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Love is in the air. Or maybe that’s just Rosemary and Dijon Encrusted Lamb Chops. Either way, my heart is beating a bit faster.

Yes, it’s time for Valentine’s Day, which often means a dinner at a romantic restaurant. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday (it’s February 14, in case you’d forgotten). That’s not the most convenient evening for dining out, what with it being a school night and all that. So many of the restaurants that are offering V-Day specials are making them available all weekend long, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s convenient for those who those who want to treat their sweetie to an evening out but not on a Sunday. It also allows the scamp with three different Valentine’s to play all weekend.

One of the enticing specials is at Bistro on Park Avenue, an especially romantic restaurant because of its location in the Hidden Gardens, perfect for a secret rendezvous or tete-a-tete.

Bistro on Park is offering a five-course dinner for two for $80. It includes shrimp bisque; a shared second course of prosciutto-wrapped melon; Bistro Salad; and a choice of entree from Grilled Fish Tacos, Filet Mignon or those Lamb Chops I mentioned above; and a shared dessert to finish.

The special is offered Friday through Sunday. And because Sunday is the official big heart day, Bistro on Park will be staying open until 10 p.m. — 3 p.m. is the usual close time. (School night, like I said.)

For reservations — and you really should make reservations — call the restaurant at 407-539-6520. Bistro on Park Avenue is at 348 Park Ave. N., Winter Park.

And for some other restaurants offering Valentine’s Day special, check out our Holiday Listings here.

Sanctum table

Anyone who questions whether there is a market for vegetarian restaurants only needs to visit The Sanctum, a new meat-freetery in the Mills 50 district whose slogan is “Real, damn good food” and whose online description calls its menu plant-based. It seems that it is always packed.

Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot of people to fill the space, which is set back from Colonial Drive at the northeast corner of Fern Creek Avenue. The space is small and narrow, with a bar and communal seating up front and a few tables hugging the wall down the side, across from the kitchen area. But it was clear to me when I lunched with colleagues there recently that more than a few were repeat customers hungry for vegetarian and vegan options.

That may be one of Sanctum’s secrets of success: It isn’t totally vegan but offers several items that can easily be veganized. As long as you’re not concerned about the purity of the kitchen as far as your food commingling with mere vegetarian offerings, you should be just fine.

Antonella pie

It’s still a nice pie, Frank. Pretty good calzone, too.

Frank is also known as Francesco Paradiso and he is the pizzaiolo at Antonella’s Pizzeria, which opened recently on Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park. The pie shop is named for his wife, and the two of them are partnered in the venture with Antonella’s brother, Leonardo LaCommare.

If the LaCommare name is familiar to you it’s probably because you knew Stefano’s Trattoria in Winter Springs when the brother and sister’s parents, Stefano and Marie, were the owners. The older LaCommare’s sold the restaurant, including the name, and so the younger family members, who all had worked at the popular trattoria for many years, decided to get their own place.

But they didn’t want a large full-service restaurant. A pizzeria that focuses more on takeout and delivery seemed manageable, so that is what Antonella’s is.

Unfortunately — for me, anyway — the delivery area only extends in a five-mile radius from the restaurant, so I made my own pizza runs to try out the pies.

Erica Crawford

Erica Crawford’s name isn’t quite as instantly recognizable to wine lovers as that of her husband — that would be Kim Crawford — but she’s a charming representative of the winery the two operate in New Zealand.

That would not be Kim Crawford.

The Crawfords — perhaps we’d better just refer to them as Erica and Kim — now own and operate a winery in the Marlborough region of New Zealand called Loveblock. They sold the winery that bears Kim’s full name in 2003, and with the sale they agreed to not use their last name in relation to any winemaking they undertake.
If you go to the Loveblock website, you’ll see the bios for Erica and Kim note that they both go only by their first name “to respectfully avoid confusion with the brand that carries her/his name but with which she/he is no longer involved.” Also, to avoid a lawsuit.

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Erica was in Orlando recently to talk up some of Loveblock’s wines. I was invited to join her for a luncheon and tasting at the Boathouse in Disney Springs.


Today I’m pleased to welcome Bevfly to the pages of the flog.

Do you know Bevfly? It’s a wine and sprits outlet on International Drive. Now stop that right now. This is close to the corner of Kirkman Road, so it’s easy access right off of I-4, and it’s before where I-Drive curves around and sucks you into the vehicular black hole surrounding the outlet mall.

Bevfly is worth finding. It has a terrific, thorough selection of fine wines. And it has some people with good wine cred behind it, including Kimberly Kolovos, former sommelier at Vines Grille & Wine Bar on Restaurant Row; her husband, Billy, who ran the Vines spirits store; and Gary Tupper, former sommelier at Luma on Park and Norman’s.

Tupper told me that their goal is to always have someone on hand who can talk authoritatively about the wines. “We want to make sure no one is just talking to a shelf stocker,” he said. Not that there’s anything wrong with shelf stockers, but anyone who has tried to get advice in one of those big-box wine stores has probably left with wine in a box.