Sarasota's 10 Best Valentine's Gifts

By staff February 1, 2005

Some like it hot! Feed a new flame or rekindle an old one: Go dancing. Whether you prefer a passionate Latin tempo, a romantic waltz or a cheery cha-cha-cha, undefeated World Exhibition dance champion Wilson Barrera, who's been choreographing and coaching top competitors since 1996, gives dancing lessons guaranteed to make your heart pound. Step out á deux this Valentine's Day. Wilson Dancesport International, 2272 Main St. 955-8558. About

$350 for a series of 10 private/group lessons.

And some like it haut. For a haut champagne in a prêt-á-porter gift box, wine expert Michael Klauber recommends Veuve Clicquot's La Grand Dame for its "remarkable structure and fresh finish." For the connoisseur, this prestige cuvée boasts a "complex aroma of white flowers" spiked with mint and fresh fruit, then mellowed with silky rich vanilla and nougat flavors. Not only that, the sleek black package with its signature yellow interior is eye-poppingly perfect. Go on. Pour a little bubbly for your paramour. 1283 S. Tamiami Trail. 955-1945. About $160.

Romance with the stone. Say it's forever with a heart-shaped Michael Beaudry (reputedly the world's pre-eminent diamond cutter) one-and-a half carat diamond ring. Microset amid fancy pink diamonds (very J. Lo) on a fully engraved platinum band, this diamond ring will rock her world. Queen's Wreath Jewels on St Armands Circle. 28 S. Boulevard of the Presidents. 388-9800. About $29,000.

Timing is everything. Search out a vintage timepiece that says "You're the one," every time he checks his watch. The ultra-rare 1920s Tonneau wristwatch by Patek Philippe, whose clients included Queen Victoria herself, is sure to get his pulse racing. Its superb silver dial boasts blue batons, gold Arabic chapters and black minute track. Of course it is signed Patek Philippe & Cie Geneve. Available at Ashland, 640 S. Washington Blvd. 957-3760. $9,050.

Rose to the occasion. Nothing says romance like roses. Flowers by Fudgie's opulent display of Rio Rouge Baiser red roses set atop a 24-inch silver vase with bear grass and eucalyptus is the floral equivalent of angels and a harp. Truly, this bouquet is over-the-top, heaven-scent. Order early. 6627 Midnight Pass Road. 349-9212. This Valentine: $250.

Suite sensation. Spend a night or two at the Don CeSar and perhaps you'll get inspired by The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Times, (part of the Don's romantic rendezvous special from Feb. 11 to April 30), many written by world-renowned writers including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf, all former guests at the Don. Imagine, two nights in a Gulfside guestroom, love letter turndown, and breakfast in bed. Don CeSar Beach Resort, St. Pete Beach. 800-282-1116. Getaway from $674.

"I love you Berry Much" bark from Chocolate, Nuts & More couldn't be sweeter. Replete with strawberries, blueberries and cranberries, this creamy chocolate bark is silky in texture but true to its cocoa-bean roots. Burgeoning with the rich, dark taste of real chocolate, it also has an eye-catching free-form white chocolate design. Beautifully hand-packaged, this confection is melt-in-your-mouth perfection. 2114 Gulf Gate Drive. 925-1111. Five-pound, custom-decorated tin, $110.

Cozy up. There's nothing like five-star-hotel quality home.year-round. Start with a silk-taffeta skirt. As for bed linens, never mind the thread count, because the latest luxury in the accouterment of the boudoir is "no-thread-count sheeting." Made from wood fibers that actually expand and soften with use, the linens at Sarasota Collections are beautiful to behold. Top with a down silk duvet and, for the ultimate sensory indulgence, a lush sable throw. 622 Central Ave. 955-8313. King-size, $8,186.

For the ultimate family album, commission a shoot of your loved ones on location in Sarasota by internationally acclaimed photographer Claus Semmler, a mainstay in top fashion and commercial magazines and newspapers in Paris, New York, London and Milan for more than two decades. Semmler now does folios of museum-quality photographs for individuals or families. For more information contact agent Sandra Hagan, 5053 Ocean Blvd, Suite 287. 346-0044. About $20,000.

Save a puppy, a kitten, a dog or a cat and give a loved one more to love with a gift certificate for a pet from the Humane Society of Sarasota County. With both purebred and mixed breeds, the Humane Society carefully matches pets with adoptive families through behavior evaluations and personality profiles. All animals are spayed or neutered, and their vaccines and basic health checks are always up-to-date. (Special programs available for seniors.) 2331 15th St. 955-4131. $49.50--$59.50 (for the shots and neutering; the pets themselves are free.)

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