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East Bay Valentine’s Day Guide 2015

Not sure where to take your sweetheart this February? We've compiled a list of date-worthy activities and romantic restaurants for you.

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Valentine’s Day is more than just chocolate and dinner by candlelight. From beer and wine tastings to live performances that are literally out-of-this-world, romance comes in many forms this year to the East Bay.

Events and Getaways

I'll Toast to That: Break out the bubbly with Farmhouse Inn, the romantic and timeless wine country inn in Sonoma County. All of February, the Inn is offering a custom sparkling wine tasting experience that includes a picnic and a day of romantic adventure. $250 package, 7871 River Road, Forestville, (707) 887-3300.

Bump in the Night: On the first Thursday evening of the month (February 5), the Exploratorium in San Francisco hosts After Dark parties for the 18+ crowd. Sip cocktails, watch film screenings, get hands-on at exhibits, and mingle with artists and musicians. This month's theme is "Nocturnal," so come explore why darkness wakes certain brains; why music and strangers are more beautiful in the shadows; and which creatures are active at night (and why). 6 p.m.-10 p.m. $15 per person. Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green St.), San Francisco, (415) 528-4444.

Colors of Love: Love comes in more colors than just red at Slate Contemporary on February 6 for the Oakland Art Murmur and their exhibition Color Charts, which features large-scale works exploring the intersection of color, data, and information, by Carol Ladewig, Diane Rosenblum, and Lucky Rapp. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. and go until 9 p.m. 473 25th St., Oakland, (510) 652-4085.

Sweet and Savory: For the love of all things chocolate (and for those last-minute Valentine’s Day gifts), head to The Pasta Shop on 4th Street’s annual “For the Love of Chocolate” tasting event on February 7 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Savor free samples from Bay Area chocolatiers, and watch live demonstrations of Valentine’s Day meal to gather ideas. (Oh, and everything chocolate is ten percent off.) Sample cheese counter delicacies, chocolate sauce on house made croissants, chocolate goat cheese, and more. Plus, both Pasta Shop locations will be offering a special Valentine’s Menu, available from Thursday, February 12 to Sunday, February 15, which includes foie gras mousse, braised chicken with wild mushrooms, and lamingtons (cakes covered in chocolate and coconut). 1786 Fourth Street, Berkeley, (510) 250-6004; 5655 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 250-6005.

Old Fashioned Romance: Flora in Oakland is launching a Cocktail Workshop led by bar manager Matty McGee and general manager Joe Delgado. From 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on a Sunday evening, while Flora is closed, ten students can take one of Flora’s upcoming series of classes, including a class on Old Fashioneds and Manhattans on February 8. Learn all about bitters and syrups in the context of these two classic whiskey drinks, including their history, and make your own orange bitters to take home. Classes start at $75. 1900 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 286-0100.

Sweets and Sparkles: Maybe you didn’t get your sweetie a gorgeous necklace or bracelet for Valentine’s Day, but you can remedy that with an evening at Lafayette Art Gallery and their jewelry exhibit “Bubbles, Baubles and Bling.” From 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, February 8, there will be a reception of champagne and strawberries with featured jewelry from Dalia Alekna, Polly Bradbury, Olga Jusidman, Irenka Kudlicki, Jill Landau and Maggie Lucas-Hill. So, skip the jewelry store and get your love something better. Free, 3420 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, (925) 284-2788.

Love in the Wild: On Thursday, February 12, anyone 21 and up is welcome to join the Lindsay Wildlife Museum staff for "Kiss and Tail: An Evening of Wild Romance." Meet the animals and hear tales of wild animal romances as you sip wine and enjoy sweet bites. 7-8:30 p.m. $30 per person. Reserve a spot online or call (925) 935-1978.

Beer and Bubbles: Join Schubros Brewery, Pieces of Chocolate, Francis Coppola wines, and Diablo magazine on Friday, February 13, for an evening of five rounds of "Beer vs. Wine" chocolate pairings. Need we say more? Tickets are $60 for singles and $100 for couples. 6:30-8:30 p.m. 606 Sycamore Valley Rd., Danville, (925) 217-4588.

