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FOODfare: Valentine's Day For Heart & Palate

A Valentine's Day delight.
A Valentine's Day delight.
Courtesy photo

Though red and pink are the official colors of Valentine’s Day, a rich cocoa brown springs to mind in tandem with the fourteenth of February. Chocolate is as much a sinful staple of this day of romance as, well, other sinful staples (use your imagination). If you’re looking for a fun and less orthodox way to titillate your palate courtesy of cacao, settle your hungry gaze on North Park’s Eclipse Chocolat where, on February 12 and 13, they’ll be serving up five-course dinners made up of dishes where chocolate is the star ingredient. Similar dinners have become somewhat en vogue among the foodie sect and typically feature components like Mexican mole sauces (a variety of which include Mexican chocolate as a finishing ingredient) or red meat rubbed with a cocoa powder-spiked spice blend. That’s in no way boring, but Eclipse’s meal is forward-minded even for such a budding trend. For example, the first course starts with a duo of savory (non-sweet) truffles, one of which is a dark chocolate blackberry mustard variety. That blackberry-mustard combo makes an encore appearance in the main course as a compote accompanying a beef or brie served Wellington-style in baked puff pastry with cocoa mushroom pâté, potato Dauphinoise and leeks seasoned with lavender-infused sea salt. Surprisingly, the only dish devoid of chocolate is dessert, but it’s doubtful a rose petal crème brûlée will provide much cause for complaint, especially at a place where designer sweets are the name of the game year-round versus V-Day only. Seating is available at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. and the cost per couple is $95.

2121 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park, 619.578.2984

Love 101

I hear it from friends of the fairer sex all the time—there are few things as romantic as a meal cooked by their significant other. Guys, you have no one to blame but yourself if you can’t cash in on this nearly universal turn-on. Cooking is easy, ingredients are cheaper than a night on the town and, c’mon, you simply can’t beat the location. Whether you’re low on kitchen know-how or just want to know how to provide more alluring pizzazz to your Valentine’s Day menu, chef Leyla Javadov of University Heights’ Cafe 21 has your prescription for love. On February 2, she will be holding a cooking class from 5 to 6 p.m. centered around aphrodisiacs. Admission is a $10 (a small price to pay for love…or food) and includes samples of the three recipes she’ll be instructing the class how to make. Further south, North Park’s Sea Rocket Bistro is holding a class on vegan cooking on February 13 that gets both halves of a romantic whole in the kitchen. Chef and nutritionist Jenn, Felmley will show couples how to make a quartet of dishes including a roasted beet and caramelized onion tart with creamy tofu spread and “Like Water For Chocolate” roasted chiles stuffed with lentils and wheatberries and topped with walnut sauce. The class will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. (prime date night timing) and the cost is $60 per person, which includes all four courses plus champagne.

Wanna Box?

Not surprisingly, Carlsbad’s Chuao Chocolatiers has a number of sweets-for-the-sweet options available this time of year. One of the most unique is an Elegancia jewelry box. Bright red and double-tiered, the candy box is designed to look just like a jewelry box, but instead of being filled with earrings, pendants, charms and rings, recipients of this well-disguised gift will be treated to 32 of Chuao’s signature chocolate bonbons. But not just any bonbons. The assortment offered in the Elegancia box consists exclusively of varieties infused with aphrodisiacs including honey, chilies, strawberries and even wine. While nothing can guarantee that you get lucky on Valentine’s Day (or any day), this will likely enhance your chances. And speaking of getting lucky, from now until February 6, Facebook users can go to the Chuao Chocolatier or Robbins Brothers fan pages and enter to win a free Elegancia box (or diamond earrings). For those who prefer to make their own luck, the jewelry box runs $50.25 and are on sale at all of Chuao’s shops from now through February 15, providing even those looking for belated Valentine’s salvation somewhere to turn.

In the House

I don’t know about you, but some of my best Valentine’s Days have been spent at home (wink). Apparently, Sami Ladeki, the founder of Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza shares similarly fond memories. On February 14, the San Diego pie chain will be offering take-home pizza kits for romancers who are about the most literal brand of intimacy. Ditto for couples whose romantic ventures earlier in life have led them to a lifestyle where parental responsibilities are present in greater abundance than reliable babysitters. The kits, which are available at all of Sammy’s locations for $5 to $8, include fresh dough (traditional, whole wheat or gluten-free), tomato sauce, mozzarella and a choice of up to three toppings (with additional toppings available for $0.95 each). In addition to being tasty, picking out those toppings serves as a good litmus test for guys and gals contemplating a future together. I mean, what’s the chances of a veggie supreme fan forging any type of meaningful union with someone of the meat lover persuasion…really?

To Heaven in a Hand Basket

Chef Su-Mei Yu of Mission Hills’ Saffron is known for her mastery of authentic Thai cuisine, but beneath her chef’s whites beats the heart of a romantic with a strong working knowledge of which of the world’s edibles get the hearts of others beating faster. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, she’s offering up that expertise to help the dining public via special Valentine’s Day Romance Picnic Baskets. Available on February 14 for $40, the baskets come stocked with enough provisions for a special aphrodisiac-based meal at the spot of a couples’ choosing. Among the items on the portable bill of fare are almonds, a noted desire enhancer, coated with erotic, I mean exotic spices including cardamom, anise and ground chilies; and a salad salt and peppered with endurance-granting pineapple, arugula, basil and…yep, more almonds; and a dessert of strawberries, chocolate, honey and a chili dipping sauce. Given that array, it’s a safe bet things will get spiced up—one way or another.

3731 India Street, Five Points, 619.574.7737