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Shake the rut with a Valentine's gourmet in the woods: Tapas on the Trails trumps flowers

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Houston Arboretum's Tapas on the Trails is yearly Valentine's Day event featuring exquisite cuisines by Chef Adam Paul and Chef Dan Budd on woody trails. Photo by Joel Luks
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Stations will be set-up along the Willow Oak trail. Photo by Joel Luks
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Each food station will be paired up with wine. Photo by Joel Luks
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The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is a 155-acre nature reserve on the western edge of Memorial Park. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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Courtesy of Houston Arboretum
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Valentine's Day is fast approaching and some of us will be scrambling to figure out what to do to appease the romantic side of our better-half. If it was up to them, plans would have been solidified already.

Reservations would have been made, the limo reserved, flowers ordered, special engraved jewelry delivered and additional resources stashed in a secret hiding spot: a bottle of the trendiest bubbly, strawberries and of course, a variety box of chocolate and perhaps a naughty négligée (or whip).

But alas, we are not them and planning isn't our forte. We are just lucky to remember birthdays and anniversaries, care of our electronic calendars.

If you are in a Valentine's Day rut, meaning, wanting to do something different than the obligatory dinner for two, concentrate on the experience: Focus on activities that foster connecting personally. Romance will follow.

Inner Loopers love the amenities of Memorial Park — the trails, golf course, track and courts make for entertaining people watching. But if you drive on Woodway just east of 610, you will find yourself in a 155-acre nature sanctuary. The Houston Arboretum and Nature Center is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in town, on the western edge of the park.

It's not a running track. Don't try it. it's not allowed. A gentle promenade is the thing to do.

It's a getaway from the hustle and bustle of urban life while connecting with the area's natural history and surroundings — an escape and change of scenery ideal for Valentine's Day, with wooded trails, ponds, friendly animals and native plants.

Tapas on the Trails is the Arboretum's answer to your planning woes. And exactly as it sounds, there will be exquisite tapas on the woody trails.

Featuring the cuisine of chef Adam Paul, infamous for game preparation and charcuterie, and chef Dan Budd, named twice as one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Chocolatier magazine — his Life by Chocolate flourless torte is legendary, not to mentioned his grilled passion cream cheesecakes with drunken berries. 

The trails will be lit. The wine pairings will warm you up as you stroll gently through the forest. And the food will satisfy your need for a gourmet meal, in a natural setting. You may just get lucky.

The complete menu at the tapas stations:

Loblolly Table: Assortment of soft, semi-soft and hard cheeses provided by the Houston Dairymaids, with crackers, biscuits, jams and fruits; 2009 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay

Post Oak Table: Boston Bibb lettuce cup filled with quick pickled vegetables including carrots, parsnip, shiitaki mushrooms, red onion and fresh spinach with a yuzu infused olive oil; 2008 Erath Pinot Gris

Yaupon Table: Roasted Blue Hubbard Squash puree enlivened with Almond Milk topped with toasted pepitas, pumpkin oil and celtic salt; 2008 Crios Malbec

Redbud Table: Seared Duck and julienned vegetables served in delicate orange and basil crepes, topped with a hoisin and ginger sauce; 2007 Pheasant Ridge Pinot Noir

Meadow Deck: Griddled Passion cream cheesecakes with drunken berries; Life by Chocolate — A blend of flourless chocolate cake, mousse and graham crust; and Espresso layer cakes with Tiramisu cream; Segura Viudas Brut Rosé Reserva Cava and specially selected gourmet coffees provided by Starbucks

A sneak peek at Tapas on the Trails:

Tapas on the Trails is this Saturday, arrive anytime between 5 - 7 p.m. to begin your stroll. But you must reserve your spot, limited spaces are available, by end of the day Friday. Got kids? No problem. Care is available for children five and up. Tapas on the Trails is $75 a person for Houston Arboretum members, and $95 for non-members. 

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