Looking for a respite from winter? Planning ahead for Valentine's Day? Here are a few places that make themselves easy to warm up to, a half-dozen restaurants that brighten their dining rooms with fireplaces.
Al Tiramisu: A small restaurant with a big heart, this Italian-accented Dupont Circle charmer is the kind of place where a request for a bottle of Dolcetto gets an approving nod from your waiter: "Ah, that's 30 miles from where I grew up!" Fish, glistening fresh and simply grilled with a few herbs, is the lure on the menu, though pastas are pleasing, too. And ubiquitous as it is, the namesake dessert turns up a crowd- pleaser. Flickering in the back of this shoe box: a fireplace, framed in copper cookware. 2014 P St. NW; call 202-467-4466
Bis: We love the bar, with its cool zinc counter and glowing saffron-hued backdrop. And the front dining area proves seductive with its roomy, soft leather booths. But when the temperature drops, the place to park in this bustling Hill bistro is at a table near the hearth, in view of the glass-fronted kitchen. The flavor of France resonates in such plates as caramelized onion tart, coq au vin and comforting braised cabbage, a new side dish. Just say oui to whatever the wine steward thinks to pour into your glass; the list of Gallic labels is impressive. 15 E St. NW; call 202-661-2700
Cities: One of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the city, this Adams-Morgan oasis travels to a new location every year or so, revamping its menu to reflect the cooking of an international port. The current stop: Venice. If you're not sitting up front in one of the coveted leather booths, audition for a seat in the rear, where a skinny fireplace looks as if it's ready for its close-up in Architectural Digest. (Hint: wear black.) With a northern Italian destination in mind, tuck into some fried calamari elevated with anchovy-spiked aioli, risotto strewn with lobster and scallops, maybe some lamb chops, paved in pistachios and gilded with a Barolo wine sauce. If the cooking doesn't always transport, a classic white peach Bellini and some background opera foster a delicious mood. 2424 18th St. NW; call 202-328-7194
Old Angler's Inn: For some of us, a visit to this wooded restaurant, owned by the same family since Eisenhower sat in the Oval Office, is as much a part of the calendar as raking leaves and filing taxes. An outdoor patio beckons in spring and summer; comfortable couches and a crackling fire in the lounge lure us in colder months. Steeped in nostalgia, the inn remains forward-thinking. Chef Nathan David Coons, promoted from sous chef last fall, is giving diners fresh reason to drop by and warm up: seared scallops partnered with caramelized turnips, venison loin napped with a sauce of chestnuts and squab treated to vegetable couscous and a spicy yogurt sauce. 10801 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac; call 301-365-2425
Sea Catch: The wild rice dressing and sauteed collard greens that ride alongside a plate of roast duck on Jeff Shiveley's new script hint at the chef's Louisiana birthplace. So, too, do the presence of gumbo and a raw bar whose oysters are pristine, plump and meaty. In a town rich in crab cake options, Shiveley's big, fat, creamy models deserve applause. But food isn't the only draw at this handsome Georgetown address, attractive with hardwood floors and dressed up with nautical prints. Cosseting service and the flames from two big stone fireplaces also help burnish the picture. 1054 31st St. NW; call 202-337-8855
Willow Grove Inn: Yesteryear lives on at this former plantation, where the walls of the Federal- style dining rooms feature somber portraits of long-ago gentry and the tables are graced with antique linens and heirloom silver. Yet the cooking is contemporary, fresh and appealing in its use of manor-grown herbs, seasonal treasures and vinaigrettes and infused oils instead of heavy sauces. Chef Eliza Abbey's three-course, southern-leaning menu ($45 a person) changes frequently, but always opens graciously, with a basket of fragrant yeast rolls. Show up early and you can get your pick of tables; our favorite is a seat near one of the restaurant's two fireplaces. 14079 Plantation Way, Orange, Va.; call 540-672-5982
CAPTION: The stylish fireplace at Cities, where the accent is currently on Venice.