Feb 6, 2007

How to Woo Your Valentine—with Chocolate Love

Non-traditional Chocolate Love

Diamonds? Nah—too pricey. Hallmark card? Too mainstream. Heart-shaped candy from the local store? Too blah. Flowers? Too obvious. Looking for a new way to woo your Valentine? Just say yes—to chocolate. Glorious, rich, reason-to-live chocolate. Cultivated and developed on this continent (Central America and Mexico—thank you Aztecs and Mayans—you rock!), it's one of the best-loved aphrodisiacs. Unlike, say, Viagra, the ingestion of chocolate is wholly pleasurable as well as its effects. Montezuma was so convinced chocolate was an aphrodisiac, he drank huge quantities before every trip to his harem. Is it the serotonin in chocolate? The rich fatty luxury of it? Who knows for sure, but you can experiment with chocolate—accompanied by the one you wish to woo—and get back to me on how it works.

Meanwhile, here a couple of ways to enjoy chocolate with your love:


Chocolate Mole
Ahhhh, mole. The chocolate curry of Mexico. Savory chocolate—what’s not to love? No better way to celebrate your passion for both chocolate and food by taking your honey out to enjoy some autentico Oaxacan or Pueblano mole. Here are two highly recommended spots in the L.A. area to try (surely you can uncover some near you with some research):

Guelaguetza
3014 W Olympic Blvd (Cross Street: Normandie Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA 90006-2516
(213) 427-0608

Described as, “straightforward, totally authentic, very flavorful, extremely reasonably priced, and super-delicious.”

Frida Mexican Cuisine
236 S. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Tel: 310-278-7666

Described this way, “If you're after more authentic Mexican cuisine in smart surroundings and the chance of a celebrity sighting, then this is a must.”

For a more profound chocolate thrill—for those who dare—make your own mole (I do—it's worth every bit of effort). You will need a spice grinder (a coffee grinder works great), lots of nuts, garlic, dried chilies, and, naturally, a rich, good quality chocolate (preferably Mexican chocolate). Here’s a great site to teach you all you need to know about making mole (the process is not that difficult—it’s more a matter of gathering a lot of ingredients, taking your time, and not succumbing to shortcuts [use turkey or chicken on the bone, for example]):

www.ramekins.com/mole/molenopool.html


Chocolate Truffles

Sure, there are chocolate bon-bons—those chocolate candies with mystery ingredients inside. But hard-core chocolate aficionados prefer truffles. Chocolate inside, chocolate outside—all the more chocolate to enjoy. But don't settle for the standard-issue truffles—go for the gusto at these spectacular chocolatiers—or search for handmade truffletiers near where you live:

L' Artisan du Chocolat

3364 West First Street
Los Angeles, CA 90004
310-880-9396

www.LArtisanduChocolat.com

Boule Gourmet Chocolates

420 N La Cienega Blvd (Cross Street: Rosewood Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 289-9977

www.boulela.com


Homemade Truffles


Don't forget that you can make truffles easily as well. Homemade truffles will not look as glamorous as ones you might find at a chocolatier, but they will be made with love—by you—and therefore may be even more potent as an aphrodisiac (see Like Water for Chocolate if you don't believe me).

Here's a quick and simple recipe—the results will astound both you and the object of your affections. Plus, there will be plenty left over to take to work and amaze everyone there. Enjoy! All ingredients can be purchased at your local Trader Joe's. Recipe makes five dozen 1" truffles.

1 Pound Plus bar of bittersweet 72% cacao Belgian chocolate (17.6 oz.)
1/2 pound Ghirardelli white baking chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 of a stick)
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (1 16 oz container plus two more ounces)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (or substitute liquor, such as Chambord or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons water
Shredded coconut or chopped, unsalted nuts (to roll truffles in)

Boil a few cups of water in a pot. Place a bowl (or another pot) over the boiling water (thus creating a double-boiler, if you don't have one). Melt the chocolates in the upper bowl, stirring to mix the dark and light chocolates (taste, if desired). When the chocolates are melted and mixed, add in the butter, water, vanilla (or liquor) and mix thoroughly. Add in a dollop of heavy cream, stirring it in well before adding another dollop. When the cream is well–mixed, remove the chocolate, cover the bowl, and refrigerate it for two hours or until the mixture is firm enough to hold its shape (you may need to refrigerate overnight).

Spread out a sheet of parchment paper on the counter (or plastic wrap). Scoop up about a tablespoon of the chocolate and roll into a 1" ball, rolling between your hands to make a nice rounded shape (just like making meatballs). Roll the truffle in a plate with the coconut or chopped nuts to coat the outside. Place the coated truffle on the parchment paper. Continue in this way until all the chocolate is gone (be sure to sneak a few for taste-testing and quality assurance). You can find lovely food-grade boxes at Cost Plus World Markets to package your creations in. These simple truffles get such rave reviews, I’ve actually been offered money for them. The secret is using the high-cacao content chocolate and then adding in the bit of white chocolate to mellow and sweeten the mixture slightly (but not too much—mildly sweet is most irresistible).

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

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