Cheese, Wine and an Education: What More Could You Want from a Date?

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Molto Formaggio The Cheese Shop provides the perfect set up for a date with its class on paring cheese and wine flights. For $75 per couple (classes are limited to 10 couples) you get to try three wine flights, three cheese flights, other food accompaniments to mix and match with the various wines and cheese, and a gift bag containing a bottle of wine and two cheeses from the class.

My date and I attended one of the monthly classes on a Sunday in late July, along with 18 other eager wine drinkers and cheese eaters who crowded into the quaint cheese shop.

Molto Fomaggio's first course comprised on the white wine flight: Burno Verdi Pinot Grigio, Clarendelle Bordeaux, and As Sortes. The accompanying cheeses were a Morbier, a Cabrin, and a Montenebro. Julie Robertson, Molto Fomaggio's manager and wine buyer, gave us detailed explanations of each wine and cheese. Participants called out whether the dried apricots, Marcona almonds or Fauchon confit of mirabelle and gewurstraminer paired better with the wine or cheese.

Julie shared how "there was a lot going on with the pinot grigio" and "how the wine really showed the grape." She told us how a white Bordeaux is made from sauvignon blanc grapes and the Spanish wine was made entirely of godello grapes. Julie also knew that the As Sortes came from the northeast corner of Portugal.

Rose wines comprised the second wine course along with a delicious triple cream cheese called Delice d'Bourgogne, a Heublumen and a Valencay. (A shop employee told us that the Valencay, topped with vegetable ash, is no longer made in a triangular shape because of Napolean. When the French leader saw the pointy tops of the goat cheese he demanded that they be cut off so that he wouldn't be reminded of his military defeats in Egypt..

For the third course, Molto Formaggio served red wines and white colored cheeses: a Montgomery Cheddar, an Iberico Curado and an Ossau-Iraty, the house favorite. This course had the most amount of accompaniments, a cherry and grape must syrup (Mosto Cotto), an Italian blackberry jam that was more like a preserve because of its lack of pectin, truffle honey and a piece of mocha chocolate. While Julie told us we didn't need a lot of the truffle honey because it tasted so strong, we disagreed. We could have each slurped up at least 10 of the minuscule plastic spoon servings.

If the above isn't enough information about the class, after the jump are answers to some of your anticipated questions:

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King Spa: A Little Song, a Bite of Food and Lots of Rubbing and Sweating. Now That's a Date.

Just follow the herd to King Spa & Sauna.
In the mood to be by yourself and go on a "me date"? Or do you and your sweetie want to try a new place for date night? Heck, do you want a new idea for a family event at a place with food and entertainment? Follow the giraffes and head to King Spa & Sauna on Royal Lane. (Statues of four giraffes sit on top of the entrance to the spa.)

The Korean-inspired venue offers "nine unique healing sauna rooms," acupressure massage for body and feet, body scrubs, whirlpools, a movie theater, free Wi-Fi, a food court, a children's play area and karaoke. Doesn't that scream full-service date place? Better yet, King Spa & Sauna is open 24 hours daily, seven days a week. So you can go there on a date or not on a date any time.

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The King Spa & Sauna requires all customer to pay an admission fee of $20, though if you go during happy hour it's $17. Happy hour is not your typical "it must be 5 o'clock somewhere" and there's no booze on the premises -- mixing a hot sauna and alcohol is not a good idea, coronary-wise. Instead, the spa and sauna's happy hour goes from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Upon arrival and after paying your admission fee, you will be issued a locker key bracelet and a "uniform" -- a pink T-shirt and pink shorts for women and a grayish blue T-shirt and shorts for men. Children, no matter the gender, get yellow uniforms.

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What Makes Kozy Kitchen Cozy?

Scallops at Kozy Kitchen.
What makes Kozy Kitchen cozy? It's definitely the comfort food the restaurant serves and not its stark décor. Kozy Kitchen's atmosphere actually feels pretty sterile with its nine vertical paintings on the walls, brown vinyl booths, dark brown wood chairs and blackish brown Formica tables. There's no cozy fireplace or big, overstuffed couch in the restaurant.

