In the name of ... 

The National Restaurant Association estimates that a quarter of Americans eat out to celebrate Valentine’s Day, making it the second largest dining-out holiday behind Mother’s Day.

Restaurants will offer special menus and limited seating to handle the volume, but they will also offer special items that may not normally be available.

Several local restaurants make cocktails for Valentine’s Day, including Stella Modern Italian Cuisine, 1201 N. Walker Ave. Recently hired Italian native Gaetano Criscuoli introduced Stella’s owner, Lori Tyler, to the sgroppino, a semi-frozen drink that probably originated in the Veneto region of Italy.

“In Italy, they use the sgroppino as a palate cleanser, dessert or pre-dinner drink,” Tyler said.

The sgroppino is a slushy blend of lemon sorbet, vodka and Lamberti Prosecco. Nearly any Prosecco will work, but the drier the better, meaning Adami, Sommariva and Trevisiol are excellent choices as well. The drink is crisp enough to work as a palate cleanser between courses, and if you aren’t a big fan of chocolate desserts, it does work beautifully as a citrus dessert.

Packard’s New American Kitchen, 201 NW 10th St., will also have special drinks on the menu, including a creamy strawberry vodka cocktail. Bartender Luke Daily said he will be mixing Godiva Chocolate Liqueur with house-made strawberry jam and vodka to make a rich, creamy Valentine’s cocktail.

Daily is also making a Valentine’s version of the classic Champagne cocktail. A sugar cube doused in chocolate bitters is dropped into a glass of Mercat Brut Cava to create a crisp chocolate cocktail that will make for a delicious toast.

Sparkling wines are excellent Valentine’s Day wines because of their versatility. They pair well with food, and they work as pre-dinner drinks or palate cleansers. The Francois Montand Brut Rosé is a crisp, delicious, affordable option. It’s available by the glass at The Coach House, 6437 Avondale Drive, and on the shelf at Coffee Creek Wine Shop, 775 W. Covell Road in Edmond.

A tip: The darker the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine needs to be. Be sure to keep the wine sweeter than the chocolate. If not, the wine will taste bitter.

Dark chocolate works well with a California Zinfandel like Titus, but it yields a completely different, and equally pleasant, flavor profile with a big Napa Cabernet like Chappellet. Both reds are available at Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard in Edmond. Chappellet is on the list at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, 3241 W. Memorial Road.

Lighter chocolates obviously go best with lighter wines. White chocolates work well with Moscato d’Asti. The Tintero is an excellent choice, and the rose oil notes will complement the buttery white chocolate. Juicy Pinot Noir will pair nicely with milk chocolate. Rickshaw is one of the best bottles of Pinot Noir under $20 in Oklahoma. Tons of fruit and good structure will go well with light chocolates. Both are available at Broadway Wine Merchants, 824 N. Broadway Ave.

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Greg Horton

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