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By Miriam Raftery

February 7, 2009 — Where are the sweetest spots to savor a romantic Valentine's dinner for two in San Diego's eastern region?

East County Magazine's restaurant reviewers, staff and editors have teamed up to offer these recommendations for places that offer not only fabulous food, but a cozy ambience ideal for wining and dining your sweetheart this Valentine's Day.

THE BARREL ROOM VINTAGE WINE BAR& BISTRO: Situated in Rancho Bernardo, the Barrel Room has a selection of wines so impressive that it received both the Wine Spectator 2008 Award of Excellence and the Wine Spectator 2008 Award of Distinction. Prices are surprisingly moderate for this upscale area. Dark warm woods, leather sofas and tables with white linen cloths make the ambience both intimate and formal. Savor a wine flight, gourmet appetizers and a selection of delectable entrees and desserts. Try our favorite aphrodesiac –bacon-wrapped dates, for a sumptuously savory experience. www.thebarrelroomsandiego.com

BLUE BOHEME: From stone walls to wax-drenched candelabras, the Blue Boheme in Kensington exudes the warmth and charm of an authentic French bistro. The restaurant is offering a special Valentine's Day menu at $65 a person. The feast begins with a choice of marinated goat cheese salad or lobster bisque, followed by a main course of salmon and shrimp in flaky pastry shell, pork chop in Dijon mustard sauce, or filet mignon pastry topped with foie gras and forest mushroom sauce. As a finishing touch, savor a creme brulee tarte or a heart-shaped raspberry mousse on a chocolate biscuit. Bon appetit! www.bleuboheme.com

GIO'S WINE BAR & RESTAURANT: La Mesa's sophisticated new happening spot includes a cozy loft with barrel ceiling, elegant wine bar, and an outdoor patio complete with waterfall and fireplace. Start your feast with a selection of tapas and entrees ranging from Oysters Rockefeller to lobster tails, but leave room for desserts such as lava cake and creme brulee. Live music and candlelight completes the ambience for you and your loved one. www.giowineanddine.com

JULIAN GRILL: Steaks, seafood, prime rib and of course, pie from Julian apples are among the offerings at this cozy mountain retreat, nestled in a quaint cottage with French-paned windows in the historic gold-mining town of Julian. Savor hot cider or wine as you snuggle up beside a fireplace in the main dining room, or enjoy garden views in an enclosed patio area. So old-fashioned that it doesn't even have a restaurant, the Julian Grill is well worth a trip back in time to historic Julian at 2224 Main Street; phone (760) 765-0173

RANCHO BERNARDO WINERY: For the Romantic at heart, Rancho Bernardo Winery is hosting Vino Valentino, a special event with live jazz music, fine wines, food and chocolate. Enjoy an evening with your special someone amid the romantically charming walls of a century old winery in the tasting room, then savor a selection of specialty sweet and savory appetizers created by Cafe Merlot, as well as an abundant selection of fine cheeses and meats, served with Italian charm. Please your palate with tastings of estate wines and champagnes, Moscato rose and Chocolate Port--in rim-dipped chocolate and caramel glasses. Add a red rose and a box of fine chocolate for each of you to take home after you dance the night away. Call to reserve tickets, as availability is limited for this special event. www.bernardowinery.com

THE VINE WINE BAR & BISTRO: Cozy and intimate, Alpine's newest attraction is filled with rustic charm--from a river-rock fireplace to a tree trunk supporting the roof above the bar, plus secluded nooks for an intimate dining experience. The Vine Wine serves up generous portions of vintages to sample on its wine flights, plus cheese platters, soups and salads to please a variety of palettes as well as full-course meals including seafood, poultry, steak and shepherd's pie. Prices range from very modest to moderate, making this an ideal place for those seeking a romance on a budget. www.visitthevine.net