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Valentine Food Fantasies : What is the food of romance? : You Gotta Have Hearts


It's Valentine's Day, and the most prosaic people turn suddenly romantic. If you want your love to know that your heart's in the right place, here are a few extraordinary edibles to help make the day special.

It looks like a beautiful heart-shaped box--but it's not. It is actually a chocolate cake filled with raspberry-chocolate ganache and topped with "candies" made of frosting. Pictured on the cover, it is available for $50 at Sweet Lady Jane, 8360 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 653-7145.

Keep the vampires at bay with a 24-inch heart-shaped garlic wreath with peppers and herbs. It's $125 at Marmalade, 710 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 395-9196.

Pluck the hot, hot dried Habanero chile peppers from the heart-shaped wreath to use year-round. The wreath is $25 and it's available at Frieda's Finest Specialties, Inc., P.O. Box 58488, Los Angeles 90058.

Heart-shaped ravioli say "I love you" with every bite. Served today only at Osteria Romana Orsini, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 277-6050.

Hand-made, hand-painted chocolate boxes large enough to hold 12 chocolate truffles will melt any heart. They are available at Raffine, 3741 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Westlake Village, (805) 496-2699.

A chocolate truffle sponge cake soaked in raspberry liqueur is heart-shaped and filled with raspberries--from Michel Richard, 310 Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, (213) 275-5707.

You'll get heart-shaped dim sum with a meal or to take out at all Chin Chin restaurants in Los Angeles on St. Valentine's Day.

Plump, gooey and inexpensive heart-shaped decorated cakes are available all week at Pavilions stores in Southern California, (about $6).

Heart-shaped knishes filled with potato and spinach are available to eat in or take out at Carnegie Deli, 300 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (213) 275-DELI.

Mrs. Fields has come up with a giant "sweetheart" cookie, a collection of heart cookie medallions and a heart tin filled with a dozen of the cookies that made her rich and famous. They are available at all Mrs. Fields Cookie stores, from $1.50 to $19.99.

Heart-shaped finger sandwiches are being served at afternoon tea today at the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1011.

They call it aphrodisiac seafood pasta because it's laced with saffron sauce and seasoned with romantic spices. The Valentine's Day specialty is served at Locanda Veneta, 8638 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 274-1893.

Tortilla hearts are topped with leeks and seafood and pierced with a red "arrow" when they arrive at the table on St. Valentine's Day at St. Estephe, 2640 Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, (213) 545-1334.

Creamy mousse loaded with potent porcini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms is served as a love potion appetizer at Primi, 10543 Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 475-9235.

Ravel at the Sheraton Grande offers an all-aphrodisiac Valentine's menu designed by executive chef Mark Anderson for $45-per-person. Dinner ends with a chocolate heart with fresh raspberries and a small bottle of dessert wine for each couple. Sheraton Grande, Ravel, 333 S. Figueroa, (213) 617-1133.

Here are some heart recipes from local chefs to tantalize your sweetheart.


12 blue or yellow corn tortillas

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1 1/2 cups 1-inch julienned leeks, white and green parts

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt


24 fresh medium to large shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails intact

Red Chile Arrow Paint

Stack tortillas 2 at time and with sharp knife or heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut 2 heart shapes. Heat 1/2 inch oil in heavy skillet until medium-hot, about 275 degrees. Fry heart-shaped tortillas 30 seconds each, or until tender and pliable. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

Melt butter in skillet and saute leeks over medium heat until tender, about 2 minutes. Season with salt. Keep warm.

Bring water in steamer pot to boil. Steam shrimp on rack over boiling water until pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon sauteed leeks on top of each tortilla and top with shrimp. Pipe Red Chile Arrow Paint across each heart. Makes 6 appetizer servings.

Note: Tortilla hearts may also be deep-fried until crisp like chips.

Red Chile Arrow Paint

1 tablespoon oil

2 medium garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup red chile powder, mild to medium-hot

3/4 cup water

Heat oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in red chile powder, stirring constantly. Immediately add water and stir until well blended.

Remove skillet from heat and pass paint through fine sieve. Store in refrigerator until needed. To use place paint in small plastic squeeze bottle with fine tip and decorate in arrow shape.


1/4 pound large porcini mushrooms

1/4 pound large shiitake mushrooms

1/4 pound large oyster or white mushrooms

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