Go beyond red roses to woo your sweetie this year: An array of aphrodisiac dining experiences awaits in and around Toronto.
Set in a funky, 150-year-old red-brick warehouse with wooden beams, Pure Spirits Oyster House offers intimate hardwood booths, perfect for moon-eyed couples. This casual Distillery District spot serves up fresh, sustainable oysters from Canada’s East and West Coasts, as well as the U.S. and France. Try the delicate, briny Malpeques from Prince Edward Island or the buttery Kumamotos shipped in fresh from the Pacific. And steps from Pure Spirits is Soulpepper Theatre, where this February you can follow dinner with a celebrated musical about young love, The Fantasticks, or the William Shakespeare classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Spice it up
Torontonian Iron Chef Sasi Meechai-Lim has hosted the likes of Kate Moss, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson at her Cabbagetown restaurant, Mengrai Thai. Every Sunday, she shares her spicy secrets at “Kitchen Romance for Couples” cooking classes (private lessons are available by reservation). As well as learning to blend and harmonize flavors by making dishes like succulent grilled beef salad, sweet lemongrass and chicken soup, and snuggle-inducing pad Thai (packed to take home), couples pick up expert tips on wine pairing. The last part of the three-hour experience involves sitting back and unwinding by candlelight over a paired tasting menu of Chef Sasi’s exquisitely presented signature dishes.
For the love of wine
Architecture lovers will get a kick out of Niagara’s Jack Diamond-designed Southbrook Vineyards pavilion. Animal lovers will adore the sweet sheep grazing placidly among the biodynamic vineyard’s vines. And all lovers will be charmed by Southbrook’s limited-edition Poetica wines: Each year that the vintage truly excels, one white and/or one red is bottled under the Poetica name, and is then assigned an individual poem on its label, penned by a renowned Canadian poet. Couples can book an exclusive tasting session from a decade’s worth of Poetica wines, and afterwards shop for their favorites in the high-design boutique. And if you’re lucky, you can also get your hands on one of the 200 blankets woven each year from the resident sheep’s wool – perfect for post-tipple snuggling.
Some like it hot
Warm up your hands (and hearts) at Soma Chocolatemaker’s hot chocolate bar. As you sip from a steaming mug, you can peer through the glass wall into the “chocolate lab,” where all kinds of cocoa beans, from feral Bolivian to organic Costa Rican, are transformed into inventive chocolate barks, gelatos and micro-batch bars. Sampling is encouraged. The liquid elixirs at the bar include Mayan Hot Chocolate, made from dark Venezuelan chocolate, cinnamon, Australian ginger, chili peppers, orange peel, Madagascar vanilla and a secret blend of spices, and Bicerin, made with milky Italian hazelnut chocolate and a shot of espresso – sure to boost energy and libido. Can’t decide which to try? Take home an elixir gift box stocked with four Soma flavors and extend your Valentine’s break well into spring.
Pure Spirits Oyster House, 55 Mill St., Toronto, 416-361-5859 purespirits.ca
Mengrai Thai, 82 Ontario St., Toronto, 416-546-0331 mengraithai.com
Southbrook Vineyards, 581 Niagara Stone Rd., RR4, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-888-581-1581 southbrook.com
Soma Chocolatemaker, 55 Mill St., Bldg. 48, Toronto, 416-815-7662 somachocolate.com
Ontario Tourism, 1-800-ONTARIO 1-800-668-2746 www.ontariotravel.net