‘Tis better to give than get dumped
Valentine’s Day can be a sneaky, if not downright dangerous, holiday. It has a way of rushing you on the 12th, taking you down in the tackle on the 13th, and -- if you fail to deliver the gifty goods -- knocking you out on the 14th. Fortunately for you, you’re still in the 7-day-advance safety zone, with enough time to perfect your game plan. To help you avoid an embarrassing fumble, we’ve scoured SF’s best gift and novelty stores for some guaranteed-to-please gift ideas. So read carefully and choose wisely, and when the big day comes, you could be well on your way to scoring.
Church Street Flowers
This floral boutique is no stranger to the Guardian’s Best of the Bay Issue, as it has taken the title five out of the past six years. You can’t go wrong with the old red rose standby, with its universal message of true love. But if you want to get a bit more creative and/or specific, ask the staff for their recommendations. (For example, try red-tipped yellow roses, which mean the giver is falling in love, or a red and white bouquet, which is a symbol of unity.) The shop does deliver, so there’s no excuse for allowing your paramour to leave work envious or empty-handed.
212 Church St, SF. (415) 553-7762, www.churchstreetflowers.com
Bittersweet, the Chocolate Café
Buying your Valentine’s gifts at Bittersweet doesn’t only benefit your V-Day date; it gives you a chance to indulge in some of the shop’s sinful creations while you’re there. Check out the vast array of Belgian, Swiss, Dutch, or Italian chocolates, bound to appeal to the international lover – er, chocolate lover -- in your life. (And for folks who are solo and sad about it this Valentine’s Day, try one of Bittersweet’s rich hot chocolates to fill the void.)
2123 Fillmore St, SF. (415) 346-8715, www.bittersweetcafe.com
Think buying jewelry has to mean DeBeers and dollar signs? Think again. This little Noe Valley treasure is the perfect alternative for buying unusual (and affordable) amorous adornments. Here, you’ll undoubtedly find the owner, Guatemalan-born Gilbertina Guarini, painstakingly stringing together her latest one-of-a-kind design while perched behind the counter-cum-workspace. And since Guarini’s nature-themed pieces that are not only beautiful themselves, but are beautifully showcased by color and gemstone, visiting this Valentine haven is as easy on the eyes as it is on your wallet.
3961 24th St, SF. (415) 206-0704
Carol Doda’s Champagne and Lace Lingerie Boutique
San Francisco icon, the Condor’s own Carol Doda, has the perfect the recipe for a steamy Valentine’s date: a bottle of bubbly and a little lace number from her Union street boutique. You might have to go elsewhere for the champagne, but this is your one-stop-shop for intimate wear – for him and for her. And don’t worry if your date isn’t on the Don’t-Eat-Diet: the pinup queen’s specialty is still those bodacious plus sizes.
1850 Union St, SF. (415) 776-6900
Distinctive and Deviant
Does your honey already own a gemstone in every color of the gay pride rainbow? Or does your lover only wear jewelry that could double as sailing rope? Either way, if it’s jewelry you want, but convention you don’t, try making some yourself at Beadissimo, the holy grail of bead stores. The beads and stringing options come in every shape, size and color. The workstation in the back boasts every beading tool the savvy professional could want. And if you’re a clumsy novice, there’s a dexterous, young staff just waiting to help you figure out what to do with all this bounty. (Workshops also are offered year round.)
1051 Valencia St, SF. (415) 282-2323, www.beadissimo.com
If off-the-shelf art supplies simply won’t cut it for your creative-type cuddle partner, try shopping at Flax. The place is so comprehensive, assistants are only familiar with the supplies in their specific section. But this 69-year-old establishment is a serious art store, so if all you need is some construction paper and doilies, don’t bother. If you want artsy options and creative ideas about how to use them, though, check out the store and then visit their detailed Website.
1699 Market St, SF. (800) 343-3529, www.flaxart.com
For Valentines who like it when you to turn up the heat, panties screen-printed with “Property of (your name here)” and embossed with a ghost flame logo may be the perfect gift – and this shop, co-founded by a motorcycle-messenger-turned-artist, is the perfect place to get them. Feel free to be as raunchy, risqué, or ridiculous as you want – there’s nothing the Lo-Fi staff won’t write on a T-shirt. Too busy getting last-minute dinner reservations to stop by the store? You can place an order by phone or online, too.
69A Duboce Ave, SF. (415) 861-0500, www.loficustoms.com 
This isn’t the retail version of the innocent Beach Boys’ classic. Think of it more as the adult version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, where pleasure comes not from candy but, well, from coming. This is a world of pure, uncensored imagination, where there’s a fix for every adult Candyman’s fetish. (The edible cherry pasties chocolate body pens and peppermint nipples are scrumdiddlyumptious.) A gift from here may well be your golden ticket.
603 Valencia St, SF. (415) 522-5460; 1620 Polk Street, SF. (415) 345-0400, www.goodvibes.com
If you think dining out on Valentine’s Day is just such a cliché, or you simply forgot to make reservations, consider the delights of a gourmet, home-cooked dinner. Even if you’re no Wolfgang Puck, Ferry Plaza and the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Markets will provide the ingredients and the inspiration for a still-better-than-Shake-n-Bake meal. And if the specialty groceries here can’t make a chef out of you, fall back on the staples -- great seafood, cheese, breads, wine, berries, and chocolate -- where all you need to do is provide serving plates. (The Fish Company’s prawns are right from the boat and the farm fresh produce is trucked in daily. Yum!)
One Ferry Building at Embarcadero at Market, SF. (415) 693-0996, www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
About Face and Body Day Spa
With the drudgery of tax season just around the corner, you can kill two birds with one stone (express V-Day love and prevent T-Day meltdowns) by pampering your lover with a gift certificate from the East Bay’s favorite day spa. With customizable massages and aromatherapy add-ons, this gift guarantees a major return on your investment. (Special service packages and discounts on walk-in waxing also are available.)
3190 College Ave, Berk. (510) 428-2600
American Conservatory Theater
Keep the drama on stage this Valentine’s with tickets to opening night of A.C.T.’s newest show, Hedda Gabler, directed by Richard E.T. White. Called the “female Hamlet,” Hedda Gabler is a woman whose married life (unlike yours, of course) is rife with controversy. She is either a murderous infidel or idealistic heroine, and the implications of her actions have struck a chord with audiences for over a century. Get tickets online, by phone, or at the box office, and remind your sweetie how good you two really do have it.
405 Geary St, SF. (415) 749-2228, www.act-sfbay.org