Love, Sweat, Chocolate

A cupid's guide to the romantic happenings around town

It's safe to say that an equal number of people love Valentine's Day as loathe it, and if you're a member of the latter crowd, you're out of luck this weekend -- the festival of love is Saturday, so the number of Valentine-centric parties is way up. Maybe this is the weekend that you loosen that grip on your angst and get down with the rest of us who aren't afraid to indulge in a little sappy romance. Or maybe you're being forced to celebrate this greeting-card holiday and don't know how to escape. Either way, there's plenty of cool stuff to do.

On Friday, February 13, the Kastle Gallery (3207 Washington Avenue, 314-534-1571) hosts "A Passionate Night for the Arts," a multimedia extravaganza featuring more than 50 visual artists, live jazz and poetry. In one of the most attractive hooks we've heard lately, you and your sweetie can enjoy a "simultaneous couple massage" (get your mind out of the gutter) provided by two masseuses from the Healing Center. The party lasts from 7 p.m. to midnight, and it's free, though donations are encouraged and will go toward helping ArtDimensions with its mission of "keeping the arts free for the people of St. Louis."

Just up the street is Jazz at the Bistro (3536 Washington Avenue), where the husband-and-wife team of Mardra and Reggie Thomas will perform "a night of romance." (For more, see Dean C. Minderman's Critic's Pick on page 69.) Jazz at the Bistro is a venerable St. Louis institution that has hosted everyone from Count Basie to Harry Connick Jr. If you're too cheap to buy flowers, there's really no help for you -- but because all of the ladies receive a complimentary rose, you'll look good in her eyes, and then she can swoon over Mardra's "ultra-sultry" vocals while Reggie lays down some "flawless grooves" on the piano. The Illinois natives will perform shows at 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. on February 13 and 14. Tickets are $20 and are available through MetroTix (314-534-1111) or at the door.

Not far from Jazz at the Bistro is our splendid Contemporary Art Museum (3750 Washington Boulevard, 314-535-4660), and there you can catch Jazz Erotica III, a night of those two beautiful, beatific art forms wrapped around each other, twisting, sweating, fighting for air -- well, you get the idea. Ron Himes of the Black Rep emcees the show, which features poets Marsha Can, Cheryl D.S. Walker, Queue, Floyd "Impakt" Boykin and Came Thompson. Boz (Dwayne Bosman) will be the resident "jazzician." Tickets are $5, and a cash bar will enhance your appreciation of improvisation.

Finally, the Companion Bakehouse and Café in Clayton (8143 Maryland Avenue) offers its annual "One Night Stand" all-dessert menu on Saturday, February 14. The café has a great reputation for made-fresh-daily confections, and tonight it will remain open until 11 p.m. You can try the chocolate pistachio cake, the marzipan table-for-two cake or any of a wide array of French and Belgian chocolates. There isn't any alcohol on the menu, but don't worry. Chocolate is the new wine: It soothes even when you're single. It's $9.95 each to eat anything and everything you desire. Reservations are required (of course! It's Valentine's day, man!), so call Companion at 314-721-5454.

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