|Champagne Tasting Report|
|Sexy Wines for Valentine's Day|
Kudos to the first man brave enough to eat an oyster. Less hearty congratulations to the individual who decided that ingesting the European blister beetle (aka the infamous "Spanish fly") was the proper precursor for romance. Storied and time-tested aphrodisiacs include such oddities as bois bandé (bark from a particular Grenadian tree), ground tiger tooth and a Chinese herb with the charming moniker "Horny Goat Weed."
But many of these passion prescriptions actually do more harm than good. Bois bandé, for example, is harder on your liver than a whiskey binge. And most of them don't pair particularly well with wine. So with your Valentine's Day feast fast approaching, what sort of cuisine might put one in the mood? First, let's discard the chicanery of chemical concoctions and stick to foods you might actually want to eat, as well as the more tactile come-ons of taste, texture and temperature.
Chances are, you might already have an appreciation for garlic and truffles. This is a good start. Garlic, in addition to complimenting just about any culinary concoction one could dream up, is also beneficial in maintaining a robust blood flow throughout one's body, which can only be a good thing.
As for truffles, the first-century Roman gastronome Apicius was among the first to extol the aphrodisiacal qualities of this cherished root. As is often the case when it comes to aphrodisiacs, no hard scientific data supports the erotic appeal of the truffle. However, the incomparable gourmand Jean Brillat-Savarin concluded that truffles, while not a true aphrodisiac, "tend to make women more tender and men more likeable."
So even if a simple dinner of pasta with red sauce represents the summit of your culinary prowess, you can still score points by including garlic and truffles. (Note that these points will be automatically deducted if you use powdered garlic or truffle 'flavorings.')
Adopting a more holistic approach, there's something innately romantic about the act of feeding one's amour, an effect often achieved through a fondue feast. But while fondue holds a certain kitschy, ski-lodge appeal, whipping out those color-coded skewers and brass bowls may lead your date to wonder whether flared slacks and "Re-elect Ford" buttons are waiting in the wings for the evening's second act.
Why not update and internationalize the affair? Try, for example, shabu shabu, a surprisingly simple Japanese dish: you douse thin slices of rich, marbled beef in a bowl of mushrooms and watercress boiled over a small gas range. The primal appeal of open flame and red meat is hard to argue with, and "shabu shabu" is also a lot of fun to pronounce.
Some clichés have persisted for a reason. "Women love chocolate" is one of them, and there's no reason to tamper with the classics when it comes to your final course. Here are three easy words for you to remember: Molten Chocolate Cake. Less challenging than a soufflé, classier than fondue, this preparation transforms the humblest of ingredients -- butter, flour, eggs, chocolate and sugar -- into a decadent lava flow of chocolate pleasure sure to end your Valentine's Day dinner on an appropriate note. The rest of the night is up to you.
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