Your Best Valentine’s Ever

The Scoop on Gifts, Dinner, and Date Ideas

I don’t remember what year it began. I just know that the strawberries were big and juicy and covered in chocolate. They were perfect, thus contributing to my perfect Valentine’s Day.

Over the years, my husband has continued to treat me to strawberries dipped in chocolate from The Candy Factory in downtown CoMo. He’s occasionally brought chocolate-covered goodies from elsewhere, but I guess the heavenly yum that appears on my face is not as strong as it is when the strawberries come from The Candy Factory.

Whether going the traditional or non-traditional route, this is the time of year when the little guy in a diaper with a bow and arrow ramps up the pressure to get it right. Fortunately, mid-Missouri has many options, from deeply romantic to a little silly and certainly a bit out-of-the-box.

So, don’t succumb to the pressure of perfection. Don’t let the little diapered guy take the buzz out of your special day. It is special, after all, simply because we have friends and lovers to share it with. And we have several great places in mid-Missouri that will put glitter and icing on the memories of this special day.

Where to Eat

New ownership at Cherry Street Cellar, 505 Cherry St., last summer makes dinner at this fine dining restaurant fresh and exciting. Owners are husband-and-wife team Daniel and Ali Bauer. She is the chef and has balanced out the menu with more land-based fare, without eliminating much of the seafood that the former Cherry Street Bistro was known for.

Oysters continue to be one of the more popular menu items, highlighted by the addition of more French and Italian wines than was previously available.

The Bauers are excited about the expansion of their craft cocktail menu and plan a few special drinks throughout Valentine’s week. From Feb. 1-13, the restaurant will offer unique oyster flights. Guests can choose from raw or cooked fresh East and West coast oysters.

Chris McDonnell at Chris McD’s also comes up with a few fun cocktails that involve a chocolate and Bordeaux cherry martini, as well as champagne by the glass specials, for the Valentine’s menu. But this fresh-from-scratch kitchen at 1400 Forum Boulevard relies heavily on local suppliers so the Valentine’s menu will be set just a few days before you and your special date arrive. Open just four nights a week (Wed. – Sat.) Chris McD’s is always an intimate destination for a romantic dinner.

Think of the Barred Owl Butcher & Table, 47 E. Broadway, as two options in one for Valentine’s Day. If you are comfortable in the kitchen and want to show your affection via your own culinary skills, the Barred Owl Butcher Shop can help you choose just the right cut of steak, artisan cheeses and sausages, some fresh baked bread and wine.

But if that’s a little overwhelming, the Barred Owl Table is the ideal setting for a romantic lunch or dinner.

If Valentine’s Day is a bit too busy for your taste, then CC’s City Broiler special is for you. From Feb. 2 to Feb. 16 (excluding Feb.14), get a four-course Valentine’s dinner for two with shrimp cocktail, salad, filet mignon and fried lobster, wine and dessert for only $100.

What to gift

With Valentine’s Day on a Friday this year, spread out the love by sending flowers earlier in the week. If your Valentine works in a traditional office setting, everyone in the office will enjoy the blooms for days.

But show some love to local florists by avoiding many of the online outlets unless you are certain you’re talking to a local florist. Take the time to visit a local florist, seeing the actual flowers that will make up your arrangement and picking out something special in a vase or a gift item to accompany the flowers.

At Allen’s Flowers, 401 S. Providence, owner Sandra Ferguson has a gift line that complements a floral bouquet beautifully. Choose a gift basket of candles, soaps and lotions. Allen’s Flowers carries the Magnolia Home line made popular by Joanna and Chip Gaines on HGTV, so come in and peruse the variety.

Manager Tina Bradley anticipates the “Be My Love” bouquet to be a top seller this year. With a warm red vase, white lilies and carnations snuggle up with red roses and red carnations to create a visually stunning vase and aromatic presence. White lilies and roses make up the “Dreams from the Heart” bouquet or brighten up the winter with a bit of evergreen tucked in with the flowers in the beautiful “Silver Snow” bouquet.

Columbia is blessed to be home to nearly a dozen independent florists, as well as the efforts of students in Tiger Garden and area grocery stores. There’s much to choose from, and an independent florist will help you make the right choice.

Break the Mold!

One of the sexiest scenes in the movie “Ghost,” with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze is when they work the pottery wheel, oozing their fingers in and out of each other’s grasp as they create a … well, they never did finish that pot, did they?

Plan a visit to The Mud Room, 111 S. Ninth St., for a unique gift created from your heart and hands. Here you can make your own vessel, be it a coffee mug or flower vase or something in between, or you can choose a pre-made object and simply paint it in whatever design you like.

If you’re making something ahead of time to have wrapped for gift-giving, plan on about a week after you painted to pick it up. Or make the visit to The Mud Room a part of your Valentine’s activities. Manager Courtney Hawk says there’s plenty of room, so no need to make a reservation, even on Valentine’s Day. Work together with your valentine to create something beautiful. Isn’t that what love is all about?

One-of-a-kind Ideas

The term “one-of-a-kind gift” is something thrown about way too often this time of year, but that’s what you’ll get at Poppy, 920 E. Broadway. Liz Tucker does not offer two of a kind of anything in the shop. Well, maybe duplicates in the lovely selection of soaps and candles, but the jewelry and clothing items are all unique and made by local Missouri artisans.

But even better for the person who really struggles with the demands of shopping, Liz Tucker and her staff will take you by the hand, ask a few questions, show you a few options and voilà, it’s amazing how perfect your Valentine’s gift will be. Almost every weekend, Poppy has a fun workshop of some kind that’s also a great option to make something special or spend special time with your girlfriends.

