The Unofficial Guide to Valentine’s Day In LA

According to The Daily Beast, Los Angeles is rated the twelfth best city for love in America. So while both singles and couples may want to DirecTV their nights in and be OK with that, romance abound, Angelenos! Valentine’s Day is sorta lame-o if you do lame-o things, so here’s a round-up of awesomeness that’s happening in and around the city, specifically for the big love day. There’s something for everyone – from the fundamentally socially awkward single to the hip-hop loving fist thrusters – so let love rule in the city of Angels!

All the Single Ladies (and Gents)
Singles should head straight to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre for the Valentine’s Day Singles Mixer. It’s a show where the improv group uses the audience’s (your) own terrible love stories as performance fodder. This “mixer” actually takes place tonight, February 12th, at 11pm – perfectly timed to snag a date for the real V-Day.

Boozy, Fancy, and Romancy
Impress your blind date with a table at Pour Vous, one of the swankiest drinking dens in Hollywood. It’s dimly-lit and moody, with a Victorian-themed interior, and lots of candles that amp up the romance. For Valentine’s Day, Pour Vous is offering a package for two that includes a two-hour reservation (8 pm-10pm), four oysters paired with a glass of champers, a cheese plate paired with cocktails, and chocolate paired with Cherie for $100. Oh, and there’s a special Valentine’s Show. It might include a scantily clad girl in a cage. Show up with a reservation to find out.

Foodies Paradise
The just-recently-reopened A.O.C is offering a four-course prix-fixe dinner with a bunch of tastings you might love more than your date. Executive chef is Suzanne Goin, who’s been named "Best New Chef" by Food and Wine magazine and is a James Beard Best California Chef award winner. Don’t bring a date that doesn’t understand good food. The night will end bad.

Fist-Thrusting, Power 106 Date
Love is in the Nokia Theater, thanks to Power 106’s Valentine’s Day Crush concert featuring Ne-Yo, T.I., and RaVaughn. We’re pretty sure Ne-Yo will perform his hit single “Let Me Love You.” If the concert strikes you as a little too urban, you can follow the huge wave of old white people heading to Costa Mesa for Kenny G.

Celebrity-Stalking, Fish-Obsessed
Get your Smartphone cameras ready! There’s no red carpet, but those familiar with one (George Clooney, Jessica Simpson, etc.) shack up at Koi Restaurant for some of the best sushi in L.A. (baked lobster roll, anyone?). Considering the high-profile diners, you’ll feel like a VIP yourself. The restaurant has some dishes specifically designed for Valentine’s Day, like Cupid’s Arrow (spicy albacore dish with strawberries and more good-times fixtures). You should probably make a reservation.

Next-Level Seriousness
Because you might propose, make it West Hollywood memorable. Mondrian Los Angeles whipped up a crazy-cool Dream Proposal package that includes three nights in a penthouse suite, private five-course dinner prepared by Asia De Cuba’s executive chef Chang Sivilay, bottle of Dom Perignon, styling and glam sesh from Drybar/Blushington/Stylehaus, four-carot Tacori engagement ring, and engagement party at SkyBar for up to 50 guests. The package is estimated at $105,000 and available until February 19th. Don’t forget to invite us to your wedding.

[Related: BlackBook’s Exclusive Valentine’s Day 2013 Playlist; BlackBook Los Angeles Guide]

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Why This Monday Rocks: Tonight’s Top Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. I get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And I am here to honor them. From Tony Award-winning shows to chocolate desserts, here are tonight’s top events.

Watch dogs show off their stuff:
Shampooed, manicured dogs and their owners get competitive tonight and tomorrow at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where 3,000 dogs of 187 breeds stroll across the carpeting as they’re judged across seven divisions, such as toy, terrier, hound, and sporting. Expect lots of owners in pencil skirts and bowties, and nonstop canine cuteness. Airing live from Madison Square Garden tonight, 8pm, CNBC & Tuesday, 8pm, USA. All info here.

See the reunion concert of a Tony Award-winning Broadway show:
In the Heights – the exuberant 2008 musical about three days in the life of Washington Heights residents – returns to New York for a one-night-only concert performance featuring nearly all of the original cast. Written and starring renaissance man Lin-Manuel Miranda (our interview here), this is one of Broadway’s most ebullient shows. A must for not only theatre-lovers, but simply anyone who loves this city. Tonight, 8pm, United Palace Theatre, 4140 Broadway. Tickets & info here.

Eat tons of rarely available chocolate:
Chocolate Week 2013 continues on until Wednesday the 13th, just before V-Day. Participating restaurants and chocolatiers –  such as French spots A.O.C. in the West Village and Bar Tabac in Cobble Hill – are offering special, rarely available desserts like chocolate lava cake and chocolate creme petit pot. Couple this with Valentine’s and there is absolutely no hope for a diet. And that’s just fine. From now until Wednesday the 13th. All details here

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Where Celebs Go Out: Ed Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Steve Earle

At the Leaves of Grass premiere: 1. Ed Norton: “Blue Hill — anything at Blue Hill. I like this little joint in the East Village called Joe Doe.” 2. Steve Earle: “Babbo is every bit as good as it’s cracked up to be. And A.O.C. is a favorite of ours, which is a French restaurant on Bleecker Street. The duck confit at A.O.C. is the best in the city.”

