San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Two’s Company: Where to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

So just who started Valentine’s Day? And exactly when did it start? A few different legends try to explain it. St. Valentine may have been one of several different figures, most of whom were martyrs. The bottom line is that no one really seems to be sure exactly who deserves the credit.

While the history of this special day may be cloudy, what seems to work for many to woo their lovers is pretty clear: chocolates, flowers and dinner for two. This recipe has been followed by couples of all ages across the globe. Here are some suggestions to keep the recipe fresh.

White House hotel, restaurant, casino and spa will be staging an elegant Valentine’s Day affair with a view, at its location in the hills of San Antonio de Escazú, west of San José. Though specifics were not available at press time, The Capitol Grill restaurant will be offering a choice of three menus, “Valentine’s,”“ Passion” and “Love.” For info or reservations, call 288-6362. For more about the hotel, visit

Down in Bello Horizonte de Escazú, Big Mike’s has prepared an impressive menu to dazzle your loved one on Feb. 14. Owner Michael Forbes says Valentine’s dinner will include an appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert and a glass of house wine for about ¢12,000 ($23) per person. Lovers can choose from filet mignon à la béarnaise, salmon fillet with shrimp filling, sautéed rainbow trout almondine, shish kabob with rice pilaf or skewered jumbo shrimp with bourbon molasses. Call 289-6087 to reserve. For more about Big Mike’s restaurant, cooking classes and other culinary adventures, visit

Also in Escazú, Sebastian restaurant will be offering its regular international menu, including dishes such as tenderloin with cilantro sauce (¢6,200/$12), pasta in a black squid sauce (¢4,800/$9), and pasta in white wine sauce with cayenne pepper and shrimp (¢5,500/$11), accompanied by a string and percussion duo that will entertain diners at their tables. To reserve, call 289-8208.

For romance in the hills of Heredia, Baalbeck restaurant will be offering some delicious options to strike your fancy. Choose between three main dishes of Middle Eastern fare, followed by a dessert choice of either coconut flan or tres leches. A glass of white or red wine is included in the fixed meal, which will cost $26 per person. After dinner, stay around to enjoy a mix of Caribbean music, salsa and merengue by Grupo Marfil, starting at 9 p.m. Baalbeck is in Los Angeles de San Rafael in Heredia. For reservations, call 267-6683.

For a truly unique, ultra-romantic experience, Park Café in the western San José neighborhood of Sabana Norte is a choice you won’t forget. With several Michelin restaurants under his belt, chef Richard Neat opened Park Café just a few weeks ago to complement his partner Louise’s existing antique shop. The open-air dining area surrounds a courtyard complete with tinkling fountain, intimate lighting and a gorgeous selection of antiques providing elegant decor.

The menu for the evening is a set meal of five tapas, including soup of leek with ham, ravioli of mushrooms with asparagus, tataki of tuna with aubergine puree, brochette of shrimp with a Thai mango salad and millefeuille of chicken and bacon with guacamole.

A sampling of five exquisite dessert items follows, lined on a long platter for an intimate, shared dessert experience. The cost for this set meal is ¢15,000 ($29) per person. To reserve, call 290-6324.

In nearby Sabana Sur, popular Spanish restaurant Casa Luisa will be featuring two guitarists playing romantic music and trova to serenade lovers while they dine, as well as complimentary champagne. The restaurant’s menu includes Spanish paella and exotic items such as rabbit, lamb and tepezcuintle (paca). For reservations, call 296-1917.

The Aurola Holiday Inn in downtown San José will be offering a fixed menu including appetizers, main dish and dessert.

Start with canapé mushrooms with an avocado dip, follow with a fresh caprese salad, and then choose between fish Florentine or pork loin for your entrée. A single-serving-size bottle of red or white wine is included in the meal, which will cost ¢7,000 ($13) per person. To turn up the charm, each party will be given a complimentary rose. For information or reservations, call 523-1000.

In eastern San José’s trendy Barrio Escalante, Mediterranean restaurant Olio has its own special Valentine’s night prepared. For starters, diners can choose between cream of pumpkin soup or salad with smoked salmon, followed by an entrée of fish fillet with seafood salsa, chicken Florentine, steak in Cajun sauce or vegetarian pasta with tomato and olives. For dessert, lovers may choose between almond cassata and passionfruit mousse. To add some romance to the air, a jazz saxophonist will play throughout the evening. The set menu is priced at ¢7,500 ($14). For info, call 838-8266.

If all you have is a sweet tooth, Mara’s Pastelería, in downtown San José’s court district, offers a sinful selection of homemade cakes and pies for ¢9,000 ($17) each.

As a Valentine’s Day special, Mara’s will be offering specialty cakes with a personal message of your choice to show your love. For information, call 221-5930.

If you’re looking for something different to enjoy with your partner, Broadway Beauty in Escazú offers a couple’s massage with aromatherapy for ¢35,000 ($67) per person. Guys can be treated to a little more sugar with a chocolate facial lasting one hour and women are offered a collagen or vitamin C facial for ¢25,000 ($48) each. Or go deluxe with the spa’s third option of full-body exfoliation, massage, manicure and pedicure for ¢65,500 ($126) per person. Appointments can be made at 282-0232.


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