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Restaurants expect to feel the love

Restaurants expect to feel the love

While the economy may have consumers watching what they spend, this Sunday’s Valentine’s Day is expected to be a holiday that opens hearts and pocketbooks.

In its annual holiday sales forecast, IBISWorld, a Los Angeles research firm, said it expects spending on dining out to increase 8.2 percent from last year. Total Valentine’s Day spending, including gifts or travel, is expected to increase 3.3 percent.

“Because Valentine’s Day lands on a Sunday, restaurants are likely to gain traffic throughout the entire weekend,” Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld, said in a statement. “Furthermore, because President’s Day is on the following Monday, many consumers will be able to travel over the three-day weekend, further boosting restaurant sales.”

Saturday traffic may increase as well. According to a survey conducted by the online reservation website OpenTable, just as many of its users are planning to dine on Feb. 13 as those who are planning for Feb. 14.

Restaurateurs took note of the long weekend and consumer interest in Saturday, Sunday or Monday celebrations by offering more options or extended hours throughout the entire weekend. Some top restaurant destinations, however, were hit by a weekend reservation scandal earlier this week. Read more here.

This weekend, participating Bonefish Grill locations are planning to open early at 11:30 am on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Vermillion, a concept with locations in New York and Chicago, will make its five-course Indian-Latin Valentine’s Day menu available all weekend, Feb. 12-14. The Russian Tea Room in New York also will offer guests a five-course menu available all weekend, featuring dishes containing food items considered to be aphrodisiacs.

Aselection of innovative approaches to the Valentine’s Day weekend:

Give a piece of your heart. Papa Murphy’s, the take-n-bake pizza chain, currently offers a heart-shaped pepperoni pizza through Valentine’s Day. Price varies depending on size and addition of toppings.

Nick-N-Willy’s, a franchise company based in Centennial, Colo., is offering large one- or two-topping heart-shaped pizzas at a discounted price of $6.50 Feb. 8through Feb. 14.

Pizzarelli’s Pizzeria in St. Louis also debuted its version of a heart-shaped pizza on Feb. 7. Papa John’s said they would offer a thin-crust, one-topping heart-shaped pizza and a Cinnapie for $14.99, or two heart-shaped thin-crust pizzas with one topping for $19.99, Feb. 11 to Feb. 14.

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar pledged to donate $1 from each sale of its heart-shaped pizzas and desserts to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Numero 28 Pizzeria in New York adds a sweet twist to the heart-shaped pizza parade with their Passion Pizza, topped with Nutella and strawberries and garnished with mint and whipped cream. The Passion Pizza is a version of Numero 28’s usual dessert pizza, which features pears instead of strawberries. The crust is chewier than the crusts for non-dessert pizzas so that it compliments the Nutella. The Passion Pizza will be available for $7 on Valentine’s Day only.

Hearts aren’t just for pizzas, though. Dairy Queen is offering heart-shaped, custom-decorated cakes that feature layers of chocolate soft-serve ice cream topped with crunchy chocolate cookie pieces and vanilla soft-serve ice cream topped with a creamy icing.

Sweets for the sweet. In keeping with the Valentine’s Day staples of sweets, chocolates and something red, all Dairy Queen and DQ Grill & Chill restaurants have been serving the Choco Cherry Love Blizzard as February’s Blizzard of the Month. The Choco Cherry Love Blizzard is a blend of chocolate chunks, sweet cherry topping and DQ soft serve. The average retail price is $2.76 for 12 oz., $3.20 for 16 oz., and $3.65 for 21 oz.

FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe also announced a flavor of the month with a new raspberry version of their original frozen yogurt recipe. Along with the raspberry flavored frozen yogurt, Freshberry added a new topping called Fudge Brownie Bites.

Dunkin’ Donuts said February will be “Chocolate Lovers” month, introducing doughnuts like the Triple Chocolate Donut, a chocolate cake doughnut topped with chocolate frosting and milk chocolate chips, and the Sprinkle The Love Donut, a chocolate frosted yeast doughnut topped with heart-shaped sprinkles. Other menu items touted by the coffee and doughnut chain include the White Chocolate Latte and Triple Chocolate Muffin.

Spot Dessert Bar in New York will sell items both chocolate and red in the restaurant from Feb. 14 to Feb. 21. Special items include Sweet Milk, which are heart-shaped shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling and raspberry marshmallows. Guests can also go big with the $50 “Madly In Love” package, which includes four cupcakes, four chocolate strawberries, four sugar cookies, two bags of raspberry marshmallows and two chocolate covered pretzels.

Sharing is Caring. Executive chef Travis Timberlake of Art and Soul in Washington, D.C., created a special three-course, shareable dinner for Valentine’s Day. It includes a complimentary Champagne cocktail with strawberry-basil foam and sliced strawberries.

ZED451 plans to have a dessert table available for couples dining on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, including shareable desserts like S’Mores Pie and Gingersnap Cookies and Berghoff Root Beer.

Raise a glass. While dining out may be the focus of Valentine’s Day celebrations, restaurants aren’t neglecting beverages this year.

Bar Henry in New York is serving up Valentine’s Day concoctions like the Mole Alejandro, made with chocolate-infused tequila, chocolate liqueur, cream and shaved dark chocolate garnished with fresh seasonal berries dipped in chocolate. There’s also the more anti-Valentine’s Day bittersweet drink, the Heartbreak in Padova, which is made with gin, Aperol, grapefruit-infused Averna, Sambuca and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice garnished with a heart-shaped grapefruit garnish.

Don Coqui in New Rochelle, N.Y., is hosting a Valentine’s Day wine pairing dinner on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14. However, for those interested in something to drink other than wine, there is El Encanto, a sparkling rose Champagne drink with guava nectar, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, or the Besitos, a fruit and chocolate cocktail made with white chocolate liqueur, coconut syrup, passion fruit rum, Chambord, and garnished with shaved chocolate and strawberries. While the El Encanto was added to the regular cocktail menu, the Besitos is only available through Valentine’s Day.

Dave Shenaut and chef Chris Degenhardt of Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Ore., worked together to create a multi-course cocktail pairing dinner. The drinks were created around the theme of grapes. For example, the amuse-bouche of Pecorino Tartufo cheese with muscatel gastrique and lavash is paired with an “amuse-booze” made with grappa, a berry-flavored liqueur from the Navarre region of Spain called pacharan, and West Indian orange bitters.

Mixologist Jose Torrella at Barclay Bar & Grill at the Intercontinental Barclay in New York created several cocktails available for $14. One of the three cocktails, the Bitter Sweet Love, is made with vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, pomegranate molasses and simple syrup, and garnished with edible flower petals.

Contact Sonya Moore at [email protected].

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