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Valentine’s Day Dinner at Il Palio in Chapel Hill!

Posted Feb 15 2011 2:11pm

Good afternoon!

Matt and I went out to a fun Valentine’s Day dinner last night at Il Palio , an Italian restaurant inside the Siena Hotel here in Chapel Hill. We originally planned to go out to dinner on Friday night, but Matt was sick all weekend and ended up staying in town this week. He’s feeling all better now so it worked out rather well to be able to spend actual Valentine’s Day together! With the exception of post-run brunches, I hardly ever go out to eat here, so it was fun getting dressed up and going out to have a fancy dinner :)

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Il Palio had a special 5-course price fixe menu for Valentine’s Day. There were a few different options in each category – it was hard to decide what to get, everything sounded so delicious!

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We decided that our goal was to try as much of the menu as possible, so with the exception of our starter course and dessert course, we ordered different things so we could taste each other’s :)

First things first – we ordered a bottle of wine!

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Our waiter helped us pick this out and it was seriously one of the best wines I’ve ever had. I feel like whenever I’m in California doing tastings , I always LOVE all their Chardonnays, but every time I order one out at a restaurant back home I’m always disappointed. This was certainly not the case last night! Searching out this wine everywhere I go from now on :)

My handsome date (annoyed that I’m taking a picture of him):

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While we perused the menu, some delicious cheesy bread and this AMAZING chickpea pesto spread arrived!

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I really need to try to recreate that at home. It was SO good! And then, the real food started arriving :)

For our first course, both Matt and I ordered the fennel-crusted tuna carpaccio,which came with shaved fennel salad, organic baby arugula, blood orange, capers, grana padano, and extra-virgin olive oil.

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We both loved it – such a unique and perfect combination of flavors. The fennel and blood oranges in particular really made this dish!

For our second course, Matt ordered the butter-roasted bosc pears with port wine, goat lady crotin, chicory, and house-made vincotto sauce.

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SO good. Anything that combines pears, red wine reductions, and cheese is a win in my book.

And I decided to be adventurous and ordered the arancini, which was red wine-braised oxtail stuffed into a fried risotto cake!

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Yum! This wasn’t my favorite dish of the evening, but it was tasty and it’s always fun to try something new :)

For our third course, Matt had the walnut and ricotta ravioli with yellow foot mushrooms, wilted baby spinach, and beurre fondue.

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It was good, but I LOVED what I ordered – the ashley farm rabbit papardelle with kalamata olives, rosemary, and thick pasta:

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Yumm… it tasted like BBQ on top of pasta!

(Sidenote – the portions are much smaller than they look in the pictures, don’t worry! Although neither of us finished our second or third courses – had to save room for the main event!)

For my main dish, I ordered the butter-poached Maine lobster tail with anson mills polenta and a madeira lobster reduction. This was SO good! Definitely one of my favorites of the evening.

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Lobster + cheesy polenta? Divine. The flavors complemented each other perfectly.

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Being a boy, Matt of course ordered the steak :)

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Espresso-crusted beef tenderloin with caramelized potato tortiera, porcini mushrooms, and brandy cream sauce, to be exact! It was also absolutely delicious. Matt and I decided that next time we make steak, it will be espresso crusted. :)

Last but not least – dessert!

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Fondue for two :) It came with cayenne-spiced chocolate fondue, mint anglaise, and strawberries, blackberries, biscotti, and vanilla straws for dipping.

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The mint anglaise was insanely good – it tasted like melted mint chocolate chip ice cream! May or may not have taken a sip directly from the shot glass, to Matt’s horror. Don’t judge. You would have done the same thing had you tasted this stuff. The biscotti was awesome, too!

If you’re ever in Chapel Hill and looking for fine dining, I’d highly recommend Il Palio . The service was stellar (whisked right in when we arrived, server was attentive and helpful but not overly so), the food was excellent, and the wine was to die for. There was even a wonderful pianist playing all evening!

Needless to say, after all that food AND numerous glasses of wine, Tuesday early a.m. speedwork did not happen ;) But thankfully I was able to convince my friend Jillian to run later this afternoon, instead! Win/win – more sleep, more time to prep in the morning for my exam this a.m., AND now we get to run in the warm sunshine. Yay! I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap – including details about our second epic Walleyball game , happening tonight!

What’s the best/most memorable restaurant meal you’ve ever had and where was it?

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