Drunk on Love: Pleasanton’s Museum on Main hosts its eighth annual Wines and Valentines winemaker’s fundraiser at the Castlewood Country Club on Friday, February 13. The four course dinner, live auction, and raffle begin at 6:30 p.m. and wines from Paso Robles-based Bianchi Vineyards will be featured and paired with ahi tuna, Hacienda salad, seared sea bass, and other delicious courses. $85 per person. Purchase online at museumonmain.org or (925) 462-2766. Castlewood Country Club, 707 Country Club Circle, Pleasanton.

All the Single Ladies (and Fellas): Put on your party clothes February 14 for the Society of Single Professionals' Valentines Ball. 8 p.m.-midnight. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Hilton Hotel Bay Bridge, 1600 Powell St., Emeryville, (415) 507-9962.

Go Victorian: Forest Home Farms Historic Park and the Glass House Museum's weekly Saturday afternoon Fun on the Farm event takes on a special theme for February 14: Victorian Valentine Making and Lace. Come make old-fashioned Valentine greetings as you learn the history behind them, and see how lace is made by hand. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. 19953 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon, (925) 973-3284.

Love’s Arrows Fly: Gather your honey, a group of friends, or all of the above for an energetic day at the CupidCon Valentine’s Day Bar Crawl and Photo Scavenger Hunt in downtown Berkeley on February 14. The love begins at 1 p.m. at the downtown Berkeley BART plaza and what happens from there is up to you…or Cupid. Fly to eleven different bars and restaurants for an afternoon of drink specials. Don’t forget to dress up because awards for best costume and take pictures of all of your scavenger hunt finds will be awarded at 5 p.m. at BUILD Pizzeria. Free, downtown Berkeley BART plaza.

Love Among Artwork: If your significant other is a lover of the arts, take him or her to the Oakland Museum of California to see Marion Gray's Within the Light exhibition. Gray is known around the Bay Area for her groundbreaking work that blurred the lines between photography, performance, and documentation. The exhibit features 23 photos, some of which have never been seen before. $15 admission per person. 1000 Oak St., Oakland, (888) 625-6873.

Wine Country Weekend: Pack an overnight bag and bring your sweetheart to Napa Valley’s Poetry Inn for a weekend of romance and seclusion with the Valentine’s Day Wine Country Package, February 13-15. Tour and taste the best of Cliff Lede vineyards after you enjoy an hour-long couple's massage. Packages start at $1,330. 6380 Silverado Trail, Napa, (707) 944-0646.

Symphony for Sweethearts: Head to the Paramount Theatre in Oakland on February 20 for the world premiere of a new violin concerto, Excitement, written and performed by jazz composer and violinist Mads Tolling. The Oakland East Bay Symphony will also perform Haydn's Mass in Time of War with the Oakland Symphony Chorus and Pacific Boychoir, plus Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 1. Be there an hour early and catch a pre-concert talk with John Kendall Bailey at 7 p.m. 8 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $70. 2025 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 444-0802.

P.S. I Love You: Join P.S. I Love You for their “Dark and Delicious” event at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda for an evening that's all about your love, food—and Petite Sirah of course. $65 per person. Friday, February 20, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.,  (707) 620-0788.

Go Sci-Fi: Comic books, sci-fi, a live cinematic score—oh my! Couples who share a love for the nerdier things will enjoy venturing back to the good ole days at Bankhead Theater’s The Intergalactic Nemesis on February 28, for a live multimedia theater performance that brings the graphic novel Target Earth to life. Voice-overs, piano, and sound effects accompany more than 1,250 comic book images, making it a one-of-a-kind experience that’s likely to entertain even the most anti-geek significant other. 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 to $69. 2400 First St., Livermore, (925) 373-6100.

Romantic Dinners for Any Day This Month

Oakland Estuary waterfront views, cuisine from numerous regions of the Italian peninsula, and your favorite dining partner: Now that's amore at Il Pescatore. Jack London Square, 31 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 465-2188.

