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Love Don't Cost A Thing

Ariana makes for a very romantic evening

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The creme brulee reigns supreme - PHOTOS COURTESY OF ARIANA RESTAURANT
  • Photos courtesy of Ariana Restaurant
  • The creme brulee reigns supreme

Last week we took a brief look at ways to celebrate the day without breaking the bank. That's one way to go about things.

While expressing love isn't necessarily about celebrating materialism or who can buy the biggest and brightest thing, sometimes it's also nice to mark the day as special by getting a little extravagant. In the spirit of splurging, this week we're taking a look at one shining option for a higher-end Valentine's Day.

Since I do my personal best to avoid doing things on the same day or at the same time as everyone else, I decided to celebrate V-Day a bit early by making a reservation at Ariana, rated one of the top 100 restaurants in North America by diners on Open Table. The restaurant sells out Valentine's Day by early January every year (get on their mailing list to take advantage of that little chestnut), so I decided to be a nut and celebrate the occasion the first week of February. Since I'm single and not quite ready to mingle, I decided to invite my ex-girlfriend. Great idea, right?

There's something so instantly inviting about Ariana. It's fine dining, to be sure, but there's a relaxed sense of welcoming among the staff, and the vibe of the space never threatens with anything stuffy or restricting.

The harissa prawns float in a Marcona - almond sauce
  • The harissa prawns float in a Marconaalmond sauce

We started with an amuse-bouche of cheese sprinkled with almonds and a drizzle of honey. It was the perfect palate cleanser and stoked the fire of hunger. The Moscow Mule I started with balanced the vodka, lime and ginger beer so flawlessly that I had it finished before the starters arrived...or maybe I just drink too much.

The Sicilian style calamari came in a thick, fresh tomato sauce covered in capers, chile, currants and fregola. The harissa prawns were marinated in a rose harissa and came in a Marcona almond sauce. The combination of these dishes was perfect, as the spiciness of the thick, succulent prawns was balanced by the rich tomato sauce and the tartness of the squid.

I figured I should pair my main dish, filet mignon, with a Jameson and pickle brine because I heard that was a thing. The J-Mo/pickle concoction (called a Bushwick from its Brooklyn origins) was surprisingly delicious as the woody and nutty tones of the Jameson met the pickle brine head on, creating a fantastic sweet and sour combo.

The filet mignon succumbs to a mushroom invasion
  • The filet mignon succumbs to a mushroom invasion

The filet came in a wild mushroom puree with maitake, oyster and beech mushrooms. I have never liked mushrooms, yet these blew my whole world view to smithereens. The maitake mushrooms melted in my mouth like hot, earthy butter and the filet made me want to call my mom and thank her for birthing me.

My dining companion had the wild cod and clams, equally delectable. The creamed leeks added a texture to the dish that made it mouthwatering to the last bite.

Dessert was the crème brûlée infused with bourbon vanilla beans, a caramelized sugar crust and fresh berries. My delightful ex-lady friend got the chocolate soufflé cake with Valrhona dark chocolate, salted caramel ice cream and peanut-sesame crackerjack.

Every bite of each dish was better than the last. As I looked across the table at my ex-girlfriend, instead of feeling sadness or loss I felt grateful to be enjoying such a flawless meal with a good friend. Ariana deserves every bit of praise it receives and even though the bill was well over $100, it didn't feel extravagant. Sometimes we all need to treat ourselves. After all, we deserve it.

Ariana

1304 Northwest Galveston Ave., Bend 541-330-5539

Arianarestaurantbend.com 5pm Tues – Sat


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