But if you speak to executive chef Nicolas Pavageaux, who's known as Chef Nic, you'll learn how passionate he is about the food he creates and the concept to "keep old things new." Chef Nic told City of Ate that Kozy Kitchen is "old school" and that he "makes the food like his grandma prepared it -- from scratch, nothing is outsourced." Chef Nic serves "clean comfort food" and says that it "makes you feel good inside."

Kozy Kitchen is a perfect place to take a date. It's not overrun with hordes of people and doesn't require reservations made months in advance. It's a neighborhood BYOB restaurant. And like you all know, most dates get cozier if there's drinking involved.

The food tastes fresh. A woman who ordered the Kozy Salad with scallops could not stop raving about the diver sea scallops over organic greens, mixed with green apples, cucumbers, strawberries, blue cheese and vinaigrette dressing. And get ready for the desserts; they so good you'd never know that all of them are gluten free.

Chef Nic said he perfected the cake recipes over six years. Like the rest of the food on the Kozy menu all desserts are in-house from scratch. Chef Nic named the chocolate cake layered with peanut butter mousse and white chocolate cream cheese frosting the "Oh My God Cake" because "Better than Sex was already taken." He compares a piece of the "Oh My God Cake" to a big Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

Kozy Kitchen's warmth comes from its food and the pride it staff takes in making it. There's obvious truth to the motto on the Kozy Kitchen menu that reads "Real Food, Real People, Real Kozy."

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

Obsessed With Love and Appetizers at Mercy Wine Bar

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Do people realize that the curtains at Mercy Wine Bar are see-through? Apparently not. Last Wednesday night, singles and several couples flocked to Mercy's boudoir-feel wine bar to escape the Dallas heat, but ended up making some of their own.

In the span of three hours, two different couples found their way to what several wine-drinking onlookers started calling the "magical couch." That couch and the people sitting on it got a lot of action on Hump Day night. The gauzy curtains provided a fake sense of privacy surrounding the couples that sat on the "magical couch" as the pairs swooned over each other, caressed one another's faces an then started to kiss.

Mercy's mood lighting, its book of a wine list (100 wines by the glass and 50 by the bottle) and its cozy couches had people forgetting they weren't in their own living rooms or bedrooms. And if patrons got up to use the restrooms, the sexy vibe followed them as they took their rests amidst sexy, black and white nude photographs taken by Brian Hilson.

Trying to break away from the couch's romantic hold and our view of it, we asked a male patron and his date what they were obsessed with on Mercy's menu. The couple loved the tuna tartare and the white truffle Parmesan pommes frites. That's exactly what Heather, a Mercy server and bartender, told us to order. She remarked that "the white truffle pommes frites with fresh Parmesan cheese grated over them" was the appetizer obsession.

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The Single Tax: Why Did Derby Couples Get a Sweet Deal?

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Animal Kingdom won the Derby. Animal couplings got a sweet deal at a Dallas Derby fest.
And they're off...discriminating against singles again. That's right, Park Place Volvo's Day at the Races 2011 charged single people more per ticket than couples. The Lee Park Junior Conservancy hosted the seersucker- and hat-filled Kentucky Derby Day event, which raised money for the development, conservation and maintenance of Lee Park and Arlington Hall.

Before the "most exciting two minutes in sports" took place, Derby watchers sipped on Veuve Clicquot before it ran out and dined on cucumber sandwiches, brisket and grits and turkey and ham sandwiches. They had their pictures taken with Chelsea Handler via a green screen, listened to Ricki Derek and his band, bid on silent auction items, smoked cigars and enjoyed all the pretty people watching.

Typically on Derby Day people are used to throwing down some coin on their favorite colored silk or name of a horse. Not so at Park Place Volvo's Day at the Races 2011. Conservancy member individual tickets were $75, while Conservancy member couples paid $110 total for two tickets. Non-member individual tickets were $95, while non-member couples tickets cost $135 total for both people. That means member individuals paid $20 more than their coupled up friends and non-member individuals were expected to pay $27.50 more than non-member couples. (Ticket price info gathered from here.)

In the midst of a mint julep fog, these discriminatory prices against singles raise philosophical questions. Do single people have more cash? Do couples get a deal because of the simple fact that they see each other -- and presumably only each other -- naked every once in a while?

