Photo Courtesy Of

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Feb. 14, a day to take chances with your crush, to shower your significant other with undying love and even treat yourself with something special. A 24-hour period where being cheesy is encouraged and skipping along the streets and plucking flowers isn’t looked upon as abnormal. The sun sparkles brighter, the gentle breeze blows kisses into the air and hearts spark with an inevitable glow. Couples prance along the grass, with fingers entwined and heart-shaped eyes. Children beam with laughter and sink their teeth into bite-sized chocolates laced with ribbons of gooey caramel. Vibrant flowers and fuzzy bees dance on the outskirts of a thousand picnics. Life-sized teddy bears and colorful cards are constantly being tugged off the store shelves. Just as it seems that the 24 hours will never disappear, couples flounce to their dinner reservations and wind down the day with a glass of wine and a meal to warm their hearts for the rest of the evening. With a fresh red rose and flickering candle at the table, Valentine’s Day offers couples the fairy tale ending they have always dreamt of.

To all those lovebirds, soul mates and newly discovered romances, I have the perfect restaurant for you and your partner-in-crime that will leave you both happier and even more in love than ever before!

Just last year, my boyfriend surprised me moments before dinner with a reservation for us that Valentine’s Day evening. Having only been dating for about a month, I had no clue what kind of dinner I was getting myself into but trusting him, I, of course, said yes.

I strolled down the stairs in black patent pumps and a sleek black dress paired with a rose embellished kimono as my boyfriend arrived to pick me up. I ducked my head as I crawled into the passenger seat and he clicked the door behind me. It must have been at least 20 minutes winding up through the mountains past Santa Barbara. Gusts of wind smelling of rich oak trees wisped through my hair and the tunes of Coldplay left a trail twirling behind us. As we finally parked the car on the sandy stretches alongside the road, the sight of the Cold Spring Tavern restaurant blew me away. He had picked a world winner of a restaurant. We must have traveled back in time to the 1800s because large wooden wagon wheels were planted out front with a rocky creek flowing outdoors and dimly lit lanterns surrounding the restaurant.

The Cold Spring Tavern is located on highway 154, The San Marcos Pass that lies a close distance to our beloved Isla Vista. With its rustic setting, it brings people back 130 years to a time easily imaginable in this atmosphere. This cherished restaurant has been chosen as the best place for a romantic getaway in California. You may want to have something handy for a potential celebrity to autograph because multiple movie and television stars have come to join the experience of time travel. A few steps away from the restaurant, small bands come to perform in a tiny little shack and bar which truly enriches the rustic atmosphere that customers of the Cold Spring Tavern can really immerse themselves in.

As the hostess guided us to our table indoors, we took a seat and noticed a crystal vase filled with a luscious red rose, as well as a dimly lit lantern radiating onto our menus. While munching on soft, warm garlic-basil bread, we hunted through the entire menu: charbroiled tiger shrimp, sautéed duck breast, barbeque baby back pork ribs, New Zealand rack of lamb, buffalo burger, etc. Eventually, we selected an appetizer of Baked Artichoke Hearts that lied in a cushion of melted Jack cheese, sundried tomatoes and garlic cream. To follow up, we ordered an entrée of rabbit loin (layered with wild mushrooms and garlic and stuffed with rabbit mousse) to share. As our orders arrived on steaming fresh plates, the flavors of cheesy garlic artichokes and tender zesty rabbit swirled around our taste buds and sunk into our stomachs with the perfect amount of warmth and succulence. Sides of seasonal sautéed vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes lay delicately next to our entrées and released fresh swirls of steam that warmed our noses. The overload of delectable spices and textures put our conversation on hold. With the final bite of the meal and a splash of ice-cold water, we laid down the tip and strutted out the exit with already a nostalgic desire to return again.

Despite the increase of prices on this lovely holiday, each bite was savored and remembered to this day. No kidding, we are considering the Cold Spring Tavern to be a tradition for every Valentine’s Day. So hurry now and book your fairy tale reservations for an unforgettable magical night with the one you love!