My Sarasota dream dates.
By Hannah Wallace
After insisting I be surprised for Valentine’s Day, I asked CCB last week if he’d made plans yet. He said no, then quickly added, “Although, if I had made plans, I’d still say ‘no.’” Sneaky sneaky.
Then again, maybe that means we’ll wind up at the Cheetah Club. (Or, since we live in Bradenton, the ever-so-much-more-frightening Paper Moon—grab your inoculations and don your formal hazmat suit!)
Anyway, a confession: This is my first ever Feb. 14 with a special someone…which means I’ve had loads of experience wearing black and bitterly dreaming up my perfect Valentine’s Day dates. Here’re a few ideas I had in years past while grumbling solo over my Haagen Dazs:


A picnic on Siesta offers the best possible mood lighting.


The Perfect Picnic: Once you’ve picked out a spot on Siesta Beach, all it takes is a couple blankets, some brie, a baguette and a bottle of wine. Too windy for candles, but who needs candles when you’ve got that sunset?

The Urban Affair: Now that downtown Sarasota has come into its own, there’s a slew of romantic dinner options. In fact, put 20 Sarasota restaurants into a hat and pick one randomly—you’re guaranteed an incredible date. Still, my daydreams center on wine at Ca’Rina, lobster at the Melting Pot, and the unbeatable city view as you stroll around Bayfront Park—during which, a stop to snuggle on one of the bench swings would, y’know, not be a bad idea.


Downtown’s Bayfront Park has some of the most romantic views in town.

I can’t believe I just typed “snuggle.” I feel so icky.

(Also, having just read Judi Gallagher’s Valentine’s blog, I realize that the Melting Pot, with its customized fondue-stove tables, can’t add extra two-tops come the 14th, so overcrowding isn’t such a worry. Getting a reservation, on the other hand...)


The Melting Pot serves bite-size pieces of Valentine’s Day heaven.


Dinner and a Movie: It must be my childhood days spent romping through the Ringling grounds, but banyan trees make me happy—one of the many reasons to love shady 5-One-6 Burns. And for dessert? A couple of glasses of wine and a popcorn for two in front of an independent film at adjacent Burns Court Cinema.


The shady banyans set the mood during dinner at 5-One-6 Burns and a movie next door at Burns Court Cinema.

The Man Advantage: CCB still tells the story of his growing affection when, during a dinner date at Selva, I turned down the waitress’s dessert offer by saying to him, “If we leave now, we can catch the third period of the playoff game.” Yep, I find sports romantic—and I’ll bet I’m not the only one. Dressing up and eating somewhere fancy and following all that formal romantic protocol can put a lot of pressure on the conversation, while the connection over pints while watching a boxing match can be magical. That’s why Patrick’s has always been a favorite of mine: fancy enough to feel special; casual enough to get a little loud when Lecavalier roofs a backhander (just don’t spill your martini). During intermission, stroll next door to Smoking Joe’s and grab a table with its own flat-screen HD TV.

The Beach Bum: Of course, for that special vibe of paradise, you can take the casual thing to the Sarasota extreme. Get an early start on the evening and spend some time on Lido Beach—heck, it might even be warm enough for a swim. Whatever the weather, wear your comfy sandals and knock the sand off your feet as you stroll to Cha Cha Coconuts for a laid-back island-y meal and their special Horny Margarita (with Midori—yum). After that, window-shop the circle and wind your way around to Kilwin’s for dessert. I’m a big fan of Bayfront Park, but St. Armands rivals it for the most romantic walk in Sarasota.

The All-Out: But I do enjoy an excuse to get fancy. And there’s no better excuse for fancy than the Ritz, where even if I’m in my best outfit, the windows are still dressed better than me. Still, the Ca d’Zan Lounge terrace, complete with a cool breeze, great view and attentive wait staff, remains one of my favorite spots in town. Besides, what’s more romantic than a chocolate martini?

So those are my ideas. And I have total faith in CCB—I’m sure my first real Valentine’s celebration will not disappoint—but I still have no idea what to expect. I’ll let you know how it goes.