Citron’s Valentine’s Day menu includes Parmesan Reggiano arancini with saffron risotto, Mediterranean olive tapenade and roasted red pepper coulis. Photo by Beverly Funkhouser Photography.
Citron’s Valentine’s Day menu includes Parmesan Reggiano arancini with saffron risotto, Mediterranean olive tapenade and roasted red pepper coulis. Photo by Beverly Funkhouser Photography.

The big news in Baltimore’s restaurant world this week is, of course, Valentine’s Day. But even before we get to Thursday’s celebration of hearts, flowers and all things lovey-dovey, there’s plenty else to do. Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Openings and announcements
Just a PSA: Last week, WMAR 2’s Jamie Costello posted several photos from Blue Dog BBQ Co. letting people know that, despite the massive amount of construction in front of their location, they are open. The BBQ spot, which is apparently terrific, opened recently and about five days later, the road was closed for construction. That’s a tough break for a company in an already difficult industry.

TigerStyle, the new casual Asian spot from the Food Market and La Food Marketa teams, opens in Hampden this weekend.

Baltimoreans have a new way to get their hands on locally made vegan chocolate: Charm School Chocolate’s new factory and tasting room in Hunt Valley. Visit the new spot, which opened Feb. 1, for tastings and to purchase Charm School’s products.

Some sad news: Reisterstown’s Restaurant Firenze has closed. The eatery had been open since 2015 and unveiled an outdoor area last summer.

Vegan Restaurant Week
Baltimore Vegan Restaurant Week starts Friday and runs through Feb. 17. Restaurants all over the city are participating by featuring vegan selections on their menus. Plus, there are a handful of special events planned during the week, including a No Meat Athlete run followed by brunch at Red Emma’s on Sunday and vegan drinks at Joe Squared on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Brunello dinner at Cinghiale
The team at Cinghiale was inspired earlier this week to put together a Friday night wine dinner featuring multiple Brunello di Montalcinos.

The meal begins with an antipasto and is followed by two more savory and one sweet course. Six wines will be paired with the lot. The meal sounds excellent, particularly the second course: roasted guinea fowl with fresh black truffle jus, roasted celery root, parsnips, onion and golden beets paired with three wines from the 2013 vintage.

Spicy in Fells
On Saturday, The Wharf Rat in Fells Point will host its 6th annual chili cookoff. The event, sponsored by Bell’s Brewery, benefits BARCS Animal Shelter. Stop by to taste and judge or throw your own chili into the mix for a chance at one of the prizes.

Celebrating the kids
On Monday night, celebrate Valentine’s Day with your little ones during Sotto Sopra’s annual Valentine’s Day for Children event. The evening, which lasts from 5 to 7 p.m. includes family-friendly entertainment, a specially designed kids menu and additional surprises.

During the party, the owners’ own daughters, Amelia and Victoria, will act as hostesses, adding to the fun.

Tuesday night, visit Chez Charmerie, the dressed up, “swankier” version of The Charmery Ice Cream Factory in the Union Collective.

The Charmery crew will offer a seated, three-course dessert tasting featuring dishes like a tribute to Haussner’s turtle soup. Don’t worry, this one doesn’t involve any actual turtles, just chocolate ice cream soup, pecans and house-made caramel jello.

It’s fun for all ages. A heads up: Reservations are required.

And round out your Valentine’s weekend with a holiday brunch with the kids at The Food Market on Saturday. Parents who bring their kids in for a Valentine’s brunch will receive 25 percent off their bill.

Galentine’s Day
You’ve heard of Galentine’s, right? It’s Feb. 13 (Wednesday, this year) and it’s all about the ladies.

Harbor East and (cool) progeny have teamed up for a party at the Four Seasons hotel, which will feature drinks and snacks, pop-up shops and more.

At the Lord Baltimore Hotel, Discover Charm City, Sentimental Fools and Jagermeister are collaborating for their third annual Galentine’s party. It’ll have drinks, food, a photobooth and a DJ. Donations will be collected during the event for HelpingUp Mission.

Celebrate your ladies at Points South Latin Kitchen with Chambord cocktails, Galentine’s-themed trivia, a photo booth and more. 

Gertrude’s is celebrating the day-before-the-day with a Galentine’s party featuring Wild Kombucha cocktails, food and drink specials and a photo backdrop.

Valentine’s plans
Restaurants all over the region have special meals planned for Valentine’s Day. Overall, they sound fantastic–extravagant and impressive, and featuring a lot of oysters.

At Citron, the meal will include a special cocktail menu and a four-course dinner with multiple choices in each course, including braised veal cheeks and potato gnocchi with Maine lobster, miso cream, leeks and baby spinach.

Charleston chef Cindy Wolf has crafted two tasting menus: X and O. X is seafood-based, with dishes like pan-roasted sea scallops with caramelized cauliflower, spinach, leeks and saffron cream, while O features a grilled beef tenderloin with a crispy grit cake, cocoa bean and grilled red onion relish and burgundy reduction.

