Valentine’s Day is only a week away and it’s officially time to start making a game plan for the best way to celebrate here in Foodtopia! With so many wonderful Asheville restaurants and treats to choose from it can often be overwhelming to decide…thankfully the Asheville Citizen-Times has provided us with a handy list of some of the most romantic and most delicious ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Asheville!!
Every year around Valentine’s Day, the special aphrodisiac menus start swirling with supposedly stimulating ingredients like chocolate, chilies and oysters.
Admittedly, Nature World News recently reported there’s no compelling evidence that aphrodisiacs actually work. To that, we say “Bah humbug,” or whatever the Valentine’s Day equivalent is.
Since Valentine’s Day is the most popular day for dining out next to Mother’s Day, building an evening around special foods just makes sense, if for no other reason than no one wants a tasting menu featuring those chalky conversation hearts.
Here, a look at some of the places where you can find some of the more classic aphrodisiacs.
CHOCOLATE: Even the ancient Aztecs thought chocolate was a powerful aphrodisiac. Of course, Aztec chocolate was a far cry from today’s Hershey bar. They instead favored a mash of bitter cacao, chilies and water, and sometimes, say historians, alcohol and blood.
We don’t recommend taking that tack with your Valentine’s Day date. But you can have something similar, though a load less, well, scary, at the French broad Chocolate Lounge.
If you want to try a more-tame version of an ancient Aztec preparation, ask for the off-menu Xocolatl at the counter of the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The unconventional drink mixes unsweetened cacao, ground corn, anise seed and chilies, and is frothed with house-made almond milk. The fact that’s it’s on a secret menu will make you look pretty in the know if you’re looking to impress your date, no?
For something a bit more in line with Valentine’s Day tradition, there’s French Broad Chocolates’ aphrodisiac collection, which includes honey-wine caramels with locally made Fox Hill Mead; the classic Cosmic Love Potion truffle infused with a honey-based herbal aphrodisiac elixir; and the Strawberries and Bubbly truffle made with local strawberries and Prosecco.
Valentine’s week will also feature a number of pastry specials with wine parings in the Lounge, like honey-rose eclairs paired with bubbles, and a chocolate roulade with strawberry cream, paired with Cabernet. The FBCL is at 10 Pack Square. Gifts and shipping at frenchbroadchocolates.com.
The Chocolate Fetish also has seasonal truffles, including the Dark Desires truffle, which has a chocolate ganache center and an edible “Love” pattern on the shell. The Hearts on Fire Collection highlights another aphrodisiac: chilies. The collection includes the cayenne-spiked Ancient Pleasures truffles, habanero-sea salt caramels and spicy pecan caramels.
The shop this year carries hand-piped chocolate conversation hearts — a far cry from the aforementioned chalky hearts — decorated with phrases from “Be Mine” to “Marry Me?”
You can also find fresh-dipped strawberries Feb.10-18 at The Chocolate Fetish; the berries are best the day they’re dipped, said co-owner Elizabeth Foley. The shop ships nationwide; order at www.chocolatefetish.com. The Chocolate Fetish is at 36 Haywood St.
Asheville’s Kilwins Chocolates, Fudge and Ice Cream has heart boxes in a variety of sizes, filled with truffle collections and other chocolates. Valentine’s Day gifts can also be customized at the shop.
Out-of-the-heart-shaped-box ideas include Valentine’s Day-themed, hand-decorated Krispie Treats or Oreos. Kilwins can also make personalized caramel apples, and will also take orders for chocolate-dipped strawberries starting Feb. 4. Visit Kilwins at 26 Battery Park Ave. or at www.kilwins.com. Kilwin’s ships nationwide.
OYSTERS: There are various theories as to why oysters are known as a powerful aphrodisiac, some of which aren’t exactly fit for print. But we can say the bivalves contain zinc, which studies say helps increase testosterone. They also boast amino acids, which some say helps boost your sex life. The Lobster Trap General Manager and Executive Chef Mike McCarty posits that eating oysters just “triggers something in the brain.”
