Little things added up to a fantastic Valentine’s.
By Hannah Wallace
Thursday morning, the alarm went off at 5:50 a.m. CCB groaned, “I think Valentine’s Day should be exempt from exercise.” Fair enough; let the festivities begin. After we slept in (till 7, ugh), I snuck outside in my PJs to arrange the day’s second present: A small tiki statue (from Freaky Tiki, of course) with a real red rose in his teeth, grinning from the driver’s seat of CCB’s car.
After he left for work, I set a bottle of Scotch and card (from Sarasota News & Books) by the front door to greet him when he returned that evening. My Valentine’s Day obligations fulfilled, I pondered what mysteries CCB had in store.
When I got home, he let me assume for a moment that we had time to relax before whisking me out the door.
“Tiki man made a friend today,” he said as we got in the car. Buckled in alongside the wooden statue was a red plush bull. CCB squeezed its hand. “Hello, my name is El Toro,” it whispered. “El Toro of love. My heart burns with the fire of a thousand—no, what is El Toro saying? One million jalapeños!” Yes, that does sound like it would give you heartburn.
CCB abandoned his usual pokey driving to race south on 301. I got the impression he’d made, for some reason, dinner reservations for 6:30. I was more confused when the car clock hit 6:30, and he assured himself, “That clock’s three minutes fast.” Um, what kind of iron-fisted maitre d’ are you expecting, dude?
Three minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot at Bayfront Park. “Well, we didn’t get to see all of it,” he said, “but at least we’ll catch the last half of the sunset.” Ah. Sweet.

At the tip of the park, a swing sat empty, facing the sunset, as though it had been reserved for us. And with that, I realized that not knowing the evening’s plans had left me completely relaxed. (No small feat, as CCB can certainly attest.)


COCKTAILS IN PARADISE: O’Leary’s was the second stop on our Valentine’s evening stroll.

Next we enjoyed the view of sailboats on the glassy water from a high top table at O’Leary’s. “Do you want to walk to dinner or drive?” he asked.
“That depends,” I said. “How far away is dinner?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted, giving it a moment of thought. “How far away is…Freaky Tiki?”
“Close enough to walk. Are we having dinner at Freaky Tiki?”
“Yes, I set up a romantic candlelit dinner in one of the dressing rooms.”

That gave me a fair idea of where we were headed, but as we walked up Lemon and turned left on Main, I was confused all over again. That is, until we reached the crosswalk 20 yards down, crossed the street, and headed back toward Mattison’s.


YUM: Mattison’s made for a romantic, tasty, entertaining dinner.

“Had an extra five minutes, did we?”
“No,” he grinned. “I was going to do that anyway.”
Dinner was ideal: Bruschetta to die for (seriously), melt-in-your-mouth fillet mignon and crème brûlée with two spoons. And best of all, interesting, quirky conversation bordering on bizarre. While I think the restaurant was fully booked, the al fresco setup kept down the din.
Still, we couldn’t help but notice the couple right next to us: Early 20s, though lacking the sophistication of Sarasota’s young It crowd, they began their meal by complaining to the waiter about the hostess’s attitude—successfully winning themselves free drinks. You know I’m not one to turn down booze, but scamming perks by copping an attitude is low.
Though they wore cocktail attire, when the boy removed his jacket, he revealed a short-sleeved button-up shirt underneath. I know I’m no fashionista—I was wearing flip-flops—but dude, your wardrobe decisions seem to be at cross purposes. “They look like high schoolers pretending to be big shots for a night,” said CCB when the couple took a mid-dinner cigarette break. Well then, at least we won’t have to deal with them any other night of the year.
But the kicker, which I believe justifies my derision: Midway through the entrée, the girl called the waiter over to complain that the truffle mashed potatoes made her gag and “spit up” in her napkin. Classy. She then insisted that he take the napkin away.
Honey, that bile was there long before the ‘taters.
I considered beaning her with a salt shaker, but CCB was determined, as always, to keep me out of jail.
No sooner were we out the gate than he grabbed me on the sidewalk and hugged me. “Thank you,” he said, “for being the exact opposite of that bitch we were sitting next to.”
Aww. Hallmark couldn’t have written a more romantic Valentine’s Day sentiment.