average restaurant, so when we eat out, it is primarily motivated by special events and the search for folks who cook at least as well as we do.

                                            Given all that, Panciuto is an experience I'd advise you not to miss along the way, even if not this week. Their farm dinners during the year are great experiences, so at least sign up with their newsletter so you are getting information from them when they have neat stuff to report.

                                            1. re: fussycouple

                                              Yes I was recently told about their community dinners. We are not great cooks. I bake more than I cook. I'm just not that great on the improv end of it (like tossing in a few spices here and there). I think my brain is definitely geared more towards a process and a bit more structure. That doesn't mean I can't cook, but I tend to stay on the path of a recipe.

                                              That and we have pretty crappy cookware (compared to a even just basic calphalon)

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                Nothing wrong with using recipes! Please don't kick yourself for that. You have to learn somehow, and recipes are the best way.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Yeah but I want to get to a point (even in baking) where I don't have to use a recipe.. I know how much of the ingredients I need and what to do without constantly referring back. I think that issue is caused by me wanting to make so many things that I don't work on one thing for awhile until it becomes clockwork :-) I'm not beating myself up.. it just would be nice and probably make the recipes themselves last longer (not get destroyed by flying ingredients).. although you always hear about grandma's or mom's well used recipe cards :-)

                                              2. re: fussycouple

                                                Along those lines (eating out motivated by special events), we chose to go to Super Wok last night to celebrate New Year/Valentines Day. Non-traditional, but fun and delicious. Anyone else get over there? We were the couple in the back wearing huge grins because we were able to get child care and actually got to have an adult meal for once.

                                                Tonight I think we're going for Indian with another couple, kids included.

                                                1. re: rockycat

                                                  Did they do anything for the New Year?

                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                    The dishes that are normally only available by pre-order were available without advance order Saturday night. We had the Lobster with Ginger and Scallion. We saw that many tables also had the Sticky Sesame Spareribs. Would have liked to try them, but there's just so much food one can eat, unfortunately.

                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        The sign of a true food lover - someone who finds this sort of think really difficult.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          I like all your ways of thinking...thus the reason for initially joining. Yeah I'm going to try and avoid Valentine's day proper (unless I wind up at the earlier mentioned Hillsborough establishment) as they seem small enough to not make it crazy.. same with Bonne Soiree. I just need to make sure that if we go on Sat that we can at least choose which menu we dine from.

                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            not sure if you saw my earlier post, but bonne soiree is booked the entire weekend (fri sat and sun).

                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              If your gf is more conservative foodwise than you, that pushes Fearrington House up a notch for me. To explicate a comment I made earlier, FH is a more traditional upscale restaurant: it tends to be more formal (I don't feel uncomfortable there in a tux and a suit is really the minimum). The service is top-notch, white tablecloth, multiple-server and quiet. The winelist is great, but if your gf doesn't do wine. . .oh well.

                                              By comparison, I found Second Empire the three times I went (the 2nd and 3rd were paid by someone else) to be overpriced with mediocre service and only adequate food.

                                              Herons would be an excellent alternative to the 3 I mentioned initially.

                                              1. re: fussycouple

                                                Thanks! Well most places are booked for the entire weekend. Thats what procrastination will get ya. Though this is fine as I can always do it in the middle of the week too.

                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                  Shucks, sorry about that. Maybe make her a home-cooked dinner on Sunday, and the dinner out mid-week.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    I've already told her via her request that I'll make a chocolate babka.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        Made it before for the holidays and it was a hit.

                                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        You really should check & double check the recipe - perhaps enlist some taste testers?!

                                                        ;-D

                                                        1. re: meatn3

                                                          Are you saying you'd like to make a few and bring them.. ? :-p

                                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                            No, just trying to give you opportunity to make sure the babka is perfect!
                                                            Willing to sacrifice my waistline for your endeavor...

                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                              I appreciate it. I think the recipe does well. The nine people that ate it all agreed it was the best thing they had at the gathering though the rest WAS take out.

                                        2. You should check out Jujube..great food and great atmosphere. Not sure if they are serving the full menu, but worth a look.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jlafrance

                                            Special menu at Jujube for V-day. $45 each for 4 courses. Believe the menu is shown above.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              That was right it was shown above but the only seating they had was at 9 or 9:30. The hostess on the phone didn't seem overly thrilled. We didn't really wind up doing anything for a dinner the other day.

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                We ended up there at an early seating (early not a problem for us as it allows me to still make it home in time to put Lulu to bed). Typical Valentine's meal at a restaurant - not as good as the place usually is. I would say I really loved 50% of my meal (that fois gras thing w/ tempura asparagus and the chocolate dessert), but my husband's average was much lower. And the low points for me were really not good. The gnocchi was totally overcooked; the lobster and scallop thing was basically just a piece of lobster and a few bay scallops in a teensy bit of bland broth (not that you would be able to get to it anyway - the width of the ceramic spoon was much thicker than the depth of the bowl; made for a lot of noise as people desperately tried to get at it in the dining room). That said we had a nice time - but then again, we almost always have a nice time. The servers were really helpful and nice, the wine very good and the company excellent.