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Celebrate Valentine's Day With a Special Meal

Soft music, candlelight, and the food of love - in simple terms, dinners for two that include sizzling steaks and decadent chocolate desserts - will be available to diners around the state on Valentine's Day. Many restaurants will offer specials, fixed price, and multi-course Valentine's Day menus in addition to regular entrees.

Just a few of the state’s restaurants offering special menus, entrees, or desserts in honor of what is arguably the most romantic meal of the year include Estelle’s Wine Bar and Bistro in Jackson; Patio 44 in Hattiesburg and Biloxi; Table 100 in Flowood; McLain’s Steakhouse in Brandon; Chancellor’s Grill and Lounge in Oxford; P.F. Chang’s in Ridgeland; and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Biloxi, to name a few.

Even better, if you’re one of those that hates to go out on a night when restaurants are usually busy, many are extending Valentine’s-related meals throughout the weekend.

I haven’t yet checked on their Valentine’s specials, but I know for a fact that one of my favorite restaurants, MM Shapley’s in Ridgeland, will be serving delicious steaks, sides, and cozy ambiance fitting for the most romantic night – or following weekend – of the year.

I’ve been enjoying Shapley’s steaks since 1985, the year the restaurant opened in Jackson. I hadn’t been in Jackson long before I was invited to attend the opening of the restaurant, which specialized in steaks but offered superior service and ambiance that set it apart from many area restaurants. There have been some changes over the years, including a move to Ridgeland and the Shapley family selling the restaurant for 20 years to others that continued the tradition of serving excellent steaks in a warm, relaxing atmosphere.

Now, the Shapley family is back at the helm and during my last visit, even though the name – MM Shapley’s – has been altered slightly to reflect owners’ Mark and Mary Shapley’s return - I was pleased to see that the same outstanding food, customer service and ambiance exists today.

If you’re planning to dine out tomorrow night or any night, for that matter, here’s a recap of some of my favorite dishes as well as others that are worth a try.

For starters, fried pasta ($15) is an appetizer you don’t often see on a restaurant menu. For that reason, as well as the unbelievably-good taste, it’s one I always order. It’s a delicious blend of linguini, crawfish tails, and seasonings that are fried and served over a combination of cream and marinara sauce.

A close second on the favorites list is barbecue shrimp ($15). Peppers and onions are combined a unique sauce, simmered with large shell-on gulf shrimp and served with Italian bread. Others are Norwegian smoked salmon ($15) topped with a fresh herb dressing with capers, sweet onions, and homemade crostini; Papa’s hot tamales ($5 for 3); fried crawfish tails ($17); tuna tower ($17); Hudson Valley foie gras ($25), and a $23 charcuterie tray filled with cheeses, meats, and olives.

Seafood is prominently represented on the menu, ranging from jumbo fried Gulf shrimp ($24) served with fries and sauces or stuffed shrimp ($28) wrapped in bacon and topped with a crabmeat dressing; grilled redfish ($36) topped with fresh lump seafood or grilled shrimp; grilled salmon filet ($28); and grilled ahi tuna ($34) finished with a tomato, corn, and onion relish.

Shapley’s seafood is superb, especially my favorite, stuffed shrimp. However, it always has been, and probably always will be, Shapley’s steaks that have kept the restaurant thriving since 1985.

One of my top picks is Shapley’s filet mignon ($36). When you order the perfect cut of meat that’s been expertly-trimmed and seared to perfection, that’s all you need for a truly memorable meal. Cuts start at eight ounces and increase by two ounces per cut for $4 per additional cut.

However, if you like a larger steak, don’t worry. Shapley’s can satisfy you steak craving with a flavorful 18-20-ounce ribeye ($47); 16-18 ounce New York strip ($46), and the mammoth 32-ounce Porterhouse (starting at $72 and increasing $2.25 per ounce).

Also on the menu are grilled beef tips with peppers and onions ($28); rack of lamb ($49 - $69) and herb crusted chicken breast ($18). For a few dollars extra, add jumbo lump crabmeat, sautéed mushrooms, crabmeat stuffed shrimp, sea scallops, sautéed artichoke hearts, or a blue cheese crust to your steak or other meat selection.

Billed as “shareable sides,” a variety of dishes in the $6 to $8 range make any meal complete along with the salads and smaller sides served with many of the entrees and seafood dishes. These include potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach, grilled asparagus, roasted vegetables, fries, garlic toast, and grilled or marinara pasta.

MM Shapley’s is located at 868 Centre Street in Ridgeland. Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m. and until 9:30 on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday. For more information or to make reservations, calls 601-957-8000 or email contact@mmShapley’

Check out these last minute Valentine's Day steak dinner you can cook right in your own home to avoid the crowds tomorrow!

Teriyaki Steaks for Two

Marinate a thick cut of sirloin (or your favorite cut) steak for several hours in the refrigerator with:

1/2 bottle of teriyaki steak sauce

Juice of 2-3 lemons

Salt and pepper

Remove from refrigerator and top with 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Grill or broil to desired level of doneness. Let meat rest before slicing.

Quick Twice-Baked Potatoes

Bake two large baking potatoes. Scoop out inside, leaving a small border of potato around edges. Add to the meat of the potatoes:

Small container of French onion dip

1-2 tablespoons of butter

Stir and return to potatoes. Top with a sprinkle of bacon bits and if desired, shredded cheese. Place under the broiler or in microwave for a couple of minutes until butter and cheese are melted; don't overcook.

Semi-Homemade Garlic Bread

Purchase a loaf of French bread from the supermarket deli. Split in half lengthwise and cover both sides of bread with a liberal amount of Lawry's Garlic Spread and butter. Close halves and cover top with additional butter and garlic spread. Wrap in foil and place in a 350-degree F oven for 15 minutes or until butter is melted.

Easy Heart-Shaped Dessert

1 box of red velvet cake mix

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1 stick softened butter

1 cup strawberries, washed and halved

Make cake according to package directions. For moister cake, instead of oil, use melted butter, and instead of water, use milk, to make cake. While cake is baking, beat together remaining three ingredients and set aside.

When cake layers are cooled, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out four small hearts or two large hearts. Layer the filling between two hearts to make a sandwich. Place a dollop of filling on top for garnishment and top with sliced strawberries. Dust with more powdered sugar.

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