February is often the month we feel most in need of extra cheer, especially if January was spent dieting, self-denying and drying-out after the festive excesses, so arrangements for a meal out take on an extra air of excitement.
And no doubt with the approach of Valentine's Day, restaurants everywhere will be gearing up for a rush of loved-up romantics, with, for instance, Carluccio's in Newcastle, as well as having a Valentine's menu stuffed with Italian passion, taking the opportunity to spice up its shop range with the likes of a new heart-shape pasta coloured with spinach, beetroot and tomato, and a bouquet of milk chocolate roses - which sounds so lovely in Italian: Rosa di Cioccolato.
Also on the Italian theme, a new menu is being served up at popular Italian eatery Scalini's in Jesmond with the help of a very special lady - granny.
Italian-born manager Lorenzo Giani Contini has incorporated some of his grandmother's "secret" traditional Italian recipes to add extra authentic flavour to the menu newly launched in the wake of the restaurant's recently-revealed new-look interior.
A PS500,000 refurbishment of the interiors of Scalini's in Osborne Road and its sister branch at The Three Mile Inn in Gosforth - creating a chic Milaninspired theme, moving away from the general Mediterranean look to capture the charm and style of old Italy - was completed at the end of last year as part of a PS43m investment by owners The Malhotra Group.
Following suit later in 2014 will be Louis's restaurant, also in Jesmond; The Butchers Arms in Byker and Grey Street Hotel in Newcastle, as the group consolidates its holdings. Its chief operating officer Atul Malhotra said: "We aim to invest around PS43m in our leisure arm over the next five years and Scalini's is the first of our renovations to further our commitment to enhancing the Newcastle restaurant scene.
"We have seen a vast increase in the number of people whose social lives revolve more around eating out, whether that is with family, friends or business associates so the refurbishment at our venues will suit everyone."
Lorenzo's granny's recipes will feature on Scalini's menus alongside Italian classics and homemade sauces and doughs.
February also brings cheery news of the Oscars - or rather the ones that spotlight achievement despite our recent struggling times.
The Countryside Alliance Awards, dubbed the Rural Oscars, are an annual reminder that country life is far from dying and plenty evidence of this is shown by local nominations in categories such as Local Food and Butcher.
Among the former are Your Local Larder, Whitley Bay; Sunnyhills Farm Shop, Belford; G&S Organics, Longframlington and Broom House Farm, Witton Gilbert; and, in the latter, North Acomb Farm Shop near Stocksfield; R Green & Son of Longframlinton; Blagdon Farm Shop and William Peat Butchers and Deli from Barnard Castle.
The regional winners will be announced this February ahead of national finals in London in April.
For possible inclusion in the March edition of Culture, email your food news to barbara. email@example.com
The new-look Scalini's