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Recipes for Romance

Recipes for romance: Perfect wine and food pairings for a lovers feast

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Vinsanto wine
Sweeten things up with Vinsanto for dessert.  Photo by Matt McGinnis
Purple Angle wine
Purple Angel pairs well with lamb for your main course.  Photo by Matt McGinnis
Vinsanto wine
Purple Angle wine

Nothing ignites passion as well as wine properly paired with a meal made of aphrodisiacs. Making a romantic dinner for your sweetie at home on Valentine’s Day is a great way to avoid the crowds and the inevitable wait for a table. It also positions you much closer to the boudoir, should everything go as planned at dinner. 

Some think that aphrodisiacs are just a myth. Others believe that the food we eat affects our hormones, our energy levels, our brain chemistry and other physiological properties that influence arousal. Whether you believe in the physical or psychological properties or not, it sure is fun to eat healthy food that could increase your chances for extra fun.

Here is your roadmap for romance, a four-course aphrodisiac and wine pairing menu that is sure to delight your valentine.

Oysters and a Champagne cocktail
Oysters have long enjoyed association with Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and are arguably the most well known aphrodisiac. In addition to the lovely appearance, oysters have tons of zinc, which enhances male virility, buckets of iron that can boost the energy and are high in omega-3, which promotes a sense of well-being. What could be sexier than to pair that with a gorgeous Champagne cocktail?

This is a special Champagne that will cost you a few dollars, but your love is worth it. You don’t have to be a Georgia O'Keeffe scholar to understand the beauty of the distinct floral design on the bottle of Perrier Jouët. It, along with the delicate pink hue of the cocktail, will set the tone before you even take a sip.

The rich berry flavors of the Lillet Rosé coupled with the frolicking bubbles and crisp acidity of the Champagne are a perfect accompaniment to the briny oysters. Both Lillet and Perrier Jouët are available at Austin Wine Merchant, going for $20 and $125 respectively.

Rosé et Reims

Serve in a Champagne flute. First, add four dashes of grapefruit bitters to the glass. Add Lillet Rosé, and then top with Champagne. Garnish that gorgeous drink with a long orange twist.

Spicy salad and seductive Chardonnay  
For a second course try a light and lively salad made with a mix of lust-inducing ingredients including a bed of arugula and basil, luxuriant avocado, firm asparagus and spicy red Fresno peepers. Peppery arugula has been considered an aphrodisiac for centuries. Crammed with minerals and antioxidants, it blocks out libido-leeching contaminants. Layer that with thinly sliced, sweet smelling basil. The scent is enough to drive many people mad, but it also improves circulation and heats up the body. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Next, add chilled, blanched asparagus that has been marinated in rice vinegar and sugar to give the salad extra depth. Asparagus has long been considered a natural aphrodisiac in part because of its phallic appearance, but it is also rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamin and folic acid.  

Shapely, creamy avocados add a sensuous touch. They are rich in vitamin E for a boost of vigor and folic acid, vitamin B6 and potassium which boosts immune system. Bright red Fresno peppers get the blood rushing and encourage beads of sweat to glisten while you’re still at the dinner table. Hot peppers are loaded with capsaicin, which elevates  body temperature and heartrate to get you hot and bothered. Finish the sexy mix with a drizzle of lime juice and olive oil, which is loaded with antioxidants for a healthy glow.

A crisp California Chardonnay will bring out the creaminess of the avocado and tame the bitterness of the arugula. Go for the good stuff. Kendall-Jackson 2012 Grand Reserve Chardonnay is made with grapes grown in Monterey County and Santa Barbara County where the cool, foggy nights give the wine an acidic edge and lush tropical fruit flavors. The peach and lime flavors are as bright as your lover’s eyes and this creamy, smooth wine is as luscious as a kiss. Kendall-Jackson 2012 Grand Reserve Chardonnay is easy to find at wine shops like Specs for around $22.

Angels and lamb
The main course is where we stoke passions with a hearty dish and a voluptuous red wine. There have been many health claims about red wine in recent years, but the most important one for Valentine’s Day lovers is that Italian scientists say a glass of red wine each day can boost your libido.

With that in mind, picking the right red wine first and then pairing the meal seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Purple Angel by Montes is a special wine worthy of the most romantic dinner. Hailing from the Colchagua Valley, Purple Angel is one of Chile’s most sought after wines. It is made with Carmenere, Chile’s top indigenous grape and a touch of Petit Verdot grown on steep slopes. 

Purple Angel has a lot of heart. The wild, brambly scent — lush with blackberries and dusty mocha — is a dead giveaway for what you'll taste. Bold, dark, brooding and ready for a romp, this succulent red is loaded with blueberry, blackberry and stewed plum layered with black olive, clove and dark chocolate. The tannin bites in a flirty way. The finish is long, just how you like it. This wine is as potent as your lover knows you will be.  

Serve it slightly chilled and decant it for about an hour to let it open. It is available at Specs for $60.

Carmenere is versatile to pair with food, but it goes particularly well with grilled meats like lamb seasoned with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and topped with mushrooms sautéed in butter. You can pick up lamb at Whole Foods Market or Central Market. Mix up a simple marinade and fire up the grill. The elegant, yet audacious Purple Angle paired with the lamb will make every morsel taste heavenly.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 (2- to 3-lb) butterflied boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat

Preparation

Combine oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in sealable plastic bag or a glass pan. Add lamb and let that baby marinate, chilled for around four hours. Bring lamb to room temperature, about one hour, before grilling. Grill on a lightly oiled grill rack, turning over occasionally until the temperature reaches 125° to 128° F for medium-rare. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes on a hot grill. Let lamb stand 20 minutes before cutting across the grain into slices.

Sweets for your sweetie
To cap off a delightful meal, let’s end with the granddaddy of all aphrodisiacs: chocolate. We all know that it makes us feel good, but beyond the sheer enjoyment there is also some science at work. Chocolate has several compounds including anandamide, whose name is taken from Sanskrit word, ananda, which means “bliss, delight,” and phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring amphetamine known as the “love drug,” and serotonin, that lovely chemical that makes us feel lovey-dovey. No wonder chocolates pack the shelves on Valentine’s Day.

If you really want to impress your sweetheart, serve gourmet chocolate truffles handmade right here in Austin. Delysia Chocolatier makes treats for lots of occasions and has a special Valentine's collection which features raspberry, champagne and dark chocolate truffles. You can pick it up at Con OlioBreed & Co., Savory Spice ShopMecca Gym & Spa or Delysia's online shop for $20. 

There is nothing like a sweet desert wine to go with chocolate for the perfect romantic nightcap. Hatzidakis Vinsanto 2003 from the Greek island of Santorini is gratifyingly sweet without being syrupy. It’s made with a blend of 80 percent Assyrtiko and 20 percent Aidani Greek grapes. The grapes are picked when they are really ripe to allow the natural sugars to develop. They are then left to sun-dry for 15 days before being crushed, fermented and aged for six years in oak barrels.

This wine tastes like honey-dipped raisins rolled in nutmeg and baking spice with a hint of coffee. Its full, round and velvety smooth with body has balanced sweetness and refreshing acidity with a long finish. Serve it in aperitif glasses or regular white wine glasses. It’s not fortified, so the alcohol level is about the same as typical table wine.

A little hard to find, this wine is worth the search. Your favorite local wine shop will likely order it for you, or you can find it online for about $60.

Now you have your menu for Valentine’s dinner that is sure to spark romance. We’ll leave the rest up to you.

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