“Whenever I see people in the restaurant eating oysters, they’re having a good time,” he said. “I think it triggers a really good feeling and, if you’re sharing with a significant other, I guess one thing could lead to another.”
Whatever the case, you can find oysters at The Lobster Trap on Valentine’s Day, where the restaurant will serve a three-course prix fixe dinner for $70. Courses include Island Creek oysters with pink peppercorn mignonette and surf and turf with Maine lobster. But the prix fixe menu isn’t the only option. You can sidle up to the bar for a casual meal of oysters on the half shell — the restaurant will have eight or nine varieties on ice.
The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations, but McCarty said the wait’s generally not too bad. Walk-in only.”People are getting in and getting out,” he said. “They want their oysters and lobster. It’s a busy day.” The Lobster Trap is at 35 Patton Ave.
CHILI PEPPERS: The heat from chilies comes from capsaicin, which seems to be good for all sorts of things. Sure it’s an irritant and not good to get on your softer bits, but it does boost metabolism and releases feel-good endorphins — and a little danger is not bad for the libido either, right?
Locally, Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack taps into the power of heat with its spicy chicken on the regular. But Valentine’s Day brings something special in the form of the “Love Me Tender Lovebird,” a Valentine’s Day-only menu item. The meal includes two chicken tender plates (that’s three tenders, which can be had spicy or not, and three sides), served with two glasses of champagne or beer and two servings of banana pudding for $30 per couple. Rocky’s has two locations. More at www.rockyshotchickenshack.com.
Spicy times continue over at Rhubarb, where chef John Fleer has created an aphrodisiac-spiked menu redolent with hot peppers. There’s escabeche of Salt Spring mussels with charred Lemon-Gochugaru chili relish. There’s Arabian-spiced Border Springs lamb with honey-chili glazed rutabaga and a dark chocolate Devil’s Cake with coconut curd and chili cocoa nib.
While all of those chilies might not be what you’d expect to find on the menu at Fleer’s hyper-local, slightly Southern menu, the chef said it’s not atypical to find some spice coming out of his kitchen. “It’s just not always as obvious as in this menu,” he said. “Nothing better to get the blood flowing than a little spice.”
Dinner is $78 per person or $120 with wine pairings including gratuity. Various seating times are available Feb. 14; pick and pay at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2798606. Rhubarb is at 7 S. Pack Square.
RED WINE: Known to increase blood flow and aid relaxation, red wine has also long been synonymous with love and passion. But let’s get real; it also tends to get you a bit buzzed if you have too much of it.
That’s where this Valentine’s Day Tuscan wine dinner comes in. It’s hosted at the Farm, an events venue in Candler with seven cottages and cabins for rent so you don’t have to drive after dinner.
The Farm’s Executive Chef Mike Ferrari has created a menu inspired by the flavors of Tuscany, paired with a wine from the region. Andy Hale, education director for Metro Wines, and Tom Leiner of Grapevine Distribution will introduce wines. The five-course dinner with pairings is $79.95 per person, plus tax. Seating begins at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14. Reservations can be made through The Farm at 828-667-0666. The Farm is at 215 Justice Ridge Road in Candler.
If you can’t make it to Candler, Metro’s Hale has conjured up a six-class wine course so you can give the gift of knowledge. The series kicks off with an intro to wine basics, with lessons on how to describe wines, when and how to decant, the proper temperature for serving, food and wine pairing tips and how to interact with a restaurant sommelier. “You can be one of those people who says, ‘I get subtle bouquets of lavender on the nose,'” Hale joked. Warning: this won’t necessarily impress your date. Drop wine knowledge judiciously.
The remainder of the classes will cover wine by region, with tours and tastes through France, Italy the Iberian Peninsula, the Southern hemisphere and more. The hourlong classes take place at the Metro Wine classroom and are $20 per piece, or all six for $100. Register at www.ashevilleschoolofwine.com, or call 828-575-9525.