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Nothing But Love

A NUVO Guide to Valentine's Day

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Always here to help, team NUVO has put together a cheat sheet to help make your choices for Valentine's Day a little easier.

Oh sure, we've been cynical about Valentine's Day in the past. We've ridiculed and reviled, lampooned and lambasted it from every possible angle, except for the years when we just flat out ignored St. Valentine and the holiday set aside to honor him. These days, however, we're feeling nothing but love. And we're letting you know up front that the 2010 NUVO Guide to Valentine's Day is brimming with sappiness and warm fuzzies.

Yes, we're still cynical and snarky. But we're also looking forward to taking a night this week, spending it with that special someone, saying "I love you," and, if we've played our cards right, end up rolling under the sheets until dawn, naked and blissfully happy. We think it's a fairly safe bet that most of you have similar goals.

Our celebration of love centers around sensuality this year, with food as the perfect vehicle for transporting you and your significant other to a land where cupids swarm overhead and condoms never break. Mostly we recommend that you take some sort of culinary adventure this Valentine's Day - revisit a special place from the past or set out in search of something new. From the wine to the chocolate, appetizer to desert, the evening is all about the mouth, and its inevitable collision with various other body parts.

Here are some tastes we think are worth exploring that should help transport the two of you from point A to point B, no matter what your priorities are for the evening. Just remember, it's not only Valentine's Day — it's also National Condom Awareness Week.

Celebrate love, safely.

XOXO

Priority: ROMANCE

It's hard to define what makes one restaurant more romantic than another, particularly when romance itself means different things to different couples. In general, it's a place that transports the two of you into another realm; one that makes you the center of a candlelit universe. Temporary, yes. Expensive, perhaps. But mostly it's about ambient and amorous intimacy.

Eagle's Nest

What could be more romantic than a rotating view of the downtown Indianapolis skyline? Apparently, not much according to NUVO readers who include the Eagle's Nest in the Best of Indy most romantic restaurant winners' list every year since time began. Yes, the décor is a little dated, as are the habits of some of the staff. But the food is good and the vibe is delicious. Saturday and Sunday the restaurant is offering special four-course Valentine's dinner at $95 per person + drinks. Reservations are required. Call 616-6170 or visit www.opentable.com. $$$

Mama Carolla's Old Italian

Hands-down, this is the most romantic restaurant in the city, primarily because it oozes ambiance. From the warm wood interior to the diverse, authentic menu, both pleasantly complemented by a glass of house wine, just try not to look lovingly into one another's eyes while waiting for your food. Once delivered, Mama Carolla's portions and palate burst with savory flavors like garlic and parmaggiano reggiano, and every entrée comes with a side soup or salad. Limited reservations for Sunday, Feb. 14; but Friday and Saturday are the usual first come, first serve. (Good luck with that, btw.) www.mamacarollas.com, 1031 E. 54th St., 259-9412 $$

Nourish Café

For one of the most romantic nights possible, take your honey to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In addition to the amazing collection of some of the finest art in the world, there's also movies at the Toby Theatre. Most importantly, there is also the Nourish Café. Located on the ground floor of the museum, the focus is on simple, healthy, and tasty food from local vendors. The menu includes handcrafted soups and salads, artisan sandwiches and pasta dishes and ranges anywhere from $1 to $11. www.imamuseum.org/connect/dine, 4000 Michigan Rd., 923-1331 $-$$

R Bistro

Some of our most romantic evenings have taken place at R Bistro, thanks in part to the company we keep, but most of the credit goes to Chef Regina Mehallick who takes special care in arranging the menu every week — not just on big holidays. She's a chef who works hard to incorporate seasonal, locally-made produce, and the result is one of the most creative menus in Indianapolis. It's a small, intimate space. And it's a favorite for lots of couples, so reservations are ALWAYS recommended. www.rbistro.com, 888 Massachusetts Ave., 423-0312 $$$

Traders Point Loft Restaurant

This quaint eatery, located at Indiana's only 100% grass-fed organic dairy farm, features some of the freshest and finest dinners around in a rustic, romantic setting. This year, the Loft is offering a candlelit "It Takes Two" dinner Feb. 12, 13 and 14 featuring a four-course meal for $48 per person. There's also brunch on Sunday featuring both a Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame with TPC's Fleur de la Terre and Gruyere cheeses on toasted white challah. We're in love just thinking about it. Reservations highly recommended. www.traderspointcreamery.com, 9101 Moore Rd., Zionsville, 733-1700 $$-$$$

Priority: NEW FLAVORS

They say variety is the spice of life, and whether or not you and your significant other have taken vows of monogamy, there's no reason you can't try new flavors every now and then. Each of these favorites promise an opportunity to whet appetites you seldom indulge or might not have otherwise discovered.

