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Eating out for Valentine's Day? Why?

It's among the worst days to eat out, but here are options

There are three days on which I strongly admonish, "Stay out of the restaurants!"

There's Mother's Day - the mother of overbooked restaurants. It heads the list as the worst day for food, service or any semblance of a good time.

Going to a restaurant on Thanksgiving is ridiculous. The staff and servers should be at home with their families and, for goodness' sake, can't you learn how to throw a turkey in the oven?

Finally, Valentine's Day. The restaurant is totally overbooked, the kitchen staff is unhappy about the specials and your server is annoyed at having nothing but clueless deuces all night.

So, you've got a sweetie and you want to impress on Feb. 14? Cancel whatever reservations you've made and, instead, order Valentine's takeout from Fork: etc., at 308 Market St. (215-625-9425).

Among the many choices are a pound and a half Maine lobster with a champagne mignonette ($38). Let's face it, to eat lobster in a restaurant you'd have to wear a silly bib, which is decidedly dorky-looking, so this is another good reason for takeout.

You could start with Oyster Chowder laced with apple-wood smoked bacon ($18). Very aphrodisiac.

But, over-the-top decadence comes with the Truffled Foie Gras Terrine ($36). In my mind, a lobe of liver easily bests jewelry.

Or you can tie into some steamed artichokes with aioli sauce ($4 each).

Now, you don't want to seem like a cheapskate who just wants dinner in and then onto the romance.

And here's where you can really score points - create a postprandial activity (hey, get your mind out of the gutter, it means following a meal). This is a way to show off your fun-loving and unique personality.

Head down to the Italian Market to Rim Café, the whimsical French spot in the Market.

Owner Rene Kobeitri is a true romantic - ask him how he came to have a café in Philadelphia.

Along with his wife and partner, Marika, they have created a unique café filled with enough tchotchkes to rival any South Philly grandmother's living room.

Should you want to pop the question on this Valentine's, I'm guessing Kobeitri's the kind of guy who would artfully write "marry me" in his cappuccino foam.

If Cupid's arrow hasn't quite struck such a serious mark, you can still enjoy Rene's Volcano. This is hot chocolate - dark ($3.50) or white ($4) - that Rene makes with the showmanship of a Cirque du Soleil act. He pours hot molten chocolate over a mound of whipped cream. The differences in the temperature cause a volcanic action - hence the name. Then he garnishes with chocolate bits and a dusting of pistachio.

If you are a tea lover, there is the Godfather ($4), which brews for an entire day. Or the Rim Tea ($4.50) is a sensual blend of tea, honey, cinnamon, dried fruits, rose water, pistachio and pine nuts.

Desserts include an assortment of croissants. There's a true pan au chocolat, an ultra-flaky pastry surrounded by a thick wedge of chocolate. Creme brulee ($2.50) and cheesecake ($3.50) are perfect for sharing.

Cupid demands excess, so your next stop (before it closes at 11:30 p.m.) should be The Vault at the Ritz Carlton, 10 Avenue of the Arts. This little bar off to the side of the main lobby used to be a very well-kept secret.

Currently, The Vault serves as the hotel bar and lounge during renovations for the new restaurant by Eric Ripert, opening in the spring. But even with the higher visibility, The Vault remains a romantic spot. You enter this cozy nook with lush couches, sumptuous woodwork and art through the old Girard Bank vault door.

A cozy nightcap is in order. The Vault specializes in cognacs and single malts that are very reasonably priced. A 10-year-old Laphroaig is $10.50 and a 16-year-old Lagavulin is $10 a glass. But, don't feel as though you can't be a big spender and splurge on the Remy Martin Louis XIII for $160.

Or, you could opt for the chocolate and wine pairing special in The Grill at the Ritz. A $25 three-pairing tasting is available all of February, and on Valentine's Day and weekend there's an expanded $50 tasting with five pairings. The chocolates are Teuscher from Switzerland and the wines are a mix of sparkling, red and white.

And, for those who find themselves very single on this very coupled day, there are options.

Positano Coast, 212 Walnut St., is offering Cupid is Stupid, 5 to 7 p.m. at the bar with drink and appetizer specials.

Still, if going out alone on Valentine's is just too much of a "loser" image for you, rent "When Harry Met Sally" and have that 1 1/2-pound lobster all to yourself.

And, cheer up - all those gorgeous boxes of chocolates are going on sale in the morning! *

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