Hot Plate: Ekiben and CookHouse open, Valentine’s Day around town and more

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Bluebird’s tableside absinthe drip cocktail is one of several cocktails for two available this Valentine’s Day.

Love is all around, Baltimore, which means it’s a great time to head out to a restaurant. There’s a lot going on this week and not just on Valentine’s Day.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

Openings & Announcements
Ekiben’s much-anticipated new Hampden location is slated to open on Tuesday.

Another long-awaited new spot, CookHouse in Bolton Hill, will also open its doors on Tuesday. 

Dutch Courage has been open for a few weeks but they’re officially celebrating the grand opening this weekend, with a two-night party featuring gin punch and live jazz and ragtime music.

Gitan Bistro Cru, the restaurant that previously occupied the Coelum space, announced via its Facebook page that a “new concept is coming” and will open next week. Coelum closed “indefinitely” a few weeks ago, reportedly due to building issues.

Cinghiale, Petit Louis and Johnny’s have a new pastry chef: Ryan McDougal. He’s joined the Foreman Wolf team after years working all over the country, most recently in New Orleans, where he had his own pastry business.

Ampersea celebrates two years in business on Friday, Feb. 7 with $2 bottles of wine with the purchase of a dinner entrée. (Limit one per two guests.) What a deal!

Clavel has extended its kitchen hours. It is now open until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, midnight Friday and Saturday. On Sundays, the restaurant is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Aldo’s has a new daily happy hour, from 5-6:30 p.m., featuring $7 martinis and wines, $5 Italian beers and $9 small plates.

In less exciting news, Plug Ugly’s in Canton announced it will close later this month. The restaurant and bar on the square will host a closing party on Feb. 22.

Black History Month
February is Black History Month and a few local places are honoring the history and culture of African Americans.

At Pen & Quill, $1 from every cocktail sold during the month will be donated to Bmore Youth Arts and every drink on the cocktail list will somehow reference African Americans with a connection to the city or state.

At Topside, you can checkout art by local African American artists around the room. Plus, all month long, Hotel Revival, where the restaurant is located, is hosting discussions on topics relevant to the African-American community, including a discussion of black winemakers in Baltimore.

Vegan Restaurant Week
Vegan Restaurant Week is still going strong. From now through Feb. 23 local restaurants are putting the spotlight on their vegan dishes.

Love is in the air all week long
Valentine’s Day is on Friday but several local restaurants are getting in on the action early.

On Monday, Sotto Sopra hosts its annual children’s Valentine’s party, with special early seatings, a kid-friendly menu, entertainment and prizes–all presided over by Amelia and Victoria, the daughters of Sotto Sopra’s chef/owner.

Wednesday, The Charmery at Union Collective transforms into Chez Charmerie: For one night only, the ice cream shop will offer a three-course dessert dinner. A quick taste: The first course, dubbed “Provencal fish soup,” is a cheesecake ice cream soup with a chocolate babka crouton and Swedish fish.

Café Troia is hosting a fun Galentine’s night on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Blue Moon Café hosts Chef Egg for a special ladies’ cooking class for Galentine’s Day.

At Petit Louis, try the La Vie En Rose cocktail, a twist on the French 75 created just for Galentine’s Day.

Johnny’s Galentine’s Day cocktail is an ode to the day’s biggest promoter, “Parks & Rec” character Leslie Knope. The drink, which is named after Ms. Knope, is a combination of Tito’s Vodka, Chambord and maple rose petal lemonade.

SoBo Café is also celebrating Galentine’s Day by offering $5 glasses of rosé and $25 bottles of sparkling rosé for the occasion.

Celebrating the Valentines
This Valentine’s Day, Baltimore restaurants are celebrating in a major way. Even last-minute planners have tons of great options for the special holiday meal. But if you want to snag a good table, make those reservations soon.

Gertrude’s starts Valentine’s Day off with two tea services: one on Friday and one Saturday. The BMA restaurant also has dinner covered–and has omnivore and vegan prix fixe menu choices.

