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FOOD- THE DISH- V-Day decisions<span class="s1">: Show your love at the table</span>

Guys, it's that time of year again. And although she agrees with you that Valentine's Day is yet another manufactured holiday designed to sell cards, flowers, rings, and chocolate, don't believe her. While every day may be Valentine's Day at your house, don't make the mistake of not planning something special for the special day. 

And while a card, a gift, or a box of chocolates is a nice touch, nothing says "I worship you" like a well-planned dinner for two at a fine restaurant. Notice Dish said "well-planned." Remember, guys, she's not stupid– nothing is more transparent than something thrown together at the last minute. Choose a restaurant now, plan the evening, make the night special, and the fruits of your labor will be worth the effort. 

Of course, almost every restaurant in town will be promoting its V-Day menu, but here are a few ideas to get you started...

Why not whisk her away to beautiful downtown Staunton? On Beverley Street, the new Staunton Grocery (540-886-6880) has been wowing locals with its home-grown high-end cuisine, and chef Ian Boden is planning a four-course prix fixe menu with two seatings, one at 5:30 and another at 8pm. 

Out in Nellysford, the picturesque Mark Addy Inn (434-361-1101) is offering a special menu that includes a four-course meal, a champagne toast, wine and dessert, and a special musical performance by Jan Smith and her mandolin-playing husband, Jeff  Vogelgesang. 

You can also hear Jan Smith down in Faber on February 17 for one of Del Fosse Vineyard and Winery's (434-263-6100) V-Day dinners (yes, many restaurants are offering dinners on either side of the Big Day). In addition to the music, local catering outfit 20 South is offering a drool-inducing menu of small plates to go with the vineyard's wine pairings. On February 10, Del Fosse also plans to serve up a V-Day dinner compliments of the C&O's Dave Simpson, with special musical guest, harpist Virginia Schweninger. Of course, dinner for two at Simpson's own C&O on the special day is a classic Charlottesville option.

As Dish mentioned last week, Fuel Co.(434-220-3700) and Kluge Estate Farm Shop are offering V-Day surprises, including a prix fixe dinner at Fuel Co. with oysters with caviar, wild sea bass with butter vanilla vinaigrette, and grilled rack of lamb. In Gordonsville, Pomme (our very own slice of Provence, many savvy food mavens are convinced) is also putting together a special V-Day offering, as are Oxo (434-977-8111) on Water street, Boheme (434-244-0606) on Market street, Cassis (434-979-0188) on Water, The Shebeen (434-296-3185) on Ridge-McIntire, as well as both the Ivy Inn (434-977-1222) on Old Ivy Road and the Silver Thatch Inn (434-978-4686) on Hollymead Drive. Alas, there are simply too many others for Dish to mention!

And there you have it, guys... with literally hundreds of restaurants in the area, you have no excuse for not securing a night out with the love of your life– if you hurry! 

How to say, "I woof you."

...if your sweetheart happens to be a dog. No, not that kind of dog. A real dog. You know, the kind with four legs? Okay, lets start over... If you happen to be a pet owner, that doesn't mean you and your canine sweetie can't celebrate on February 14. 

The Animal Connection on Allied street has a number of doggie treats that both you and your four-legged friend can enjoy. According to owner Pattie Boden, all the foods in the store are "human grade," meaning they're made from the same organic ingredients that human food is made of. For example, the store's canned dog-food stew has real chicken breast, and the special V-Day cupcakes, brownies, and cookies may be as good as grandma makes.

"We all shared the carob brownies when they came in," says Boden. "They never made it to the dogs."

Now, before you let out a big eewwwwuu, consider that the coconut and cranberry doggie cupcakes are real cupcakes, as are the chewy brownies, and the doggie biscotti are made from sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh garlic. Although Boden admits that the molasses and oatmeal cookies may be a little too crunchy for humans, she says it's not uncommon for her customers to share a snack with their pets: "We have a treat bar for dogs... and people."

For V-Day, Boden says they've whipped up some beautifully decorated nutritious treats, including the aforementioned brownies and cupcakes, as well as some heart-shaped cookies that say "I woof! you" on them.

Next up? Something you can throw to your dog before they all get thrown to the dogs in 2008.

"Presidential candidate cookies," Boden laughs. 

Animal Connection's Pattie Boden serves up some Valentine treats for Ernie.