If you've never been to a progressive dinner party, here's the lowdown: A group of diners plans a multi-course meal together, with each course served at a different guest's home. The evening might start with appetizers or drinks at your house, and then move to a friend's for dinner, then to another house for dessert. (Progressive dinners are ideal for people who live close by, so you can walk from course to course.)
With Valentine's Day around the corner, the idea of a mobile dinner party got us thinking: What about a progressive Valentine's date?
This Feb. 14, ditch the box of chocolates and flowers for a plan to hop from one restaurant to another for food and drink. The best part? It works just as well for groups as couples.
Read on for our recommendations for a progressive Valentine's Day in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park.
Head to the bar at the upscale Rosewood hotel on Sand Hill Road for a pre-dinner cocktail with a view. If it's a clear night, catch the sunset from a second-story deck that overlooks the pristine hotel pool, with the rolling foothills in the background.
Get in the car (or call an Uber) to head into downtown for appetizers at a Menlo Park favorite, Cafe Borrone at 1010 El Camino Real. Triple-cream cheese board, anyone? The cafe also often offers specials and live music in the evenings, so check facebook.com/cafeborrone before you go.
When you're ready for dinner, make your way next door to the newly reopened British Banker's Club, more commonly known as the BBC. What used to be a dark, old-school bar that had its liquor license suspended several years ago has been transformed under new ownership into a sleek, open space serving dishes like line-caught hamachi crudo and hibiscus-brined pork porterhouse. On Valentine's Day, the restaurant will serve its regular menu as well as a special tasting menu created by Chef Tylor Urias. Stay for dessert and an after-dinner digestif or a glass of one of the more than 20 listed scotches. After a very quiet soft opening in December, the restaurant is now accepting dinner reservations; call 650-382-3191.
Downtown Palo Alto
It's hard to imagine a more intimate setting for a glass of wine in Palo Alto than Vino Locale, located in a charming, two-story Victorian house on Kipling Street, removed from bustling University Avenue. Start your progressive date with a wine flight, and add a cheese pairing for $10. Get there early enough for happy hour from 5-6:30 p.m. and enjoy $3 off all appetizers, $7 and $10 wines, a $16 wine flight (so you can try all four red and white wines offered during happy hour) and $5 beers (for those more into hops than grapes). If you feel like staying for dinner, Vino Locale will be offering a special Valentine's Day four-course tasting menu with optional sommelier-selected wines from Yorkville Cellars. Make a reservation online at vinolocale.com.
If not, make your way down University Avenue for a Greek meal at Evvia, a favorite special occasion restaurant for many on the Midpeninsula. Rustic decor, fireplaces and an open kitchen make Evvia an ideal date spot -- not to mention the always impeccable food. On Valentine's, the restaurant will serve its normal menu along with a few special dishes. To make a reservation, go to evvia.net.
Save room for dessert -- and a nightcap of prosecco -- at Timothy Adams Chocolates, where handmade bonbons are king. Bonus: The Bryant Street shop stays open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.
You can't go wrong with pre-dinner drinks and appetizers at downtown Mountain View's Cascal, popular for its mojitos, housemade sangria and tapas. Try a caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil (made with cachaça, sugar and muddled fresh limes) before you head out for dinner. If you're there on Feb. 14, don't miss happy hour from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. If you're saving your date for the weekend, there's also live music every Friday and Saturday night.
Stroll down Castro Street for a French-Italian fusion dinner at the cozy La Fontaine. The restaurant took home best fine dining and best patio/outdoor dining in the Mountain View Voice's 2016 Best Of Mountain View poll. Popular dishes include the Burgundy-braised short ribs and the salmon Wellington, or salmon stuffed with leeks and rock shrimp that's wrapped in puff pastry and served over saffron risotto. To make a reservation, go to lafontainerestaurant.com.
For those who would choose a post-dinner cafe au lait over a digestif, head into Red Rock Coffee for some caffeine. The popular cafe stays open late on both weekdays (Monday-Thursday until 10 p.m.) and weekends (Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.). On Valentine's weekend, a local musician will perform on Friday and comedians do a free stand-up show on Saturday. For more information, go to redrockcoffee.org.
No need for a designated driver when you have local Caltrain stations close to several worthy dateca spots. Start (or end) the evening with a glass of wine and a snack at Savvy Cellar, a wine bar located inside the Mountain View train station. Don't miss the cleverly named wine flights ("I'm Drawing a Blanc") or small bites of olives, charcuterie, pâté and the like. Bonus: If you're there on Valentine's Day, it's one of the weekly "Italian Tuesdays," with 20 percent off of all Italian wines. Happy hour runs from 2-6 p.m., Tuesday-Friday.
Hop on Caltrain for a quick ride to California Avenue in Palo Alto, where dinner options abound. The good news is that in Palo Alto's second downtown, there's something for everyone, whether it's a romantic meal for two at California-French eatery Bistro Elan (bistroelan.com), a group dinner at Cuban favorite La Bodeguita del Medio (don't miss the mojitos; labodeguita.com) or sushi at Jin Sho (jinshorestaurant.com). You could also start or end the evening with a glass of wine at California Avenue's wine bar, Calave.
Don't miss the train to head into Menlo Park around 9 p.m., when late-night happy hour starts at the Left Bank (leftbank.com) on Santa Cruz Avenue. Get the happy hour deals ($5 wine, $4 beer, $6 well cocktails) until closing, when you can hop back on the train for a safe ride home.
For the homebodies
For those of us who would prefer a night in to a night out, much less a night out at multiple locations, go on a progressive shopping excursion for an at-home date. Head to Town & Country Village in Palo Alto to cover drinks, dinner and dessert in one fell swoop. Pick up a bottle of Italian wine from the new Biondivino Wine Boutique (try a Ligurian red or white, perfect food-pairing wines, owner Ceri Smith told the Weekly in a recent interview), walk next door for a prime cut of sustainably raised meat from Belcampo Meat Co., where you can ask the butcher for expert advice about how to cook it, and then grab a pint or two of small-batch ice cream from Tin Pot Creamery.