Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be Mine: Four Local Valentine's Treats

This is the time of year I get flooded with PR emails touting special romantic dinners at various restaurants. Ah, if only...

I long ago gave up trying to keep up with the tsunami of Valentine's day romance packages, but I do love a heart-felt gesture. So, I thought I'd mention several delicious edible Valentine's Day options for gifts that I've come across.

First up is cheese. Cheese? Yes, Taste's Mary Palmer pulled this out of a cooler at the Little Italy Mercato and, oh, did I want it. It's a Coeur Fleuri Chevre--a heart-shaped French goat cheese decorated with dried pomegranate seeds and rose petals. Truly seductive for the cheese lover. $13.50 at the Little Italy, Hillcrest, and North Park farmers markets.


Then, there's gelato. Not just any gelato, but Millie's vegan gelato--or as owner/gelato genius Susan Sbicca says, plant-based. She's made four special Valentine's Day flavors: blood-orange creamsicle (perfect topped with fresh blood orange marmalade), chocolate mint swirl (I top this with Jackie's Jams new Stehly Farms raspberry jam), coconut bing cherry (lovely with chocolate syrup), and lemon raspberry (crazy good alone but reaches a whole new dimension with Katherine Humphus's balsamic port reduction). (Sbicca may also have a passion fruit gelato. Be sure to ask.) $10 a pint at the Leucadia farmers market.



Finally, chocolate. Well, of course, chocolate! Here are two of my very favorites with some intriguing variations on an age-old theme:

Caxao holds a special place in my heart. You know that saying that you can feel the love in food? Yeah, yeah, but with Beatriz Ledezma's confections, I really can. There's something so pure and soulful about what she creates. Maybe it's just the combination of ingredients, but I think she could be a character in Like Water For Chocolate. There's something of the magic realism in her that is expressed through those truffles and caramels.

For Valentine's Day Caxao has what Beatriz calls the Je Thé Adore Collection--a seven-piece box of ganaches infused with various teas, fruits, and spices. Je thé aime, for example, is an infusion of green tea, papaya, peach, oranges, and marigold petals with a white ivory ganache and covered in 70 percent dark chocolate. $18


Then there's her delightful Pink Champagne Heart Box--11 pieces of silky white chocolate ganache and pink champagne truffles. $35


Her yet-to-be named crispy treats in a take-out box (puffed rice, puffed quinoa, rice cereal, caramelized sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, and organic 75 percent chocolate) are dressed up for V-Day and are $6.

And, if you just want to give a little bitty truffle treat, give an Emperor Truffle--dark chocolate ganache covered in 70 percent dark chocolate. All of $2.50.


All of these are available online or at her booths at the Little Italy Mercato and Hillcrest farmers market.

For a very different kind of chocolate, you'll want to try David Bacco's truffles. He's got a beautiful 12-piece assortment for $26.95 (at Seaside Market, Albertson's Del Mar, and online). These hand-crafted sweets feature the glossy  heart-shaped incantato, a blend of passion fruit, caramel, and milk chocolate ganache.


Then, there's his extravagant hand-painted edible heart box filled with two incantatos, serene (milk chocolate caramel ganache), citral (a fusion of lemongrass and 71 percent bittersweet chocolate, euphoria (a dreamy Hazelnut gianduja), and montserrat (Caribbean spices with ancho and chipotle). This package is $29.95.


Bacco is also collaborating with Sea Rocket Bistro for Valentine's Day dinner, with executive chef Tommy Fraioli using chocolate in each course, with a dessert created by Bacco that incorporates Sea Rocket's bacon jam.

Now, I'm sure I missed a lot. So fill in the gaps with your favorite Valentine's day edibles!
♥♥♥
P.S. My buddy Sam Zien, "Sam the Cooking Guy," is doing a special event on February 18 at 7 p.m. called "Sam Live." He'll be on the stage of the Joan Kroc Theater doing live cooking, showing video clips, telling behind-the-scenes stories, taking audience questions, and then signing books. You can learn how this frustrated biotech exec ended up with a TV cooking show. And, opening for Sam will be Australian bartender Hayden Wood from Woody's Liquid Kitchen (featured on Oprah and known as the most entertaining bartender in the world).

Here's the link for tickets--the big deal about this is that a portion of the proceeds will go to support Salvation Army/Kroc Center scholarship programs. General admission tickets are $60.

I've got two tickets to give away to this event. Just write a comment about the best edible Valentine's Day gift you ever gave or received. I'll pick what I think is the most moving (or funny) comment. The deadline for comments is noon PST on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012.

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