Love Bites: Favorite Love Foods from Local Restaurants
By Suzanne Corbett
Valentine’s Day is near and Cupid is on the prowl, ready to shoot his arrows to create instant love in all he strikes. Guess that works for some, but not for me. I prefer to be seduced with food, especially those foods with a reputation to stir desires. Foods named for the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodisiacs, foods that reportedly have the ability to make you want to satisfy more than one appetite.
Aphrodisiac by definition is a substance that increases sexual sensitivity or appetite. The key word here is appetite. For starters, consider honey. Called nature’s perfect food, honey has been the basic ingredient in countless love potions. In ancient Rome, mead, a honey wine, was drunk on the wedding night – thus beginning the honeymoon.
Since Aphrodite rose from the sea on a scallop shell, most shellfish are said to enhance the libido. Case in point, the oyster. A favorite of Casanova, the oyster is an excellent source of zinc, which happens to be a key mineral necessary to maintain male potency.
Strawberries and raspberries – described as fruit nipples – are a must for lovers, especially if they’re chocolate dipped. Chocolate, the ultimate food of choice for countless suitors has been considered a decadent indulgence since its discovery by the Aztecs, who only served it to royalty as a drink laced with cinnamon.
Let’s not forget herbs and spices, which promise to add zest to any amorous encounter. Red pepper and chilies are thought to fan the flames of desire, as are cinnamon, ginger and clove. Love potions and herbs go hand in hand. For me, Italian red sauces are my kind of love potion – sexy, rich and infused with basil that titillates the tongue. Basil is the classic herb associated with the quickening of romantic love. The smell can drive one wild with anticipation while garlic, whose reputation as good for one’s heart, is said to stir the heat within us.
Research can’t confirm any food as an aphrodisiac, discounting it as folklore. But who cares. The concept of aphrodisiacs still makes for simulating reading and an excellent foundation for building a Valentine’s Day menu. After all, nothing is more sensual than eating.
To create a sumptuous dining experience for your valentine, consider grazing at several of your favorite eateries. Of course, you can show your love and cook. I’ve asked a few St. Louis chefs for their menu picks of foods on their menus that they find most seductive and are passionate about bringing to the table.
The Fountain on Locust: Love Potion #9
Joy Christensen, Fountain on Locust’s owner, supports the old adage, “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Her Love Potion #9, an ice cream martini, is accented with fresh raspberry sauce and heavy whipped cream. What’s not to love?
Annie Gunn’s: Chef Lou’s Oysters
It’s the equivalent of a blind date – anticipation and titillation – waiting to discover Annie Gunn’s Chef Lou Rook’s off-the-menu oyster match-up. Chef Lou’s oyster recommendations for romancing Romeo or Juliet, are his North East Oysters on the Half Shell with Champagne Mignonette and Prussian Pearl Oysters with Frozen Pickney Bend Vodka, Show Me Caviar, CrèmeFraiche and Chives.
River City Casino & Hotel’s Cibare Italian Kitchen: Canestri Alla Funghi
Aphrodite herself would blush in delight with Chef Josh Schlink’s decadent, sexy coupling of the to-die-for pasta, Canestri Alla Funghi, studded with four varieties of woodsy exotic mushrooms, enveloped in Marsala cream, and finished with spicy chile bread crumbs. A savory, seductive vegetarian entree option that Chef Josh proclaims as a plateful of love for passionate pasta lovers.
Sugarfire Smokehouse: Chicken Biscuit with Honey Butter
According to Sugarfire Smokehouse pit master Mike Johnson, the fastest way to a southerner’s heart is with a biscuit. Sugarfire’s Chicken Biscuit is a marinated, slow smoked, breaded and fried chicken thigh tossed with hot sauce on a fluffy homemade biscuit slathered in honey butter. “It’s sweet, hot, spicy and salty – just what a good relationship should be,” he said.
Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate: Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Plump, perfect strawberries drenched in premium chocolate have become the ultimate love offering. Chocolatier Dan Abel, Jr., owner of Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, expects to cover over a half-million berries within four days of V-Day to satisfy the desires of hungry lovers who gladly wait for hours for a berry box, proving no wait is too long to make one’s sweetie happy.
Suzanne Corbett is a food historian and author of the award-winning cookbooks, “The Gilded Table” and “Pushcarts & Stalls: The Soulard Market History Cookbooks.” She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.