J Squared: Valentine's Day For Lovers And Loners Alike

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February 9, 2012 – We can only imagine, that ever since the high middle ages - when Geoffrey Chaucer first turned the feast of an obscure 3rd century Saint into a celebration of romantic love - that Valentine's Day has had its advocates and its detractors: Lovers - awash with romantic notions - have perhaps always looked forward to Feb 14 with anticipation. And maybe others – loners, independents and skeptics - have long rolled their collective eyes at all the fuss. Well these days, Valentines Day – like so many holidays – comes with no shortage of stuff to buy, themed menus and special events - for every possible demographic. And in the end, can you really argue with a mid-winter excuse to get out of the house on a weeknight? So here are some Valentine's Day ideas for all you lovers – and you loners – out there from our resident insiders, J Squared - Jan Saragoni and Jared Bowen.
Dining 

El Centro/South End (Shawmut Ave)
Cozy Mexican bistro with a real, live Mexican chef. Chef Alan Rodriguez’s Valentines Day menu features Empanadas Rellenas de Queso con Pollo (cheese empanadas stuffed with chicken and vegetables); Queso Fundido con Rajas de Chile Verde (melted cheese served with roast pepper, marinated pork or vegetables); Salmon Ranchero with asparagus and oven baked potatoes with a medium spicy sauce. Signature deserts: Chocolate Flan and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding). Delicious Sangria. All entrées priced between $10 & $20.

Area Four/Technology Square, Cambridge
“Misery Loves Company” menu. Dates are welcome this Valentine’s Day, but the real fun is for the singles. Groups of any size welcome to enjoy the Bloody Heart Pizza (beef steak tomato hearts, carmelized onions, house-made mozzarella, $15 & $23.50) ) Breakup Banana Split (homemade chocolate & vanilla ice cream, brandied cherries and chocolate, marshmallow and salted caramel sauces, $10 per person). And for those who want to drown their sorrows, cocktails by the pitcher.

Lala Rokh/Beacon Hill
Tucked away in Beacon Hill, Persian-themed Lala Rokh takes its name from an epic romance by the 19th century poet Thomas Moore, which tells the story of a beautiful young princess on a journey of love and discovery. Valentine’s Day features a four-course prix fixe menu ($48/person) of flavorful staples like Borani-e Garch (mushrooms over grilled, yogurt-drizzled cornbread), Baghla Pollo (braised lamb shank in tomato saffron sauce and rice spiced with fresh dill & fava beans) and Khoresht-e Bademjan (slow-cooked beef with roasted baby eggplant and saffron-seared tomatoes). An a la carte menu is also available.

Lumiere/Newton
Valentines Night 2012 first- course menu features Maine Lobster Chowder, Fried Wellfleet Oysters & Vermont Veal Tartare. Main course includes Sweet Potato & Ricotta Ravioli, Long Island Duck Breast and Alaskan Black Cod. Desert Rose Champagne Sorbet & Sauterne-poached Dried Apricot Tart. $75 per person, optional $25 wine pairing.

Dumpling Café/Chinatown (Bargain!)
Yummy Chinese classics including General Gau’s Chicken, Chicken with Broccoli and Tofu with Veggies. Any two entrees, dumplings and tean included for $20.95.

Trade
540 Atlantic Avenue — Parking is free with validation
Try the Grilled squid and fried tentacles with Borlotti beans and vinegar peppers and the baked rigatoni with spicy lamb ragu and provolone.

El Centro
472 Shawmut Avenue in the South End
$40 3-course prix fixe menu including a glass of wine
1st Course: Melted Cheese with pepper, pork or vegetables or Cheese Empanadas stuffed with chicken or vegetables
2nd Course: Skirt Steak, 3 Cheese Chicken Breast or Salmon
3rd Course: Chocolate cake, Mexican Caramel Sticks or Rice Pudding

Asana and M Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Valentine’s Day Delights
"Experience an evening of indulgence this Valentine’s Day at Four-Star Asana restaurant. Delight in a decadent four-course dinner menu specially created by Asana’s culinary team available from Saturday, February 11, 2012 through Tuesday, February 14, 2012. Menu is USD75 per person and an additional USD55 for champagne and wine pairings. Menu attached. And toast to love at M Bar & Lounge where Executive Pastry Chef Nelson Paz has created an assortment of tantalizing house-made chocolate truffles to enjoy complimentary with the purchase of two glasses of Veuve Clicquot Rose available for USD50."
Events And Music  