3. Allison Moorer: “We’ve been doing this like go out to dinner a lot lately, so we won’t think about, ‘When is the baby going to come?’ So we went to Union Square Café last night, which is fantastic. I’m vegetarian. I had this incredible ricotta gnocchi, which I think is a regular item on the menu.We just went to Babbo Monday night, which is great. Our neighborhood is ridiculously good for food.” 4. Josh Pais: “One of my favorite restaurants is called Westville. It’s on West 10th Street, between Bleecker and West 4th. The guy, Jay, is the owner. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s like so well priced. They have the best burger in the city. I’m not kidding. I am not kidding. The food is so fresh. It’s a great place.” 5. Lucy DeVito: “I really like Gobo which is on Sixth Avenue. It’s a vegetarian place. I like Milos. It’s like uptown. It’s Greek food, really nice fish, and I love feta cheese and the fresh vegetables and everything. What else? Oh, Frankies. I live in Brooklyn, so I go to Frankies. It’s on Court Street, and it’s really good Italian food. It’s so good.” 6. Melanie Lynskey: “I really got obsessed with that restaurant, Quality Meats, on 58th Street. It’s super good. I only eat fish. I don’t eat meat, so I don’t know why I love it so much. They have this amazing halibut there, and they have this crazy thing which is like a brulee’d corn dish, which is the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten in your life.” 7. Tim Blake Nelson: “I like Nicola’s, and Medeo in L.A.”

At the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off: 8. Jacques Pepin: “From the French Culinary Institute in New York, because it’s one of the greatest values, to Daniel’s new restaurant in Houston — I forget the name. The menu of the students at the French Culinary Institute is the best and quite inexpensive. Everything has to be fresh, morning and night. The morning crew and the night crew can’t use the same stock. We may have the best bread in New York — short of being in Paris, the best baguettes. Go there. They’ll give you one. DBGB has different sausage and peasant food — it’s a great spot. From this to the Union League Cafe in New Haven. I live in Connecticut. One of the best restaurants in Connecticut — that goes to Clam Castle in Madison, Connecticut, where you get the lobster roll — one of those joints on the road.”

Our Tribute to ‘Blue Velvet’ Starring Emily Blunt

“I adore film noir style,” says actress Emily Blunt, shown here in the role of Dorothy Vallens, the tragic femme fatale in cult auteur David Lynch’s 1986 opus Blue Velvet. The kinkfest classic turned Isabella Rossellini into an icon, while pushing noir convention into the shadows of dangerously surreal Americana. “Blue Velvet is so dark and ethereal,” says Blunt. “It’s brooding yet artistic—I love it.”

Best known for her comedic roles—like a star-making breakthrough performance in The Devil Wears Prada—Blunt had no problem channeling Rossellini’s smoky, knife-edge carnality. At the same time, the 25-year-old London native put her own wicked spin on the sexy transformation. A week later, she’s still buzzing about the results.

“The shoot was definitely glamorous,” Blunt explains by phone from her family’s home in London. “Becoming that character was incredible: it was more like acting than just doing another photo shoot.” Blunt has been plumbing emotional and psychological depths for some time, beginning with a role that first brought her fame in the U.K., a gripping turn as Tamsin, the sapphic teen antagonist at the core of the 2004 indie hit My Summer of Love.

“There’s a darker side to all of us, and people choose to explore it or not. Taboo love affairs are the most fun, aren’t they? We’ve all casually hurt someone, then looked back and regretted it. Or not, in the case of some people,” says Blunt, who recently split from singer Michael Bublé. “Playing ‘baddies’ is just more fun playing than ‘goodies.’ ”

That she even made it this far still surprises Blunt, who says she got into acting only as a last-ditch therapy for a childhood stutter. “It was an anguished disability—not fun,” she recalls. “But I overcame it.” At age 12, while playing a character from Northern England, with an accent completely different from her own, Blunt found her stutter magically disappear. “In acting, I could be someone else and escape being a child who doesn’t talk,” she recalls. “It became an out-of-body experience.”

Years later, she tapped into a similar sense of the surreal with the attention that followed her Prada breakout. “That film opened so many doors,” she says. “I wasn’t pigeonholed as the corset-bound, bonnet-wearing English period film girl. I’d rather be brave and make a choice that frightens me a bit. I don’t mind looking like a wanker: I mean, that character was on the edge of fashion—and had really keeled off it.”

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On the topic of personal style, Blunt fesses up to past fashion missteps. “I’ve had so many style blunders!” she says, laughing. These days, Blunt gathers expert advice so that she’s not busted on the red carpet. “You literally have to pry the baggy sweaters off me, but I am trying to discover life away from my Converse sneakers,” she says. “I have a great stylist who’s always encouraging me to be more fashion forward, but I’m always afraid that she’ll send me down the carpet in an ice sculpture or something.”

