244 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022

When the Peanuts do a holiday show, you have no choice but to acknowledge that holiday's existence, even though deep down you may just want to hide under a table. Having said this, Valentine's Day is but a short distance away. Like it or not, this little holiday has set certain societal expectations that must be noted regardless of whether you like them, respect them, or intend to follow them. Many people find the corporate nature of Valentine's Day repulsive: convincing people to waste their money on something that they'd otherwise never even consider buying. Like pink tablecloths, heart-shaped anythings, or Russell Stover chocolates. Others find it sad that anyone would need a day to remind them that they should do something with the someone they love. After all, if you really loved someone, why would you need the reminder? But since the middle ages, every February, couples become obligated to prove that they're in soul-mate territory. Single people get to watch.

I've decided to help reduce the commercialization of Valentine's Day. So here's my suggestion. For starters, no chocolates and no cards. None. If you want to give a card, make your own. It's easy. Just fold a piece of paper in half. I assure you she or he's gonna like it way more. Instead of cheap-assed chocolate in a tacky red-heart that'll just be tossed in the garbage can by the end of the day, go out. I recommend Divine Bar. You can keep the flowers.

Divine Bar is one of the most romantic, seductive places I've been to lately (naturally, I would wind up there alone with some guy friends and their significant others). It's dark, smells like wine and baked bread, and it's almost entirely candle-lit. With the candles, wrought iron balcony, winding staircase, cushy chairs, heavy curtains and pillows, it almost feels like dining in a castle. And yes, I have actually dined in castles.

Divine Bar, being a wine bar primarily, has a large wine list, which you order by number. For food, Divine Bar has a large tapas menu. So you don't really order a dinner so much as plenty of appetizers while you drink to your heart's content. I was introduced to Divine Bar by Turtle, where we met up with some friends. There was nothing romantic going on with this specific group but we might have been the only non-couple table in the place. We decided to return and chill out there a few weeks later since we had such a good time. So here's the breakdown of both "meals".

The Tuscan Toast, slices of thick slabbed olive bread topped with melted, shaved Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, oven-roasted tomato, and grilled asparagus was the most traditionally Spanish of the choices. Very good, especially if you like the Parmesan, nuts, tomato, and asparagus piled on like a mountain. As you will see, most of these tapas are tapas in that they're shareable appetizers. I don't imagine that Shrimp Dumplings with a spicy peanut dipping sauce is a very Spanish dish. But we ordered it anyway. Not bad. Not wonderful.

There are a variety of empanada-esque choices. Pork Pot Stickers, a cluster of pan fried pork empanadas with an apple ginger chive mousse, and Spicy Chicken Empanadas stuffed with tomato, olive, Monterrey jack cheese, Cajun dijonaisse sauce. Both of these dishes were pretty good, but the attempt to fancify a deep-fried fast food dish comes out somewhat flat. You can find the real (better) thing if you look.

Divine Bar has a pizza that varies by the day, the Neapolitan Style Pizzette, an individual very-thin-crust pizza. The day we went the pizza was good, but I won't get into the toppings since it won't likely be the same for you.

The highlight of the menu is the baked brie in warm puffed pastries. We ordered both: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Baked Brie in Warm Puffed Pastry and the Honey Walnut Baked Brie in Warm Puffed Pastry. Both come with slices of apple that you dip into the melting brie-pastry like a cracker in dip. Both are flat-out great, but the honey walnut one is like crack. We wiped the plate clean and then ordered another.

So over two trips there were ten dishes and about ten glasses of wine. They totalled around $238 plus tip, which means that if everything cost the same, it was roughly $12 per dish/glass of wine.

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