We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but it’s finally here: Valentine’s Day. Tomorrow there will be lots of booked restaurants, mad rushes for boxes of chocolate, outrageously priced roses and a steady stream of procrastinators scrambling for cutesy cards all around the world. And, of course, there will be romance, much of will take place at the dinner hour. Whether it’s out or at home, Valentine’s Day sees a spike in aphrodisiacs every year. Just what is it that makes things like oysters, chocolate and strawberries so darn popular on February 14th? Can a food seriously get the – ahem – blood flowing? The answer: yes.
By definition, an aphrodisiac is a food, drink or substance that increases desire and/or excitement. A food can be considered an aphrodisiac for many reasons: nutrients in a food can literally increase libido; the shape of an ingredient can emulate romance; the process of eating a certain dish (think fondue) can encourage closeness and sharing. We’ve picked a handful of popular Valentine’s Day foods and explained why one might find them on their V-Day table tomorrow, courtesy of their sweethearts. And the best aphrodisiac of all? Why, wine of course! Which is why we’ve included pairings.
Chocolate – Brownies, chocolate mousse, Red Velvet cupcakes, etc. Cocoa contains two chemicals which make it a popular aphrodisiac: tryptophan and phenylethylamine. Tryptophan helps build serotonin which is involved in arousal. Phenylethylamine is realeased in the brain when people fall in love. Ok, so the amounts in chocolate are extremely small, but, hey, fact is fact, right? Pair classic chocolate with 2010 Late Harvest. Pair Red Velvet anything with 2010 Vernaccia Nera.
Just add Late Harvest
Shrimp Scampi – High in iodine, shrimp supports the thyroid gland, which regulates energy. Both shrimp and garlic increase circulation, aka blood flow. Throw some chili flake into your scampi (which release feel-good endorphins) and you have a 1-2-3 punch for romance! Just be sure both of you partake in this dish; one person with garlic breath=no bueno. Both of you with garlic breath=pucker up. Pair Shrimp Scampi with 2011 Fiorella.
Strawberries – Not only is the strawberry a symbol of the love goddess, Venus, but the natural heart shape of the fruit makes it a must-have on Valentine’s Day. These sweet little gems are purrrrfect for dipping into melted chocolate (see chocolate description above). Pair chocolate-covered strawberries with 2011 Rose Spumante.
Oysters – Did you know Casanova supposedly ate 50 of these bivalves every day to keep his “reputation” in tip-top shape? Yowza. While 50 may be detrimental to your budget, science suggests that downing a dozen gives you a good amount of zinc which is key in testosterone production (good for guys and gals). We love oysters with 2011 Moscato.
Drink me with oysters
Lobster – Surf and turf seems to rule Valentine’s Day menus everywhere. It’s usually a little pricey, worthy of a special occasion, and so why wouldn’t you treat your dear one to a good steak and lobster dinner? It turns out that lobster, like oysters, is also high in zinc. In addition, it is a great source of lean protein which is essential in maintaining energy. You figure it out. Pair lobster with 2011 Chardonnay.
–What is your favorite aphrodisiac food or drink?