Bosphorus Turkish Cuisine

Sultan's Delight (tender, rich lamb over eggplant) and all kinds of kebab rule at one of Indy's most-loved and elegantly furnished Middle Eastern restaurants. Serving an assortment of authentic Turkish appetizers, soups, entrées, and desserts, be sure to try the fried calamari or the borek, a flaky pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley. For a beverage, check out the ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink. Now open on Sundays. www.bosphoruscafe.com, 935 S. East St., 974-1770 $$

H2O Sushi

An eclectic mix of traditional-style sushi and modern flavor combinations that borrow on a variety of traditions — European, South American, and North African, to name a few. While the menu boasts customary sushi bar items like sashimi and nigiri, Chef John Adams also offers creative specials, such as black mussels steamed in spicy tomato and corn sauce and seared foie gras with pain perdue, arugula, quail egg, Marcona almonds and Pedro Ximinez vinaigrette. Everything is made from scratch and we've yet to discover something not delicious. www.h2osushibar.com, 1912 Broad Ripple Ave., 254-0677 $$$

Passage to India

Passage to India — formerly Udupi Café — is the only restaurant of its kind in the city, specializing in authentic Indian vegetarian and vegan cuisine. The expanded menu offers a rich array of dishes from the two great schools of Indian cooking, northern (with its dairy leanings) and southern (known for its robust use of spice), resulting in a dining experience that relies on an uncommonly rich array of flavors, textures and degrees of heat — and what could be more sensual than that? 4225 Lafayette Rd., 299-2127 $-$$

Saffron Café

Known for its great blending of aromas and flavors, Saffron offers a wide variety of delicious North African (mostly Moroccan) cuisine; and can best be destined as a circus for the senses. We recommend the Antipasto Plate, a combination of three appetizers: hummus, zaalouk (an eggplant spread) and bakoula (a spinach spread) served with mild feta cheese and pita wedges. You might also try one of two specialty dishes: a Kafta Sandwich, finger rolls of finely ground, deeply seasoned and char-grilled beef served on an open-face pita and the Couscous Royale, a medley of vegetables served over couscous and steamed in a clay pot. Drink it all down with a sweet green tea with mint. www.saffroncafe-indy.com, 621 Fort Wayne Ave., 917-0131 $-$$

Pizzology

There's a lot of good pizza in this city. But when our foodie Jennifer Litz reviewed Neal Brown's new Pizzology a few months back, she described herself as "a lovestruck schoolgirl with singular attentions" who "eschewed all the wonderful possible permutations of salads, soups and pasta dishes on the menu for the seemingly endless artisan pies." Litz's love sickness is highly contagious. We don't know anyone who isn't raving about it. Seriously. You can get a delicious pie for under $20, but you're going to be one of many, many others with the same craving, so be patient. www.pizzologyindy.com, 13190 Hazel Dell Parkway (Carmel). 844.2554 $-$$

Priority: PRICE POINT

Let's face it, not all of us can afford the price tag that often comes with romantic or adventurous menus. As much as we love this particular man or woman, there's only so much cash on hand to translate that love into a decent meal. No worries. Money can't buy love anyway. Here are some low-cost, high-five dinner for two options that deliver a great time at a decent price.

Boogie Burger

You don't necessarily have to do the whole "one milkshake, two straws," thing, but why not? Broad Ripple's dining car of a restaurant, Boogie Burger is one of the best date night options in town. Everything's good, but we usually stick to the classic condiments or jazz up our burgers with grilled pastrami and Swiss cheese or fried egg and cheddar. Vegetarians have the option of soy patty or black bean substitutes. Don't forget an order of garlic fries or onion rings. (Hmm... not sure how that'll impact the rest of the night as far as kissing goes.) www.boogieburger.com, 977 E. Westfield Blvd., 255-2540 $

Gourmet Frank's

If you like dogs more than patties, don't despair. Gourmet Frank's, a new joint along the canal in Broad Ripple offers the wurst lovers among us (ha, ha — see what we did there?) a great treat. In addition to classics like the Chicago Vienna Beef and Hebrew National, there are also Italian Pork Sausage, Kielbasa, Santa Fe Turkey Sausage, Apple & Gouda Chicken and a Soy-Vegetarian Link, to name a few. To top it off, try the GF Special Fries: large waffle-cut fries dusted lightly with red pepper. 916 E. Westfield Blvd., 252-5790 $

