Purple PigThe Purple Pig Smear: Mortadella, Balsamico, Pistachio

Can you smell that? Love is in the air. Judging by the uptick in heart-shaped chocolates and coy aphrodisiac menus, Valentine's Day draws near. When it comes to Valentine's dining in Chicago, one of the biggest restaurant days of the year, there are plenty of romantic options.

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Fulton Market Kitchen (311 N Sangamon St)

Matt Kirouac

With side effects like stimulated endorphins, quickened heart rate and induced sweating, chili peppers basically are the food equivalent of Beyoncé's Drunk In Love video. They're especially arousing when infused into tequila cocktails at Fulton Market Kitchen. The artsy West Loop haunt features an exotic cocktail dubbed Beg Borrow Steal, featuring reposed tequila, Thai chili-infused Green Chartreuse, fresh pineapple juice, lime, simple syrup and cilantro.

 

The Purple Pig (500 N Michigan Ave, pictured at top)

Champagne may steal the spotlight on New Year's, but red wine is king on Valentine's Day. It's said to be the most amorous of all alcoholic beverages, and it's in great supply at The Purple Pig, a restaurant so ardent about its vino that the name derives from the hue of red wine. The European wine list features reds from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, matched with a Mediterranean food menu of antipasti, salads, charcuterie, cheese and other share plates. And as we know, nothing is quite as romantic as sharing plates and drinking red wine with your boo.

 

Pearl Tavern (180 N Upper Wacker Dr)

Matt Kirouac

Oysters are the quintessentially seductive, said to instill passion and romance in bivalve-lovers and seafood-slurpers. One of the best destinations for oyster obsessives is Pearl Tavern, an opulent American oyster bar in the Loop. With a design inspired by the golden era of the 1950s, Pearl Tavern sets the foundation for a truly romantic dining experience, highlighted by an ever-changing roster of East and West Coast oysters. Along with a seafaring menu of fish tacos, salmon burgers, mussels and swordfish, diners can partake in oysters by the half dozen or dozen, depending on your desired romantic stamina.

 

Katherine Anne Confections (2745 W Armitage Ave)

Katherine Anne Confections

Valentine's Day and chocolate go together like Cupid and arrows. And when it comes to Valentine's chocolates, one surefire way to outdo the standard box of heart-shaped chocolates is with any of the inventive truffles at Katherine Anne Confections. The Logan Square chocolate shop is a Wonka-like wonderland of chocoholic desires, exhibited in outre truffles such as strawberry-mint, Champagne-raspberry-rose, pomegranate-citrus, passion-fruit chocolate, and bourbon-infused Gold Rush with lemon and agave. These flavors comprise Katherine Anne's current roster of Valentine's Day truffles, but you can't go wrong with any of their daily offerings, from thick-as-pudding hot chocolate topped with housemade marshmallows to treacly caramels and housemade s'mores.

 

North Pond (2610 N Cannon Dr)

Matt Kirouac

A little fine dining pomp and circumstance is always a good option for Valentine's Day. Because there's no better way to woo someone's heart than through a multi-course degustation riddled with beet carpaccio, miso-glazed crab, brown butter skate wing and passion fruit cream Pavlova. Right? Obviously. These dishes and more are all on deck as part of North Pond's illustrious Valentine's Day prix fixe. The unparalleled locale in Lincoln Park is just the cherry atop the sundae.

 

Randolph Tavern (188 W Randolph St)

Speaking of romantic degustations, Randolph Tavern has just the ticket with their aphrodisiac-themed Valentine's Day menu this year. The Loop restaurant is offering three-course romantic menus for the holiday, featuring first course options like oysters Rockefeller and ahi tuna tartare, entree choices of blackened grouper, stout-braised short ribs and filet mignon, and a dessert of "tall, dark & chocolate" cake for two with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

 

FIG & OLIVE (104 E Oak St)

The name alone sounds alluring, but the food and drink at FIG & OLIVE are the epitome of elegant romance. The Gold Coast restaurant is offering a three-course, Mediterranean accented menu on Feb. 13 and 14, featuring heart-tugging dishes like seared sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, and grass-fed filet mignon. The French Riviera-inspired motif of the restaurant is a nice touch as well, essentially transporting diners on a romantic getaway for a few hours.

Photos: Purple Pig by Edsel Little via flickr; Marcin Cymmer (Fulton Market Kitchen); Pearl Tavern; Katherine Anne Confections by Artizone via flickr; North Pond