Between views of your lovely dinner date and the moonlit Bay out the window, you’re sure to be left speechless in the dining room of the Meritage at the Claremont. 41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley, (510) 549-8510.

Chef Rodney Worth’s dark chocolate fondue—a special menu item at The Peasant and The Pear—is just one of his delectable masterpieces for February 14. 267 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-6611.

Make a dinner reservation for The Terrace Room at Lake Merritt Hotel just before sunset, and watch the sun sink over the lake. 1800 Madison St., (510) 903-3771.

Restaurant Specials for Valentine's Day

Ignite your Valentine’s Day with Indian cuisine at Ajanta Restaurant in Berkeley from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, or from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner. In addition to the standard a la carte menu, there will be a Chef’s Tasting Menu offered, with three appetizers and four main dishes, plus side dishes, for $28.50. There’s also a vegetarian option for $25.50. 1888 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 526- 4373.

Take your taste buds and your love on a trip through the flavors of Italy without leaving Berkeley. From noon to midnight on Valentine’s Day, BUILD Pizzeria Roma will be offering his and hers specialty cocktails, an appetizer of Ravioli a Mano, and Chocolate Pavlova for dessert in addition to their regular menu. Free movie passes for United Artists Berkeley 7 right next door will be given out to the winning couple as part of that evening’s raffle. All couples will be entered for a chance to win. 2286 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 898-1839.

Break out the pearls and fedoras for an evening of cocktails and dancing at Capone’s Speakeasy in Alameda. Along with a 5 percent discount on glasses of everything bubbly, select bottles of champagne and wine will be offered at 15 percent off. Spend $25 on food, you will receive four free chocolate covered strawberries to make your evening extra sweet. Live music will begin at 8 p.m. and continue until the DJ takes over at 11 p.m. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. and end at 1:30 a.m. 1400 Park Street, Alameda, (510) 522-2391.

Dazzle your darling with an elegant six course meal at Chevalier in Lafayette. From black and white truffle oil to organic duck ravioli, the courses from owner and chef Philippe Chevalier continue to impress. He didn't win those six Michelin Bib Gourmand awards for nothing. 960 Moraga Road, Lafayette, (925) 385-0793.

In addition to the regular menu, Esin in Danville will be offering a three-course Valentine's Day menu, which includes options like poached pear salad, filet mignon, and one of Esin's signature desserts. $59 per person plus tax, $25 for suggested wine pairing, limited seating available. To reserve, visit esinrestaurant.com, or call (925) 314-0974. 750 Camino Ramon, Danville.

Eureka! is celebrating Valentine’s Day with His & Hers handcrafted beverages. His: Mission Brewery’s Dark Seas Russian Imperial Stout aged for eight months in Four Roses Bourbon Barrels (available beginning February 9). Hers: raspberry chocolate kiss cocktail (available February 9-16, $11) featuring Prichard's double chocolate bourbon, raspberry syrup, and red grapefruit juice. Eureka! 2068 Center St., Berkeley, (510) 809-8282.

Fall head over heels for Joshu-ya Brasserie’s four-course meal of duck breast, roasted pig, foie gras, and Wagyu strip sirloin in addition to the omakase entrée for just $60. This special menu addition will begin being served at 4 p.m, while the regular menu will be served starting at 11:30 a.m. 2441 Dwight Way, Berkeley, (510) 848-5260.

The team behind the bar at Moresi’s Chophouse in Clayton has created a cocktail menu exclusively available on Valentine’s Day. For the gin lover, the “Gimme Love Gimlet” is crafted with Hendrick’s Gin, house made strawberry-lime syrup, fresh cucumber, lemon, and lime, and served up. The “French Kiss” (Grey Goose Vodka, Lillet Blanc, house made cranberry/blood orange juice, garnished with candied blood orange zest, and served up) may just make good on its name and leave the evening's activities in your favor. Or order a “Kentucky Laurel” on the rocks: Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey, house made lemon syrup, Aperol, orange bitters, house made bourbon/cherry syrup, and house made ginger ale. 6115 Main St., Clayton, (925) 672-1333.

For more great dates, check out our February feature, "28 Days in 28 Dates."