Dinner for Two

Recipes for romance: Wine and food pairings for a lovers feast

Recipes for romance: Wine and food pairings for a lovers feast

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

Making a romantic meal 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, energy levels and brain chemistry, which can influence arousal. Whatever you believe, we have created a roadmap for romance, a four-course menu with wine pairings that is sure to delight your valentine.

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

Perrier Jouët is a special Champagne that will cost you a few dollars, but your love is worth it. 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 perfect accompaniments to the briny oysters.

Rosé et Reims

First, add four dashes of grapefruit bitters to a Champagne flute. Add Lillet Rosé, then top with Champagne. Garnish 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: arugula, basil, avocado, asparagus and spicy red Fresno peppers. 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, which improves circulation and heats up the body. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Next, add chilled, blanched asparagus that have 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; vitamins A, B6 and C; and thiamin and folic acid.  

Creamy avocados add a sensuous touch. They are rich in vitamin E, for a boost of vigor. Bright red Fresno peppers get the blood rushing and elevate the body temperature and heart rate to get you hot and bothered. Finish the sexy mix with a drizzle of lime juice and olive oil.

A crisp California Chardonnay will bring out the creaminess of the avocado and tame the bitterness of the arugula. 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. Find it at wine shops like Spec's 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 Spec's for around $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 Angel 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 degrees Fahrenheit 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. 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”; 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 chocolates made right here in Dallas. In addition to places like Dude, Sweet Chocolate and Chocolate Secrets, you can find handmade creations from chocolatier Kate Weiser at Ascension in the Design District, where she has set up a pop-up shop.

There is nothing like a sweet dessert 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. 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. Or ask the experts at a wine specialty shop such as Spec's or Central Market for something comparable to complete your dessert course.

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