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Il Cane Rosso: When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie

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Where would you go for dinner after watching an Assassination City Roller Derby bout? A burger place or a pizza joint? It was a pretty tough choice for my date and me. We ended up picking pizza and ate at Il Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum.

We strolled into Cane Rosso at 9:30 on a Saturday night without a reservation and didn't have to wait. The hostess sat us right away. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating. There was no question; we were eating inside even though the space felt chilly (a server actually increased the thermostat's heat setting while we dined and it made for a more comfortable meal)--a Mavs playoff game was on the restaurant's flat screen and we could see it from our table.

A television doesn't bode well for a positive dating experience if your companion is more interested in watching the game than talking to you, but neither of us had that problem. Our dinner date consisted of equal parts basketball viewing and good quality conversation--come on, we'd just seen our first roller derby and had to have a debriefing to rank our favorite players and the best power jams of the night.

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dating, pizza

Neuhaus Café: Kid Friendly isn't Romance Friendly

If you're looking for a quiet place to start off an amorous evening, Neuhaus Café housed in the Preston Royal Shopping Center would not be the best choice. On the other hand, if you're in search of a fun, lively, kid-friendly restaurant with a huge selection of entrées, desserts and candy then Neuhaus Café would be right up your alley.

The café-style restaurant is plain on the outside, near Merge clothing store and Barnes & Noble. You forget about the plain Jane signage, though, when you enter the restaurant that doubles as chocolate and bulk candy shop. Giggling, sugar-high kids race around the restaurant. There's so much to look at -- from the gorgeous panoramic picture of Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town, South Africa, to the delicately placed chocolates in the glass case to the bulk candy dispensers in the back, it's a wonder that patrons can actually sit down and eat their dinners.

The night we ate at Neuhaus Café we selected a table outside to avoid the blasting air conditioner. Inside looked fun, especially since a teenager played her guitar and sang cover songs at the front of the restaurant. I admired how she put out two tips jars -- one for "college" and the other for "Italy."

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Sifting Stars at Starbucks

With the Borders on McKinney closing, I'm reminded of how my hockey player date once prepped at the book store before our first date. I met this guy in an elevator as I was leaving a book club meeting. He asked if I lived in the building. I replied no and told him that I came there for book club once a month. Excitedly, he exclaimed, "You read? I'm a reader too."

Now I know it's not nice to poke fun at people, but I didn't think literacy held the same cachet as other things you want a potential date to have in common with you. Regardless, we took the elevator down to the lobby and we kept talking. He asked what I did and I told him. Then I asked his profession and he said he was a hockey player. I didn't automatically think of professional sports and asked if he played on some sort of intramural team. He said no and that he was a "Star." "Oh, you're a Dallas Star. You play for that hockey team," I realized with embarrassment. 

He asked for my phone number, called, asked me out and I said yes. Who wouldn't go on a date with a Dallas Star? At the very least it's a good story to have in your dating arsenal. And no, I'm not some jersey chaser. I think he was actually hurt -- OK maybe stunned -- that I didn't know who he was from the get-go.

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Ku Sushi and Japanese Cuisine: Ringside at Sushi Night Fight

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The fried egg atop Ku's Dolsot Bi Bim Bop wasn't the only thing that sizzled.
No date with a guy last week. Instead, I went to dinner with two of my girlfriends at Ku Sushi and Japanese Cuisine. The sushi restaurant ranks as one of my friend's and her husband's favorite Preston and Forest neighborhood date spots. Even though it was just us girls, Ku had plenty of drama that night thanks to two couples on a double date -- giving credence to the recent article in Men's Health that Dallas is the seventh angriest city in America.

The spring weather allowed the three of us to sit outside. I wouldn't say the view from our table to the black asphalt of the Preston Forest Shopping Center parking lot was alluring or romantic, but we had wine, and that can make anything dreamy.