La Calle’s Valentine’s options include shrimp ceviche and mussels, calamari, shrimp and lobster over saffron risotto.

At Emma’s Tea Spot’s Queen Bee Tea, guests will receive roses.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery is celebrating in a fun way. If you purchase one of the brewery’s two special Valentine’s Day beers (Raspberry Chocolate Stout or Chocolate Stout), you’ll receive a Mouth Party Caramel containing a little note with either a drawing or affirmation or a treat (like a pint for a penny). Pretty sweet!

Chez Hugo Bistro’s Valentine’s Day menu includes options like crab custard with preserved sea buckthorn, and foie gras with a blue corn and chestnut waffle.

At Tersigeuls’ in Ellicott City, the Valentine’s weekend menu features five courses with dishes like chilled shrimp with sauce Louis and filet au poivre.

Bluebird Cocktail Room will offer several “couples cocktails” designed for two (plus its usual food and drink menu). Options include Absinthe (Makes the Heart Grow Fonder), an absinthe drip prepared tableside.

Friday through Sunday, Ida B’s Table will offer a three-course meal with dishes like quail curry with collard green oil and preserved beets.

Pierpoint will have a special Valentine’s Day menu. The Fells Point restaurant also has a great gift idea on offer: a French and English cheese class taking place on Feb. 18.

The Tilted Row’s Valentine’s Day menu includes options like fondue for two and lobster tortellini.

At Papi’s in Fells Point, Valentine’s Day means dinner for two for $35 (including tableside guacamole).

Noona’s will offer a four-course meal for only $35 and there will be an octopus and scallop special available. Plus, the restaurant will have a late night, Valentine’s-themed happy hour for both singles and couples. It starts at 9 p.m. and features food specials, thematic cocktails and “cheesy love songs.”

Rye Street Tavern’s three-course menu is a really good one, including a foie gras mousse option and blue crab ravioli.

Schola classes this Valentine’s season include a candy-making venture, an “aphrodisiac’s dinner” and a Valentine’s Day brunch session.

The Milton Inn’s Valentine’s menu includes options like filet Chesapeake and rack of lamb. The restaurant will also offer a Valentine’s menu on Saturday, Feb. 15. Reservations are required on Friday.

La Cuchara will feature a special five-course menu on Valentine’s Day

Atwater’s offers lots of Valentine’s Day treats, including sweet and adorable cookies to take home to your love.

At Topside, the bar will feature two specialty cocktails and the kitchen has a special menu available with options like a ribeye steak with potato-onion soubise and roasted bone marrow.

At B&O American Brasserie, the bar is featuring two specialty cocktails and the dining room has a special three-course dinner with options like black truffle agnolotti with house-made ricotta.

Petit Louis’ Valentine’s menu includes classic French choices like duck a l’orange with roasted baby carrots and potatoes.

At The Capital Grille, starting Feb. 13, guests will receive a complimentary glass of Veuve Cliquot and chocolate-covered strawberries.

If staying in is your preference, but you don’t want to cook, Eddie’s has you covered with a $79 dinner for two available for pickup or delivery. The dinner, which has a flexible menu including dishes like cream of crab soup and grilled filet mignon, is available from Feb. 13-15.

The Four Seasons has a variety of packages designed to make this holiday special, including an extravagant night away that includes cocktails at The Bygone and breakfast at Maximòn.

And of course, many other restaurants are open as usual, offering their regular menus plus specials.

Belgian Beer Fest
If Valentine’s Day isn’t your thing–or even if it is and you just really love beer, too–head to Max’s on Friday the 14th and the following weekend for the 16th annual Belgian Beer Fest. There will be events and specials each day, plus a Belgian-inspired food menu.

Planning Ahead
Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:
Feb. 23-25: Harry Potter at The Charmery 
Feb. 28: Partying through Time Workshop at London Town 
March 11: Stag’s Leap Wine Dinner at The Milton Inn 

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