When it comes to Blunt’s most un-forward fashion moments on film, nothing could be further from bling than her upcoming turn as a chronically depressed trailer-park pothead in the indie tragicomedy Sunshine Cleaning, due out shortly. “For The Devil Wears Prada, we had to diet like crazy,” Blunt explains. “But for Sunshine, I put on a bit of weight, and I didn’t allow myself to see any sun. We certainly look rather pale and drawn, and the clothes were shabby: no one wore anything more expensive than, like, five dollars. Amy [Adams, Blunt’s Sunshine co-star] and I were pretty tough about looking real. We couldn’t look glamorous, as it was an authentic family we were creating.”

According to Adams, she and Blunt bonded like siblings. “People always thought that we were up to something!” Adams admits. Off-set shenanigans, however, mostly involved carbohydrates, Middle-American style—so much for any actual overlap with Blunt’s Prada fashion victim who’d faint if she didn’t eat her minuscule cube of cheese. “We went to the mall a lot, where I introduced her to Aunt Annie’s pretzels,” Adams confesses. “Emily became quite addicted to those.”

The friendship between Blunt and Adams continues to this day, but not without a speed bump or two, thanks to Blunt’s lacerating wit. “That English thing where they really rip on you but you still think it’s charming? Emily’s got it in spades,” Adams claims. “I don’t have international calling on my cell phone, but I can text. So if she calls me when I’m out of the country, I’ll text her to call me back. When she does, she’s like, ‘Cheap slut!’”

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Despite the fact that Blunt’s character in Sunshine Cleaning—Norah Lorkowski, an uneducated, career-averse, inarticulate American slacker—comes from a background so different from her own, Blunt still found a way in. “Norah is just yearning; those characters are always the best ones to play, because there’s a sense of turmoil in their desire for… ” Blunt pauses for a second. You can practically hear the gears whirring in her quick-moving brain until she finds the word that expresses exactly what she means: “More. They desire more.”

Life as an ascendant actor inevitably involves hanging out in Hollywood, a very different landscape from Blunt’s perennially cold, damp Britain. “English people have a faux snobbery towards L.A.,” Blunt exclaims. “It’s bullshit! Trust me, we all secretly love it!” Indeed, when in Los Angeles—which is, of course, often—Blunt loves the understated glam of the Little Door, the sexily noir-ish Mexican joint El Carmen, the foodie small bites and big wines at A.O.C. and the cool jazz sounds of the Green Door. “L.A. is a very seductive place,” she says. “If you have friends and cafés, you can survive here.” And if Blunt develops any Brit homesickness, there’s always the King’s Head Pub in Santa Monica: “It’s fantastic—they’ve recreated a true pub very well, even in the balmy tropical weather.”

Blunt’s upcoming roles prove about as incongruous as a classic British pub by the California coast. Her next two parts split the difference between her comedic and dramatic talents. She plays a neurotic publicist in The Great Buck Howard (a labor of love for Tom Hanks, with whom Blunt had a memorably naughty, Clinton-esque clinch in Charlie Wilson’s War). In The Wolf Man, she’s a mourning lover alongside Benicio del Toro in a big-budget, Gothic extravaganza. According to Blunt, she had to “resign herself to a corset” to be authentic to her Wolf Man character: “I had to run and scream while wearing it! But it helps your posture, and certainly makes your boobs look fantastic. My internal organs now loathe me, however, so it might be good to do something in jeans and T-shirts. After all, I don’t want to be typecast as the ‘English rose’—that’s boring, isn’t it?”

Nothing is more English than one of Blunt’s most anticipated upcoming projects: She stars as the youthful Queen of England herself in The Young Victoria. It’s a prize for any actor, and Blunt knows it—she calls it “one of the greatest love stories. You know you’ve made it as a British actress if you’re asked to play a British monarch.”

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Photography by Patrick Fraser, styling by Shirley Kurata.

Top 10 Date Restaurants: Los Angeles

1. A.O.C. (Mid-City West): The place to eat small bites at not so small prices. Prepare to fall in love with true quality. 2. Campanile (Mid-City West): Scene of power lunches, Romantic/Date Spot seasonal dinners and prized brunch. 3. Cobras & Matadors (Los Feliz): Formerly trendy tapas still great for a dram and getting your eat on.

4. Jar (Mid-City West): Chopped sirloin with fried egg and peppercorn sauce could take the place of burgers if it wasn’t low-grade lethal. 5. Nishimura (West Hollywood): Against some people’s better judgment, we suggest you slurp their raw bait down sans rice. This sashimi is full of flavor. 6. Michael’s (Santa Monica): Outside patio of this Cali-cuisine legend the most likely place to catch a falling star. 7. Saddle Peak Lodge (San Fernando Valley): 100-year old Hemingway favorite of game meats, stuffed animal heads, hurricane lamps, and cushy leather armchairs awaits PETA smackdown. 8. Piccolo Ristorante Italiano (Venice): Spectacular flavors of Venice in Venice, like Cortinese red beet stuffed pasta with poppy seeds and brown butter. 9. Three Drunken Goats (Glendale): Tiny little tapas joint livens up tiny little Montrose. 10. Via Veneto (Santa Monica): Candle-lit room is the most Romantic/Date Spot the city offers.