The problem with taking your sweetie to a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day is that one-quarter of all Americans will be sitting there with you on this second-busiest restaurant day of the year (Mother’s Day is first), according to the National Restaurant Association.
True story: I made reservations for my wife and me one Valentine’s Day, and when we showed up they said that, no matter that we had reserved a table, there would be a two-hour wait.
Every place else was booked, of course, so we came back in two hours only to be told they wouldn’t be able to get to us at all.
We had a midnight meal at an all-night diner. What kind of whine — uh, wine — went with that? None. Diner had no liquor license.
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It’s a good reason to make Valentine’s dinner at home. It’s more romantic than a diner anyway, and you have your own cellar for a wine list.
So what to cook? There’s nothing wrong with caviar, lobster and steak Diane, except that they’re kind of been-there-done-that.
Here’s an idea: Choose from this list of foods purported to be aphrodisiacs and why. And wines to go with them. (This column is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.)
▪ Oysters (zinc), raw, slurped greedily: sparkling wine, the lightest, liveliest possible.
Nonvintage Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, Sonoma/Carneros, Calif. (100 percent chardonnay): lots of lively bubbles, aromas of flowers and yeast, flavors of tart pears, minerals and vanilla, long finish; $22.
▪ Hot chilis (capsaicin), jalapeno poppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon: Sweet sparkling wine.
2014 Sofia Blanc de Blancs off-dry sparkling wine, by Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Monterey County (70 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent riesling, 15 percent muscat): lightly sweet, soft, active bubbles, aromas and flavors of mangos and lime, hint of minerals; $19.
▪ Saffron (stimulating neurotransmitters), giving its scent in a French bouillabaisse fish stew with a crisp rose.
2015 Halter Ranch Vineyard Rose, Paso Robles (67 percent grenache, 22 percent picpoul blanc, 8 percent mourvedre, 3 percent syrah): light pink hue, floral aromas, flavors of raspberries and minerals, firm and dry and crisp; $21.
▪ Artichokes (vitamins, antioxidants), simmered, in individual leaves, with melted lemon butter, with a steely white wine with no oak aging.
2015 Azienda Agricola Ascevi Luwa Pinot Grigio, Friuli Venezia Giulia (100 percent pinot grigio): light and steely and crisp, with aromas and flavors of limes and minerals; $15.
▪ Avocados (vitamin E), in a rich guacamole, with a zingy sauvignon blanc.
2015 Heitz Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Calif. (100 percent sauvignon blanc): crisp and lively, with aromas and flavors of peaches and citrus, long finish; $22.
▪ Salmon (omega-3 fatty acids), sauteed, with a maple syrup/soy glaze, with a soft, ripe red wine, Spanish tempranillo.
2014 Castoro Cellars Reserve Tempranillo, Whale Rock Vineyard, Paso Robles, Calif.: aromas and flavors of ripe red raspberries and spice, soft and fruity, medium body; $30.
▪ Truffles (pheromones), shaved over creamy pasta: an earthy red wine, pinot noir. (Red wine is said to be aphrodisiac itself, from resveratrol.
2014 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir “Cuvee August,” Russian River Valley, Calif.: dark and savory and earthy, with aromas and flavors of black raspberries and mocha, delicate tannins, crisp acids; $98.
▪ Bananas (potassium), flambeed into Bananas Foster: Spanish cream sherry.
Nonvintage Emilio Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez, Jerez-Manzanilla, Spain; rich, viscous, creamy ultra-sweet but crisp, with flavors of burnt honey, raisins and toffee; $20.
▪ Chocolate (phenylethylamine) in a souffle, with sweet red port.
Nonvintage Dow’s Fine Ruby Port, Portugal: ruby red hue, powerful and sweet, crisp and full-bodied, with aromas and flavors of red raspberries; $14.