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Valentine's Day Mishaps From the Front Lines

Industry pros share professional, and personal, stories of romantic V-day gestures gone awry.

On Valentine's Day, those behind the bar, in the kitchen, and on the floor do their best to stay calm and keep the romance up for those who brave dinner out on the busiest, couple-iest, and some might say, made-up-iest holiday of the season. Sure, the night's big sales and big tips are always appreciated, but on a night when restaurants are fully booked, wait times are long, and pressure is high, a million things can, and will, go wrong. Here now, some of Portland's finest industry professionals share stories of  Valentine's Day fails. Do you have one to share? Regale us in the comments below.


Jason French of Ned Ludd and Elder Hall: A Sad Proposition

"While V-Day had been labeled JV night in many restaurants, we have a long history of trying to support lovers of all types on ‘the special day.' One year we had the fortune of setting up a special engagement of a couple, hiding the ring on the dessert plate and everything. He got on one knee to propose. Unfortunately, for him and the entire section — staff, and patrons alike — she declined. He sat back down and they were both crying ... it was awful. Pretty much the single most awkward moment to date at the restaurant. Oh, love!"

Doug Weiler of Glyph Café & Arts Space: The Wrong Way to Open a Champagne Bottle

"I used to work at a small Italian place that was a B.Y.O.B. We had an open kitchen and it was a very tight, intimate environment in the restaurant. One of the couples dining happened to be two actors from some show like Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill or one of those. The guy brought a bottle of champagne with him. It was pretty obvious that he didn't know how to open it. We watched from the kitchen as he tried to open the champagne with a wine key. Of course when the pressure from the champagne was too much, the cork shot across the restaurant, along with the wine key, and hit another guest in the back of the head. The guest was fine, everyone in the kitchen got a good laugh, and I guarantee he never tried to open champagne like that again."


Kat LeSueur of Cocotte: Table for One

"Last year on Valentine's Day a couple had an obvious argument before the first course arrived. She left; he finished the prix fixe on his own. It was awkward. It seemed like that might've been the end of the relationship. But he enjoyed the meal!"

Gabe Rosen of Biwa: A Dessert Malfunction

"I remember on our first Valentine's Day at Biwa I wanted to make chocolates to give our guests, but I did something wrong (they were going to be green tea white chocolate poured ganaches ... very turn of the millennium. They were a disaster. I had so much prep to do and we really needed the night to be a success. Thankfully, Janice Martin was helping us out back then on Saturdays, and she saved the ganaches and our asses. Shortly thereafter she opened up Tanuki, and I have always appreciated her help in the early days of Biwa, especially that V-Day."

Dave Shenaut of Raven & Rose: Will You ... Pay the Bill?

"Thirteen years ago I spent a week setting up all the details to propose on Valentine's Day: letter from her dad giving his consent, fancy restaurant that I couldn't quite afford, ring in a wooden box that was set into the dessert by the pastry chef, champagne, and prime rib — the whole nine. Earlier that day, I had deposited my paycheck into the ATM and, being consumed by nervousness, I left the card in the machine. I didn't realize this mistake until it was time to pay the largest dinner bill of my life. After she said ‘Yes' I had to ask her to pay. We were married 11 years, and my advice is to always carry cash on the big day."

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