Sex at the Zoo Lecture
Franklin Park Zoo Presents an Evening on the Private Lives of Animals.
With a nod to Valentines Day, the Franklin Park Zoo takes a peek into the private lives of animals – do they find each other attractive? Are their mating rituals between humans and animals similar in any way? What can the techniques that animals use to attract mates teach us about romance? This adults- only affair is presented by Dr. Rory Browne with insights into the pros and con of of being in a relationship vs. staying single in the animal kingdom. Lecture takes place in the Tropical Forest Pavillion, home to gorillas, ring-tailed lemurs and of course a giant anteater. Friday, Feb.10 6:00 –8:30. $20 single ticket, $35 pair. Wines by Greenvale Vineyards.

Boston Camerata – the eminent early music ensemble, performs “The Game of Love” (“Jeu d’Amour”)
Artistic Director Anne Azema is joined by intrumentalist Shira Kammen, Tom Zajac and singers Jane Sheldon and Deborah Moore in a special vocal performance emphasizing the “lighter and lustier” side of the Middle Ages (who knew?) with songs dealing with springtime, youth, erotic intrigue as celebrated in village revels, courtly chambers and pre-Internet trysting places. First Lutheran Church, Berkley Street, Boston, Sunday Feb. 12 at 8:00 p.m.

Rebecca Parris Trio/”In Love with Parris” Valentine’s Concert
Rare Boston performance with her long time trio! A romantic evening of impeccable vocal jazz from a beloved local icon of the genre. One Show Only, Saturday Feb.11, 8 pm, Arlington Regent Theater. Tickets $18 - $28.

A.R.T. Ever After Gala
Monday, February 13, 2012
"Princes and Princesses, proclaim your love for the A.R.T. with the 2nd Annual Valentine's Gala, an enchanted fairytale evening of love potions and Grimm notions. Featuring a unique cabaret performance by Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, with Jared Bowen of WGBH as emcee, and a special A.R.T. Angel Award to longtime A.R.T. friend and community volunteer Joan Parker. With a darkly romantic fairy tale theme, A.R.T. Ever After promises to be the social event of the winter. The Castle will be transformed into a wooded forest where guests will mingle with story book characters before enjoying a delicious feast."

Venetian Valentine
Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 6:30-9:30 PM
"A Venetian-inspired Valentine at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Enjoy live music and good conversation over artfully-designed small plates, cocktails and dessert. And then explore the Gardner Museum's magnificent new wing and historic galleries, including the restored Tapestry Room and the rarely open Little Salon, with its putti-adorned mirror and courtship tapestries." $225 per couple/$125 per individual; Members: $150/$85

Green Eyes
Playing at the Ames Hotel through February 26th
"Straight from its sold-out run in New York City, Company One is proud to present Travis Chamberlain's highly acclaimed site-specific production of Tennessee Williams' GREEN EYES at The Ames Hotel. Written in 1970 but unpublished for almost 40 years, this "lost" erotic thriller graphically reveals the impact of war through the sexual fantasies of a newlywed couple honeymooning in New Orleans. He's a soldier, traumatized by his participation in the war; she's a ravenous woman determined to satisfy the darkest recesses of her most deviant desires. Starring the acclaimed NYC actress Erin Markey"a kittenish vixen whose sexual pliancy hides an iron will" (The New York Times)--GREEN EYES transforms a honeymoon suite into a psychosexual battleground where desire and violence blur and become indistinguishable. With only 25 seats available per show, this is an exclusive theatrical event you do not want to miss!"

Broadway's Rachel York and Brent Barrett in Isn't It Romantic?
Sunday, February 19th, 1pm at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
Co-stars in the West End production of "Kiss Me Kate" (familiar to PBS audiences as it was filmed for Great Performances), this dynamic pair re-unite for a concert at Waltham's Reagle Theatre.

Project Dream Dress
Saturday, March 3 at 1010 Harrison Avenue in Boston 10-2
Military brides-to-be can choose from more than 100 designer gowns (at no cost to them) at a Project Dream Dress event held at the Atrium at Morgan Memorial Goodwill.
Lasell College has contributed the couture gowns which were donated by an exclusive and anonymous design house for Lasell's fashion students to study. They're valued at between $1,000-$8,000. Lasell fashion students will serve as stylists and provide free tailoring and Zoots will provide complimentary dry cleaning services. Brides must register in advance at bridesacrossamerica.com

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