Mug-n-Bun

Did somebody say tenderloin sandwich? The Mug-n-Bun drive-in restaurant's patty is pounded out wide, then fried to a crisp, just the way it should be. Some things that never change here: favorite onion rings, Dad's root beer floats, dogs, fries, double cheeseburgers and more. Be sure to grab some cash (they don't take credit cards) and eat a nice pork sandwich or a Coney dog covered in fried chili and wash it down with some homemade root beer in a thick, frosty mug. www.mug-n-bun.com, 5211 W. 10th St., 244-5669 $

Tata Cuban Café

Tata came to Indy like manna from the heavens, filling a sorely felt void in Cuban food. Slow-roasted pork and thick, sweet plantains are soul food staples that are executed effortlessly here. The menu includes Cuban sandwiches (picky eaters can't go wrong), salads, traditional dishes, desserts, and coffee. If these flavors aren't enough to get an evening spiced up, add a famous Tata five-dollar mojito. www.tatacubancafe.com, 137 W. Market St., 686-0855 $$

Yats

Nothin says love like New Orleans, baby (despite the Super Bowl results), and nothing says New Orleans tastier than Yats. This joint is always jumping and the love is always flowing. V-Day won't be any different. Get in line as soon as you walk in to the constant party that is Yats and assess the daily menu of six to 10 cajun/creole and original dishes that fluctuate depending on owner Joe Vuskovich's mood that day. At only $5.50, it's a steal. Throw in another choice for another buck. After you've decided on your dish comes the hard part, deciding which of the nine different types of hot sauce you're going to add. www.yatscajuncreole.com, 659 Massachusetts Ave., 317-686-6380 and 5463 N. College Ave., 253-8817 $

Priority: HOMEMADE

Not everyone wants to go out on Valentine's Day. It can be pricey, it's certain to be busy at any place that's any good, and who the hell wants to be the designated driver? (No honey, you drink the wine. I'm good with water. One of us has to stay sober for the drive home.) The DIY option allows you to stay home and share the wine. It also provides the added benefit of greatly reducing travel time between the table and bed should the meal spark a flame that doesn't have a lot of time before it erupts into a full-blown wildfire.

Cork and Cracker

A wonderful place to start if you need some help going big. The staff here is uber-friendly and can help you pair wine, cheese, crackers and other treats whether you intend to give or receive. An amazing selection of 400+ wines (many at $20 or less) and great micro-brews to choose from (six and twelve pack options, some mix-and-match). Take time to explore the cheese selection. With new arrivals constantly, they have some of the best Italian and French products available in town. www.corkandcracker.com, 2126 E. 62nd St., 722-9463.

Flying Cupcake

The Flying Cupcake is a neighborhood bakery you wish was in your neighborhood. Come for dreamy treats with names like What's up Doc? (moist carrot cake packed with coconut and raisins topped with velvety cream cheese), Chocolate Ganache (chocolate cupcake topped with a rich chocolate ganache and white chocolate shavings), The Bee's Knee's (light honey pear cupcake scented with ginger and topped with honey buttercream)... we could go on, and on, and on. Menu changes daily, if not hourly. Expect amazing and popular Valentine-themed delicacies. www.theflyingcupcakebakery.com, 5617 N. Illinois St., 396-2696.

Georgetown Market

Looking for a one-stop to create a healthy, delicious meal for you and the sweetie? Start at Georgetown. From fresh, organic produce and delicious deli items that please vegans and meat-eaters alike to a friendly, knowledgeable staff, this place makes it easy. And if you don't want to make everything yourself, they've also got a market eatery as well, offering a daily hot bar, sandwich menu, fresh salad, and fresh, made-from-scratch soup. www.georgetownmarket.com, 4375 Georgetown Rd., 293-9525

Goose the Market

Here's where the foodies shop, and it's easy to see why. Goose is Indy's gourmet food mecca, supplying neighborhood-handy, delicious and often specialty locally produced food. From a selection of City Mouse Country Mouse products to an exquisite meat counter and small café offering sandwiches and soups, Goose the Market seems to have it all. If that's not enough, stock up on fresh baguettes, grains and fun and funky flavors of gelato that can make for fun and flavorful desert. Also, be sure to visit the wine cellar with all bottles under $25. Beers and ales are also offered. www.goosethemarket.com, 2503 N. Delaware St., 924-4944

Nicole-Taylor's Pasta & Market

Want a delicious and authentic pasta dinner without the maddening crowds in front of all the good restaurants? Lucky for you, you can have an amazing meal at home thanks to Nicole-Taylor. The market is well-stocked in pasta, most featuring the use of local products, as well as other delicious items to compliment any dinner for two. Menu is seasonal and varies so stop in for to see what's available. www.nicoletaylorspasta.com, 1134 E. 54th St., 257-7374.

