the flaming chef: a food column

For the adventurous couple, few things are more special and enchanting than a hearty picnic in an open, snowy spot such as Memorial Field. Lay down a large blanket or quilt and set up any picnic meal you desire. And don’t forget to bring hot thermoses of coffee and chicken soup to warm yourselves up! Of course, the best way to warm up with that someone special is through a good cuddle, easily facilitated with a few blankets or a warm sleeping bag. This meal should probably be a luncheon in order to bask in the glistening snow, although gazing upon a clear, starlit sky does have its pleasures. And, regardless of the time of day, who can resist sledding down Memorial Hill?

If you aren’t the outdoorsy type, why not share a romantic film right on the futon? “Chocolat” and “Like Water For Chocolate” are two of the most romantic films I’ve seen, both centered around the most seductive food of all: chocolate! Be sure to stock up on several different chocolate desserts: bittersweet truffles, flourless chocolate cake, chocolate-dipped strawberries and, of course, chocolate hearts and kisses. Don’t just serve chocolate out of the bag-after all, chocolate always tastes better when served on paper doilies (cut into a heart, perhaps?) and surrounded by bright red roses. And while champagne might seem the drink of choice, the dark, rich flavors of chocolate are better complemented with port. Two of my favorites are Fonseca Bin 27 and Graham’s Six Grapes, vintage-style ports often found on sale in the $15-17 range.

Even something as mundane as take-out pizza can become a charming, romantic treat. Here’s an easy tactic: recreate a cheesy, old-fashioned Italian restaurant right in your dorm room, complete with white and red checkered tablecloths. Add a bottle of Chianti, a small vase of flowers, Dean Martin on your stereo and your daily pizza delivery from Bruno’s, and voila!

These ideas are, of course, subject to personal preference. In fact, the most endearing dates revolve around memories or personal tastes. If your date is a Kraft EasyMac freak, why not serve it on fine china with wine? Or if she is particularly smitten with the color orange, try a banquet of orange-colored foods. While ideas like these may not be the most gastronomically sound, they are romantic in their wonderful absurdity.

Still, certain foods manage to bring out the lust in us more than others. Here are a few foods that bring a touch of the sensual to any eating experience.

� Chocolate (duh!)

� Strawberries and raspberries (luscious, ripe and oh-so-seductive)

� Bananas (suggestive of a certain male organ)

� Cherries (quite naughty, as in “to pop a”)

� Oysters and clams (these bivalves are reminiscent of the female sexual organs)

� Caviar (this luxurious staple bursts in the mouth)

� Olives (not sure why, but watching someone suck an olive has always turned me on)

� Eclairs (one word: mmmmmmm. Is that a word?)

� Ice cream (cold, rich and tantalizing)

� Whipped cream (lickable substitute for clothing)

Remember, the mood and setting are just as important as the food itself. So dim the lights, put on some suave music, and get that Valentine’s romance started.