Daily Herald
Xtra special Champagne, chocolates the way to her heart
By Deb Pankey | Daily Herald Food Editor
Published: 2/13/2008 12:17 AM

I admit diamonds would be nice, but in this economy I have to be realistic. So instead of jewelry, my request this Valentine's Day is rather simple: Champagne and chocolate.

A Champagne cocktail, to be more precise, one made with X-rated Fusion Liqueur.

This pink elixir's fruity profile -- blood orange, passion fruit and mango -- pleased me right out of the bottle. But splashed into a glass of bubbly, it downright tickled me pink. I nearly finished a bottle of Chandon Brut Classic by myself, spiking it liberally with X-rated.

Next time I open the bottle I plan to try the Kiss and Tell Shot: equal parts X-rated Fusion Liqueur, amaretto and cranberry juice.

I suspect that will go well with the Raspberry Chambord Truffle, one of the decadent morsels in Moonstruck Chocolatier's nine-piece Cherish Collection, or the Orange Groove creamy cocoa confection from Ethel's Chocolates. Both shops have suburban locations and you can't go wrong stopping into either.

Down and dirty: If you and your sweetie don't mind getting a little messy, sign up for a truffle-making workshop with Sweet Endeavours Inc., a Schaumburg-based luxury chocolatier.

Rieko Wada, Endeavours' owner and chef, will work with you on flavor selection for the best chocolate and food pairing and bring the class to your kitchen for your next dinner party or wedding shower.

"If sushi is the focus of a dinner party, our matcha green tea truffles would make a perfect pairing with the sushi," Wada says. "We'll make recommendations based on clients' needs, but they can customize their event with truffle flavors they'd like to make."

Sweet Endeavours brings the necessary materials and will work with students for about two hours to craft custom truffles. The shop also offers hands-on and demonstration-only workshops at its Schaumburg facility. Private, hands-on classes cost $65 per person, while demonstration workshops cost $45. All home workshops require a minimum of six people. Classes taught on-site cost $50 for hands-on; $40 per person for demonstration. Call (224) 653-2700 to schedule a class.

Spice it up: Looking to impress this Valentine's Day? Cooking dinner for your significant other (or the one you hope will be) is certainly a romantic gesture, but you might think about adding a little something for both of you to enjoy -- that's right, we're talking natural aphrodisiacs, agents known to arouse and intensify sexual desire.

The experts at The Spice Hunter offer some spices that have the power to open doors you never knew existed:

Aniseed: Sucking on the seeds is said to increase desire (and can freshen breath)

Basil: Beyond promoting a general sense of well-being, basil is known to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility

Celery: The Romans dedicated celery to Pluto, their god of sex and the underworld

Coriander: The dried seed is said to have a euphoric effect, especially on women

Nutmeg: Prized by Chinese women for its amorous effect on men

Mustard: Stimulates action of the sex glands

Saffron: Stimulates the erogenous zones

Try celery seed dressing on your salad Thursday evening or saffron-infused paella. Head to www.spicehunter.com for these and other recipes.

-- Deborah Pankey