Food that is good for the heart…but we don’t mean heart healthy

Written by on February 9, 2011 in Baltimore Bites - No comments

They say that Valentine’s Day is the biggest day for restaurants all year, and an even bigger day for chocolate than Halloween.

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That’s not surprising, because chocolate is one of the great aphrodisiac foods. The Aztecs, who pretty much invented chocolate, touted its sensuousness and called it a food of the gods.

These days, scientists are a little more prosaic, but say there may be some basis for chocolate’s sexy reputation. Cocoa, the stuff that is made into chocolate, contains phenylethylamine, a stimulant that is released in the brain when people fall in love. So, theoretically at least, eating chocolate could improve your mood.

More recent studies have debunked that theory, but who cares? Chocolate is delicious. Might as well have some and see what develops, oui?

Skip the heart-shaped box at the drugstore and get yourself some chocolate treats at Canton Bakery, corner of O’Donnell and Clinton streets. Choose from dense, fudgy chocolate cakes, or cute little chocolate mousse mice, or creamy cheesecake (which has its own sexy reputation).

Or try a few chocolate truffles spiked with wine from Traditions by Pamela, 443-473-9625. Order in advance. They’re worth it.

Oysters: They have been touted as an aphrodisiac since the Romans ruled the world. The shellfish are high in zinc, which is essential for sperm production, and are high in a couple of amino acids which, when fed to male lab rats in an old study, increased their testosterone levels.

Whether a few oysters will help things along is open to debate, but fried, or raw on the half shell, they are delicious and they make a very good appetizer.

Oysters certainly worked for the lead character in “Tom Jones,” filmed in 1962 and winner of the Academy Award for best picture in 1963. The film stars a very young and handsome Albert Finney as a young playboy in the 18th century. Check out the scene where Tom, after getting roughed up on the highway, has dinner with a saucy wench he’s just met, played by Joyce Redman. It’s about a half hour into the movie and still famous for its not-very-subtle sexual references. In fact, it was banned by the Maryland State Board of Film Censors, a fact that made the film wildly popular.

Who cares if the movie is as old as your mother? Rent it anyway. Or you can check it out on YouTube, but it’s better on a larger screen.

On to the main course. Mustard and peppercorns supposedly stimulate other organs besides the tongue; try beef, pork, chicken or fish seasoned with the hot stuff.

Or take a lead from the Italians, the very inventors of amore, and try a little spaghetti. Speaking of dining scenes, you could emulate that scene from Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” (the one where they share a strand of spaghetti and meet in the middle, not the one where Tramp offers Lady a meatball by nudging it toward her with his nose). Bonus: basil is supposed to increase both libido and fertility—according to the Italians anyway.

Drinking a couple of glasses of wine over the course of an evening is relaxing. Stop short of running through the whole bottle, though. Too much alcohol might make you too drowsy for the main event.

Dessert: All sorts of fruit have aphrodisiac reputations. Raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears, apples, take your pick. For an enhanced effect, dip strawberries in chocolate and enjoy with champagne. Or just take a look at Tom Jones and his saucy wench ripping through the fruit bowl at their country inn for pointers.

Whether you are an outie or an innie—whether you go out or stay home for your romantic Valentine’s dinner—there are plenty of options. Take it from Tom and Tramp.

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