My girlfriends followed the sushi route while I ordered a cooked entrée. One friend ordered rice-less sushi rolls and the other chose Ku's regular California, spicy tuna and cucumber rolls. The rice-less sushi rolls looked more exotic than regular ones. My friend enjoyed her Forest Roll, which had tuna on top of a roll made with soy paper, salmon, crab meat and cream cheese. She also liked the Love Love roll that came with salmon, crab meat, avocado and tuna, but she couldn't finish both rolls.

My tasty Dolsot Bi Bim Bop arrived at our table in a sizzling stone pot. The popping and cracking of the egg frying on top of the rice, steak and vegetables alarmed the girls a bit. They got over it after I explained that Bi Bim Bop was a traditional Korean dish. (Looks like Ku serves Korean dishes, not just Japanese ones.) We didn't have any more excitement...until the fight.

The fight we witnessed (OK, initially we heard it, since it broke out inside the restaurant and Ku's tinted windows prevented us from getting a perfect view until the combatants moved outside) was almost as good as the one at my company holiday party four years ago. That brawl commenced when one of my coworkers punched the DJ after the drunk, disheveled and recently divorced DJ started coming on (really hot and heavy) to another coworker. The sushi place fight took place a little after 10 p.m. on our girls' Wednesday night out.

Two couples met and sat at Ku's sushi bar. They ordered drinks and waited a bit to place their dinner order. Who is going out for dinner on a Wednesday night at 10 p.m. in the middle of strip mall in North Dallas? Drunk people, that's who.

Now, my friends and I don't know the exact conversation that instigated the fight, but we gathered the following when the two wives rushed out of the restaurant with eyes wide: The chef told the couples that Ku closed at 10 p.m. but if they placed their food order before a certain time they'd be served; the couples didn't order their food before 10 p.m., they only got drinks; and then the husbands in the group got angry. (One angrier than the other, drunker one. Let's call him Hurly Burly.) That's when the screaming started. Hurly Burly admonished the staff and chef for letting the four of them sit down, order drinks and then not take their dinner order. When the wives opened the restaurant's doors, the parking lot echoed with Hurly Burly's rants about how one of the restaurant's staff had threatened to hurt him. Then Hurly Burly exited the restaurant yelling: "I'm about to go with this guy."

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dating, sushi

Seasons 52: A Date that Keeps You at Fighting Weight

It's hard to believe that every dish Seasons 52 in Plano serves contains 475 calories or less.  After ordering the caramelized sea scallops on a recent date, I was skeptical since the seafood tasted so delicious and filled me up so much I had to take half of the entrée home in a to-go box. But Seasons 52 doesn't lie.  My scallops only had 450 calories, and that also included the asparagus and pearl pasta.

Same thing happened to my date.  He ordered the grilled boneless rainbow trout. The portion of fish covered the entire plate.  If our server had only brought out that dish for the two of us to share we would've had plenty of food.  And while my date didn't take home any leftovers, I had no shame in packing up my extra food.  It makes bringing your lunch to work the next day so much easier.  Plus, you can brag about going out to eat in front of those co-workers of yours who are slaves to microwave meals, and yes that includes eating a bag of microwave popcorn at noon and calling it "lunch."

It had taken us awhile to make a date at Seasons 52 happen.  We'd tried going there around the holidays, on a weeknight no less, and the hostess told us we'd have to wait an hour and 40 minutes. We had given up a couple minutes into our wait because the bar area felt too crowded, and we ended up eating at Artin's Grill further down the way at The Shops at Legacy.

For our second attempt at Seasons 52, we knew better.  My date made an Open Table reservation even though we planned to dine at the restaurant on a Monday night.  When we arrived at the seasonally inspired restaurant, the hostess gave us our pick of booths in the low-lit dining room.  The restaurant's tasteful decorations and large number of booths makes it an attractive place for a date.  Add the atmosphere to the low calorie meals and I know why this place is such a draw.

The food at Seasons 52 was great (though Hanna Raskin disagreed in her December review). The service was not.  Our server kept us waiting for eons after we finished eating our dinner.  While I understand that a table of four men and one woman can be demanding, he could have stopped by our table after he poured table-for-five's wine and just checked in with us, especially since our forks were down.  Yet, he didn't.  Instead we waited such a long time that we had to flag down an entirely different server in order to score my to-go box and a peek at the Mini Indulgences.

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