With more than 250 scents to choose from, Make Scents, 25 S. Ninth St., is an option for aromatic gift-giving. Among the more popular items that customers carry out the door are “White Tea,” “Himalaya” and “Chinese Rain,” but the combinations and options are as limitless and unique as your valentine. How about a champagne fragrance? Or any type of flower that you can think of?
Make Scents carries a CBD line, but it doesn’t have a fragrance. More than just colognes and perfumes, Make Scents carries body washes, massage oils, room sprays and more.

“We are a perfect destination for the last-minute gift giver because it literally takes us seconds to mix your product,” says owner Christina Kelley. “The time- consuming part is for you to make the decision in what will be the perfect scent for your valentine.”

The Tin Roof, 108 Corporate Lake Drive, is another place where lots of things smell good, but these also glitter and share cheerful messages perfect for girlfriends, co-workers and more. Nicole Morris hopes you’ve asked for anything monogrammed prior to Feb. 1, or it’s just not going to happen this year.

But take a look at the selection of popcorn for guys and co-workers, the plant-based Mangiacotti Bath and Body line for women and the Happy Everything line for everybody who makes you happy throughout the year.

You can never go wrong with a gift from Bluestem Missouri Crafts. They’ve perfected the art of gift-giving in 36 years in business at 13 S. Ninth St. Representing more than 400 Missouri artists and a few artists from the eight neighboring states, Bluestem is another destination with numerous one-of-a-kind offerings, including jewelry, some clothing, pottery and wood products.

This Valentine’s Day, the partners at Bluestem are excited to offer carved wooden hearts by Columbia’s own Nick Spaeder. Shaping local woods, he uses the grain of the wood as a guide as he creates a perfect heart. Some include gemstones or turquoise, with a price range from $25 to $75.

There are hundreds more artists as talented as Spaeder represented in the Bluestem collection. Browse until you find the right thing for your valentine or for yourself. Bluestem staff provides free gift wrapping.

Go Traditional with Chocolate

The Candy Factory, 701 Cherry St., has been making Valentine’s Day special for more than 45 years. In all of these years, they’ve perfected the art of hand-crafting chocolates fresh every day and getting people in and out of the door without a long wait. Mike Atkinson is the second generation of his family to make custom chocolate by hand since 1974, so he and his staff have Valentine’s Day down to an art form.

In addition, they have a wide selection of gift cards, scented candles and plenty of soaps and body care items. You might also find a special piece of jewelry or some other unique gift here.

With Valentine’s Day on a Friday this year, it might be nice to get a head start by purchasing a few days early. However, the chocolate-dipped strawberries and other fruit will last just a day or two in the refrigerator. Talk to Mike and his staff. They’ll help you make the right choice.

Make a CoMo tradition a part of your perfect Valentine’s Day.

For Galentine’s Day

If you’re a girl of a certain age in mid-Missouri and you have girlfriends of a certain age, Plume has surely been on your radar since it opened more than six years ago. Located at 5751 S. Route K near Rock Bridge High School, Plume is all about girlfriends and the creative energy that comes from more than two dozen talented women.

Spend your Valentine’s eve or evening surrounded by other women in one of the many workshops that fill Plume’s calendar throughout the year. Each evening of Feb. 13, 14 and 15, adult girlfriends can join others in a felt flower workshop that will create a menu board for home. It’s a 2½-hour workshop that fills early, so organize your girlfriends right away to reserve a seat.

Most Valentine’s Days in recent years, Plume has promoted its lavishly decorated cupcakes as a sweet treat for anyone. Unfortunately, the kitchen is undergoing a major remodel, so cupcakes are out. But popcorn is still in, as well as chocolate-covered croissants and macarons from Frenchy Treats.

What To Do

A Valentine’s Picnic
Admittedly, this is not for everyone, but if your valentine is all about the outdoors, get away from the crowd and enjoy the romantic solitude of a picnic in the snow at Stephens Lake Park.

With so much natural beauty at the park after a fresh dusting of snow covers the trees, a picnic just might be the unexpected experience to make this Valentine’s Day a special memory. The Collins Shelter has a built-in firepit where you can toast marshmallows or make s’mores while enjoying some hot cider from Gerbes. Consider a small Sterno can and fondue pot for cheese or chocolate.

The parks department provides the firewood if you reserve in advance, but you’ll need to bring a fire starter and matches. Seriously, make a list or you’ll forget matches. Bring a tarp and throw it on the ground before covering with your favorite blanket. Yes, this will be a memorable Valentine’s Day, as long as the weather cooperates.

If the weather has been cold enough and the ice measures at least 4 inches thick, it’s possible to go skating, hand in hand, on Stephens Lake, too.

Hit the Road
With Valentine’s Day on the eve of the weekend, it’s possible to take the romance on the road for a nice weekend getaway. How long has it been since you’ve been to Fulton? Just 20 minutes away, the history, the entertainment and the fabulous restaurants make this a low-key yet satisfyingly romantic destination.

The Loganberry Inn is more than a fabulous bed-and-breakfast where the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Bernie Sanders have rested their heads. It’s one of the best places to have a romantic dinner anywhere in mid-Missouri.

The Romance Package includes wine, cheese, chocolate-covered strawberries and red roses. Another package offers in-room massages. Another option is a foot massage. Oh, sign me up! Check out the choices at www.loganberryinn.com.

Take a stroll through the Brick Street District, wandering in and out of the gift and coffee shops. If you choose to dine out, you’ll not find a better option than Beks on Court Street. With hand-crafted desserts and a bar for all delights, you’ll feel that you and your valentine have traveled to a city far from central Missouri.

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