The newly opened Full Tilt Brewery tap room in Govans will host a three-course pop-up dinner put on by Tablefield’s.

At Nancy by SNAC, the menu will include vegetarian specials, peach cobbler and special guests Mayor Catherine Pugh and artist Tamm E. Hunt.

Cinghiale will celebrate with a four-course menu with dishes like foie gras terrine with chestnut puree, blackcurrant marmellata and cocoa nib and roasted veal striploin with polenta, forest mushrooms and a marsala reduction.

The Elephant is getting saucy for the holiday. The restaurant’s four-course menu will be “love-inspired” and include a sweet amuse-bouche that guests are encouraged to eat while blindfolded.

At Smoke, Valentine’s will be celebrated with a three-course meal, love-themed playlists and drink mixes for you to enjoy (it’s BYOB). Purchase your tickets ahead of time, as it will sell out!

Petit Louis’ Valentine’s four-course menu includes PL classics like the pan-roasted duck breast (always a winner) as well as special additions, like a mussel and saffron bisque with micro fennel.

The Rusty Scupper will offer a special Valentine’s menu with dishes like shrimp cocktail and crab-stuffed Maine lobster.

Amber will be celebrating love of the canine kind with Valendog Day. Bring your pup to the restaurant for treats and photo ops, plus a holiday menu for the humans with Valentine’s cocktails and a NY strip steak special.

At Lee’s Pint & Shell, a dinner special for two includes oysters (of course), lobster or crab, dessert and a bottle of wine or bubbly.

Maggie’s Farm will have a three-course prix fixe menu, plus drink specials or wine pairings with the meal.

Dylan’s Oyster Cellar’s celebrations start on Tuesday, with an oyster tasting speed-dating event. For Galentine’s Day on Wednesday, craft cards and enjoy deals on burgers, wine, oysters and Bitter Heart cocktails. And for the main event Thursday, Dylan’s will have specials on oysters, drinks and meals. If you plan ahead and call by Saturday, you can also order special flowers for your table, made by Local Color Flowers.

At Bar Vasquez, choices include crispy veal sweetbreads with a potato cake, criolla salad and Malbec veal reduction sauce, and rockfish cooked on the plancha, paired with blood orange, avocado, charred smoked fennel and lemon basil chimichurri.

If staying in is your thing, but cooking’s not, check out the Valentine’s Day dinner for two menu from Classic Catering.

The Corner Pantry also has a takeaway menu, with options like foie gras terrine and butter-poached lobster ravioli.

The Lord Baltimore Hotel is partnering with Mera Kitchen Collective on Valentine’s Day. Mera will offer a four-course meal, available in the LB Tavern, with dishes like braised lamb shank with almond Sudanese bread.

Options on Rye Street Tavern’s Valentine’s Day menu include Oysters in Purgatory (served with chilies, tomato, fennel pollen and lemon zest) and a lamb rack for two.

Johnny’s‘ menu includes a mushroom bisque with croutons and thyme oil and a roasted halibut entrée serviced with spinach, caramelized fennel and charred blood orange caper vinaigrette.

La Cuchara‘s four-course menu features artichoke soup with lemon and black truffle and Parisian gnocchi with wild mshrooms, English peas and two-year aged Manchego.

At Chez Hugo, the four-course menu includes grilled oysters with preserved ramps butter and a ribeye with puff potato and potato crème fraiche.

Towson Tavern‘s Valentine’s menu is a long one, with lots of crab (crab soup, crab dip, crab cakes) and special dishes like lobster thermidor and steak au poivre.

Cosima‘s menu features a chilled prawn cocktail with heirloom tomato jelly and Calabrian chili oil and lobster risotto with asparagus, tomato, parsley, garlic and carrot crema.

Cunningham’s‘ three-course Valentine’s menu includes dishes like crab and caviar pasta and dry-aged beef tenderloin.

Minnow‘s four-course menu has dishes like cured duck breast with frisee, hazelnuts and raspberry espresso reduction and an entrée of grilled head-on shrimp over saffron rice, piquillo peppers, tomato vinaigrette and chimicurri.

La Calle‘s three-course Puebla-centric Valentine’s dinner will be accompanied by a complimentary glass of sparkling Malbec.

Café Troia will offer its regular menu on Valentine’s Day, but will also have a handful of “romantic” specials.

Gunther & Co. has a tasting menu with dishes like uni tagliatelle and a sous vide wagyu short rib, and additional wine pairings, an oyster course and a shellfish course.

At Lupa, the four-course menu has options like gnocchi with oxtail ragu and grilled swordfish with roasted forest mushrooms.

The Milton Inn‘s Valentine’s Day menu is full of classics like a crab cake and bearnaise-topped filet and New Zealand rack of lamb. It’ll be available through Saturday.

Planning Ahead

Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:

March 3: 8th Annual Ryes Up Against Cystic Fibrosis Gala
March 21: Pizza Cooking Class at Cosima
March 30: Wockenfuss Factory Tour

Kit Pollard

Kit Waskom Pollard is a Baltimore Fishbowl contributing writer. She writes Hot Plate every Friday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.