Every time I write a column about where to eat out for Valentine's Day, I end up metaphorically drooling over all the delicious-sounding descriptions.
Like the chocolate ganache torte or cheesecake-stuffed strawberries on the menu at Cafe Via on North Blackstone. Don't they sound swoon-inducing?
There are all kinds of desserts, main dishes and wine pairings offered on Valentine's night across the Valley, ranging from budget-friendly pizza to knock-your-date's-socks-off impressive high-end restaurants.
Just remember to make reservations. Since Valentine's falls on a Friday this year, restaurants likely will be extra busy.
-- Cafe Via, which has the torte and strawberries, is at 6640 N. Blackstone Ave. The restaurant is hosting a Valentine's dinner for two for $75, excluding tax and tip.
The menu also includes seafood crepes, a grilled steak or a seared chicken breast stuffed with feta, spinach and pancetta. Your reservation comes with a red rose.
Details: (559) 447-8706.
-- It will be a special Valentine's Day at The Ripe Tomato Restaurant in Fig Garden Village because the restaurant closes Feb. 15 after 37 years.
Always a popular spot on holidays like this, there's likely to be lots of reminiscing and goodbyes going on. The restaurant is close to being booked up, so if you can't get a Valentine's table, you might want to try to go before then to say your goodbyes.
If you can swing a table, you get options such as New England lobster tail with herb crust and Meyer lemon Champagne sauce, roast duck with amaretto pear sauce and pistachios or a prime New York steak with black peppercorn sauce.
Details: (559) 225-1850.
-- Erna's Elderberry House in Oakhurst was just rated one of the top 100 most romantic restaurants in America by the website Open Table. Its Valentine's menu includes beef rib-eye, thyme-poached Chilean sea bass and a heart-shaped chocolate cake.
Dinner costs $120 per person.
The restaurant also has Valentine-themed dinners throughout the week, from Feb. 10 to Feb. 15. Each menu is different, but "inspired by Cupid." Cost is $95 per person.
Details: chateausureau.com or at (559) 683-6800.
-- The Elbow Room and Five restaurant in Fresno, Crab Cakes Restaurant in Oakhurst and Ducey's in Bass Lake all are having Valentine's specials.
-- Since budgets often are an issue, let's talk about some options that are a little easier on the wallet. Me-N-Ed's will be doing its heart-shaped pizzas once again. The pizzas are the same price as regular ones.
Valentine's is "one of our busiest days of the year, in fact," says Tom Ferdinandi, chief operations officer of Me-N-Ed's parent company.
Though you can easily make a night of pizza and a movie on the couch, most customers buy pizza for the kids while they go out to a nice restaurant, he says.
-- For a little more of a dining-out experience, but still accessible to those on a budget, Capo's by Giuseppe Gallo's has several options. Last year the restaurant at 7835 Palm Ave. in the Park Place shopping center did a limited menu, but found that some customers wanted to order off the regular menu.
So this time they'll do both.
"If they want to come in and get a pizza, they can get a pizza," says owner Cher Martin.
Or anything else on the menu ranging from an $11 cheddar burger to $28 pan-seared sea bass topped with fresh tomato-basil broth.
Diners who opt for the special Valentine's menu — $105 for two — get two glasses of Champagne, an appetizer, soup or salad, dessert and a choice of main dishes: blackened sea bass, filet mignon Oscar or chicken bruschetta.
-- If dining out isn't your thing, but chocolate and wine are, check out the two wine-tasting events this weekend.
The Wine & Chocolate Lovers Weekend in Fresno County runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The event is free for people who bring their own glass.
The event includes 10 wineries, two breweries and two tasting rooms. Chocolate, entertainment and shopping will be available at some wineries.
For details and to print out a map: fresnocountywinejourney.com.
The Madera Wine Trail's Wine and Chocolate Weekend is on the same days, but runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ten wineries will feature chocolate pairings, live music, shopping and gourmet food.
Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 at the event. Tickets can be purchased at MaderaWineTrail.com or at most participating wineries.
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.