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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) top