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Love Is Abloom on Newport Ave.

July 07, 1994|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to the Times Orange County.

Forget February. It's on those long, hot summer nights that thoughts naturally turn to romance. And even in the middle of a business district, romances can blossom. Take, for instance, one long block of Newport Avenue in Costa Mesa, where you can really spice up existing relationships.

5 to 5:20 p.m.: The Petal Pusher offers drive-through fresh flowers, but what really makes it special are Robin Snyder-Bissett's distinctive bouquets using her signature sunflowers as well as Casablancas, mountain lilies, liatris and Hawaiian ginger.

"I try not to do your basic bouquet," Snyder-Bissett said. "No carnations, no baby's breath. I don't use a lot of filler--unless it's a green, like bells of Ireland, because that's different. Look at this! King protea, (it's) like a big human pipe cleaner.

"If somebody wants a romantic bouquet, I'd use tea roses, lilies and lisianthus. Tea roses as opposed to regular roses, lilies because they're the oldest, and that's kind of romantic, lisianthus because it's delicate. A lot of people think lisianthus is a rose, but it's not."

Sunflowers are romantic too.

"Sunflowers mean adoration," she said.

5:20 to 5:40: Nothing sets a romantic mood like music. Tower Records and Video recently had stacks and stacks of Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Julio Iglesias but had sold out of Cyborgasm, which features the sounds of you know what. Go figure.

For my money, I'd try "Classic Weepies," more than "75 minutes of the world's most moving classical music" (currently No. 2 on the charts), Arleen Auger's "Love Songs," Cecilia Bartoli's "The Impatient Lover" or Luciano Pavoratti's "Amore." Among videos, choose from "Love Matters," "Love Street," "Love Child," "Love Field," "Love Nest" and "Love Story." Possibilities also include "The Lover" and "Lovers' Lovers," and more complex titles such as "Love Among the Ruins," "Love in the Afternoon" and "Love With the Proper Stranger."

By no means overlook "Mad Love," "Love and Bullets"--can either stop Charles Bronson?--and "Love Kills."

5:40 to 6: If you want your evening to really pack a wallop, Country Store Nutrition offers an entire shelf of, um, "energy" sources, including ginseng for women and ginseng for men. Also, Siberian ginseng, Manchurian ginseng, Chinese red ginseng, Korean white ginseng, ginseng and royal jelly, ginseng tea and "performance" ginseng. Appraising the power of red panax ginseng extractum, owner Jessie Talayeh said, "It's like taking 25 coffees in a day."

Forget the gym, because Mui Macho has finally been packaged, and in a natural herbal formula to boot. On the same shelf are plum balls, pumpkin seed oil, Ultra High Performance Excel and Legendary Cyclone Cider. Elsewhere in the store you'll find ambergris and Arabian musk perfume oils, musk and night queen incense, and Kiss My Face pure olive oil soap.

If you're considering popping a very big question, also consider Mega Stress with C.

6 to 6:20: You might stop in at Condom Revolution, where you can build your very own custom Love in a Bucket. (Buckets range from $15 to $99, but generally run $25 to $35.)

"If you want to be romantic, put some kind of nice candle in there--candles set the mood," advised owner Dean Charter. "And a love oil, something that warms up, and maybe a nice piece of lingerie, something fun. You might add some fresh chocolates for dessert, for the taste sensation. In fact, folks might want to make themselves into dessert, with whipped cream and chocolate, a fantasy dessert, like 'I'm your hot fudge sundae . . .' "

6:20 to 7:50: Not before dinner, I'm not!

And anyway, many people's fantasy dessert runs more to chef Alan Greeley's passion fruit and lime souffle; if you want to check it out, call the Golden Truffle in advance. Then get down to the rest of Greeley's "French Caribbean" cuisine: appetizers, including lobster and shrimp leek dumplings with saffron chili sauce and Caribbean pickles ($7.50), "utility foods" such as Jamaican jerk chicken salad ($7.95).

The dishes range from "seasoned well to spicy"; either way, your taste buds will really open up. If they need further encouragement, Greeley will provide a jerk-like "turbo-charged A1 sauce" with guavas and raisins, or a jalapeno cilantro sauce, or a sweet tangerine smoked chili barbecue sauce, or any of several other concoctions--all, he said, "100% serious stuff." Cool off with tropical snow cones, a fruit and tropical sorbet fantasy.

Roses and a candle on each table, soft lighting . . .

7:50 to 8: Having consummated your souffle, or your cones, as the case may be, this may not be the moment to go play basketball or handball, but if you get to Lions Park before dusk, when it closes, it could be perfect for a short after-dinner stroll, or to ask somebody to go steady or something.

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