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Day of Wine & Roses

[whitespace] Wine and Rose Dining for Romance: Valentine's Day is the time to shower a loved one with wine, candles and delectable goodies.

Valentine's Day provides more than one kind of delicious excuse to demonstrate our love for that special someone

By Christina Waters

FEB. 14 IS St. Valentine's Day, a day that anticipates spring's fertility, a day to say "I love you." Feb. 14 is also a date that warms the hearts of retailers all over the English-speaking world. On this emotionally charged day devoted to love, more than 1 billion Valentine's cards will be sent. Candy sales in the United States alone will exceed $600 million, and nearly 100 million roses will be purchased as symbols of love.

The entrepreneurial patron saint of Valentine's Day was a traveling salesman from Kansas City. A workaholic with a gift for verbal reductionism, Joyce C. Hall firmly believed that modern Americans had little time to take pen in hand and compose original sentiments. So he did it for them. Today the Hallmark empire he founded in 1910 rakes in $3.5 billion each year.

Long before there was Hallmark there were the two ill-fated third-century Roman Valentines. A millennium later, St. Valentine's Day was given new sex appeal by the gabby Anglo scribe Geoffrey Chaucer, who created the very first Hallmark moment by calling Valentine's Day a romantic "time when every fowl comes to chose his mate."

Over the 16th and 17th centuries, European country folk engaged in all manner of quaint courtship rites involving herbs, rocks and secret messages on Valentine's Day. And with the emergence of reliable postal services in the mid-1800s, Valentine's Day was reinvented as an occasion for sentimental consumerism.

Americans, as well as the English and French, went mad for the new craze of sending sweet nothings through the mail. Books filled with sample Valentine's love letters became bestsellers, and pretty soon the confectioners and florists got into the act.

Many of us fondly remember the chance that Valentine's Day gave us to confess our classroom crushes via those anonymous little Valentine cards kids used to send--before political correctitude.

THE DAY devoted to showing your wife, husband, mother, sweetheart, et al. just how much you love them very often leads to a special dinner, beautiful flower deliveries or a box of irresistible chocolates. Chocolate is traditional because it is so universally adored. Luscious flavor aside, its chemical composition mimics the brain's psychochemistry when we are in love.

Besides brain science, Valentine's Day is a great time to treat your sweetie to his or her favorite delights.

Setting the stage for romance--which may be as innocent as a simple kiss or as torrid as imagination and the law allow--often involves a dinner for two. Candlelight, a chance to dress up for each other and perhaps a bottle of bubbly are time-honored Valentine's traditions. An overnight at a beloved getaway is one of my favorite ways of spending Valentine's Day.

Absolutely enjoy a special restaurant. Definitely indulge in some fine wine and handmade chocolates.

The most romantic restaurants can help provide the proper mood. You know the ones--lots of candlelight, intimate tables, pampering service and of course a menu that includes sensuous desserts like crème brulée and tiramisu--perfect for sharing--or truly plush items like the Grand Marnier soufflé and decadent new warm chocolate cake at Chez Renée, one of the all-time most romantic spots any time of the year.

One of my favorite Valentine's evenings involved a walk on the Boardwalk beach at sunset, followed by dinner at Casablanca--the view alone is sensuous. Then we checked into one of the rooms in the old section of the Casablanca, the one with the fireplace and the four-poster bed, and opened a bottle of Domaine Chandon bubbly. It was, well, memorable.

Luscious candies, like the handmade chocolates from Richard Donnelly, are the sort of treat your Valentine might enjoy. Luxury items, like fresh oysters--considered by many aficionados to be the ultimate food of love--fine caviar or paté, are a delicious element in Valentine's traditions in our part of the world. Don't forget your local sushi bar for sexy Valentine's dining. Eating with your hands and licking your fingers tends to stimulate playful thinking.

But get creative, too. Here are a few romantic ideas to get you started:

  • Write a love letter to your spouse or sweetheart. And not on your computer.

  • Read your favorite love poetry to your sweetie. By candlelight.

  • Gather some champagne, scented candles and bubble bath and share a long, leisurely tub-for-two.

  • Walk on the beach together. Bring a picnic dinner and build a fire at sunset.

  • Embrace for an hour without speaking a single word.

  • Call in sick and stay in bed all day with your lover. Yes, all day.

  • Stop by the video store after dinner and rent A Man and a Woman or Out of Africa or The English Patient to watch together.

  • Give each other a massage in front of a roaring fire.

  • Women: Wear that outfit he really loves you in, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

  • Men: Cook dinner for her, even if you have no idea what you're doing.

  • Make every day a day in which you say "I love you" to the important people in your life.

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  • From the February 10-17, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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