Priority: NAKEDNESS

Let's be honest, sometimes the meal isn't enough to guarantee you score. In that case, you might need some props. On the other hand, sometimes a meal isn't even necessary to get the object of your desire to strip naked and cater to your every whim. Mostly likely, however, it's something in the middle. Which means it wouldn't hurt to set the mood with chocolate, roses, wine, music and maybe a toy or two.

The Best Chocolate in Town

For more than ten years, this little shop on Mass Ave has been living up to its name with a reputation for daring, delicious and delightful chocolates. With gift baskets ranging from $10-$100, Best Chocolate in Town literally has something for everyone. They've got truffles, toffees, caramels and coffees — not to mention chocolate covered pretzels, popcorn, peanuts and a number of other sinfully delicious items lathered in milk, dark, light and/or white chocolate goodness. www.bestchocolateintown.com, 880 Massachusetts Ave., 636-2800.

Cirilla's

Who doesn't know that Cirilla's is the place "where fun and fantasy meet?" Whether you're looking for something saucy to heat up a night of romance or an embarrassing gift to make your friends laugh, you can probably find it at this adult toy store. They have a large selection of porn and lingerie as well as plenty of toys to satisfy your craving for a kinky night of knitting or Scrabble. Pick out a pair of edible underwear, some flavored lubricant, or even a phallic-shaped shot glass for a night of fun. www.cirillas.com 8601 Michigan Road, 228-9345 and 6971 W. Washington St., 241-3176.

LUNA Music

If you need to set the perfect mood and need a little help with the tunes, get your ass to LUNA. Celebrating 15 years of being Indy's favorite homegrown music store, LUNA has two convenient locations near where you hang out anyway. Come browse the large selection of both new and old vinyl as well as CDs. A big supporter of independent music, LUNA is well stocked in fresh and local. The listening stations throughout the store are a great way to try out new music and the staff at the store is willing to help you find something fresh and/or something that will help you get inside your date's pants. www.lunamusic.net, 5202 N. College Ave., 283-5862 and 431 Massachusetts Ave., 917-5862.

McNamara

Roses are pretty much standard, if not obligatory, fare for Valentine's Day. And according to NUVO readers, the Best Florist in Indy is McNamara. Although the business has vastly expanded since its humble beginning in an Indy street corner building in 1954 to a florist powerhouse, McNamara continues to be a neighborhood florist and cater to customer service. Each location features a full on-site staff that will help the least green of thumbs arrange the perfect arrangement. Plan ahead, or at least plan to be patient. www.mcnamaraflorist.com/aboutus.asp, 3969 E. 82nd St., 579-7900.

Silver in the City

We'll quit recommending Silver in the City as the best place to buy a gift when someone opens a better one in this town. With a selection of jewelry ranging from the sultry to whimsical, and then shelf-loads of other cool stuff, the friendly staff can help you find a variety of gifts for both men and women. They also have a wide selection of reused and recycled items that help you to stay eco-friendly. After all, shouldn't loving the earth be just as important as loving one another? Shopsilverinthecity.com, 434 Massachusetts Ave., 866-955-9925

Tie the knot this Valentine's Day*

In a clever, though clearly discriminatory, charitable capitalization on Valentine's Day, the City-County Building is once again being transformed into a temporary "Chapel of Love" for the benefit of lovebirds and the American Heart Association.

From 2 to 5 p.m. on Valentine's Day, Marion County Clerk Beth White will perform a simple, civil wedding ceremony for a $50, with all proceeds going to the AHA, an event that has raised $4,000 since it started in 2007.

Some restrictions do apply. Like, for example, you have to be a straight couple. Same-sex couples in Indiana are, by law and ignorance, prohibited from obtaining this civil service performed by a government employee.

If, however, there is one boy and one girl among you, you will need a valid marriage license before the ceremony. To apply for a marriage license in Marion County, either the bride or groom must be a resident. Couples are required to show proof of residency and pay an $18 license fee. For Hoosier couples living outside of Marion County, they must apply for a license in their home county.

Do yourself a favor and get the license ahead of time, and make a reservation for the Sunday ceremony asap by calling (317) 327-4740.

*Straight couples only

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