Okay, we get it: a romantic, preferably candle-lit meal is the most important part of any Valentine’s Day. Fortunately, Houstonia Food Editor Robb Walsh, a veteran of many V-Day meals, both successful and not, has you covered, with a list of dining suggestions ranging from the four-pound lobster at Palm to the Vegetarian Dinner for Two at Nirvana. Because he’s such a swell guy, Walsh also throws in a recipe for Quail in Rose Petal Sauce, adapted from the novel Like Water for Chocolate.
So you’re covered for food—now, what about the rest of the evening? That’s where On The Town comes in. From romantic getaways to classical music to put you in the mood for love, Houstonia presents a discerning guide to a night of passion and culture. (Unless otherwise noted, all events take place on Feb. 14.)
On Thursday (Feb. 13) night, the Alamo Drafthouse–Vintage Park screens arguably the most romantic movie of all time, 1942’s Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart as hard-bitten, hard-drinking nightclub owner Rick and Ingrid Bergman as the woman who got away from Rick in Paris, only to reappear in Morocco with her husband, a Czech resistance fighter. On Friday and Saturday (Feb. 14 & 15), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will show Renoir, a 2012 French biopic about the great Impressionist, who painted some of the most lush, voluptuous landscapes and portraits in the history of art.
To whet your appetite for Renoir, head over to the MFAH’s Beck Building to check out the museum’s blockbuster show The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, featuring masterpieces by Renoir, Manet, Monet, and Pissarro. If you’re a fan of Toulouse-Lautrec (who’s also included in the show), you might follow the exhibition up by watching a DVD of Moulin Rouge!, starring John Leguizamo as the diminutive Frenchman.
Over at Leon’s Lounge, DJ Rico will be spinning classic vinyl from Frank Sinatra, Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, John Coltrane, and others. The name of the show? “A Love Supreme,” natch. The real name of the mysterious DJ Rico? Rick Mitchell, former Chronicle music critic, KPFT DJ, and Houston International Festival music director. If Gulf Coast music is more your thing, check out Nick Gaitan & The Umbrella Man at D & W. Or, if you just feel like rocking out, catch the Dead Links and the debut of Ambulance! (the latest incarnation of beloved Houston ’90s band Horseshoe) at Rudyard’s Pub in Montrose. Linda Eder's planned concert with the Houston Symphony has been rescheduled to May 29 because of a winter storm on the East Coast. Instead, the symphony will perform a free Valentine's Day performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, led by Concertmaster Frank Huang. Seating is first-come, first-served, and doors open at 6:30 for the 7:30 concert.
This V-Day offers a heaping helping of Bach, with the Symphony hosting world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax playing the great German composer’s Piano Concerto in D Minor (Feb. 13 & 15), Mercury performing the complete Brandenburg Concertos (Feb. 13 at UH–Clear Lake and Feb. 14 at the Wortham Theater Center), and Bach Society Houston mounting the Mass in B Minor (Feb. 16), the latter two concerts staged in conjunction with the Houston Early Music Festival.
Failure: A Love Story may not have the most promising title—and matters aren’t helped by the revelation, early in the play, that all the main characters will suffer untimely deaths—but if you’re tired of saccharine-sweet V-Day pap, this black comedy may be just the antidote. Playwright Philip Dawkins tells the story of the Fail family, European immigrants who open a clock repair shop at the intersection of Lumber and Love Streets in Chicago. For another absurdist fable, try Main Street’s production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, which Houstonia’s own Scott Vogel praised as “an evening of power and humor and honest emotion, such that you don’t often get to see.”
To inject a dose of raunchy randomness into your V-Day, head over to Peggy Shifflick Park in Montrose, where a “renegade dance party flash mob” will assemble promptly at 5 p.m. The event is the brainchild of Nomadic Beats and is intended as a corrective to the “Greeding Card Industrial Complex.” The announced schedule includes dancing, taunting motorists, and finally scattering “like kisses on the wind.”
Whether you live in Galveston or are just visiting for a romantic weekend, stroll over to the Historic Pleasure Pier and take your sweetheart for a ride on the Gulf Glider—only $5 for two tickets from 4–9 on V-Day—or embark for a dinner cruise on the 1800-style Colonel Paddlewheeler. If you feel like splurging, book a Valentine’s Day Package at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa on Lake Conroe, which includes dinner for two in Restaurant 157, featuring a live jazz band, and a suite with private balcony and lake views. Add a spa package to make a day of it.