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10 Foods for a Romantic Dinner on Valentine’s Day

Truffles, chocolate, caviar and maybe even some codfish promote love

spinner image Closeup of mid 20's couple having fun during dinner party. The guy is feeding his girls with some chopped fruit, both laughing.
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What makes a food romantic? Some items are thought of as aphrodisiacs — oysters, chocolate and wine — but there can be more to getting the heart pumping.​To set the table for love on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to pay special attention to textures, tastes, color and shareability. Something that creates a mood and heightens all the senses — including touch and smell — can spark romance.

Look for “something satisfying that will put both people in a good mood and be eaten in a good atmosphere of happiness and warmth,” says Ariane Daguin, CEO of high-end specialty foods purveyor D’Artagnan and a chef from a family of restaurateurs in France’s Gascony region.​

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Harvey Edelman, 73, a musical theater writer and marketing company owner in Jersey City, New Jersey, loves to cook. For him, making a meal romantic means “putting in the effort and not cooking something really easy,” he says. “I need to show my commitment cooking-wise.”​

The meaning behind the meal always adds to the atmosphere. As Daguin says, “When you cook the food with love, it shows.”​

Here are 10 foods that will surely bring you closer on Valentine’s Day.​

1. Oysters

There’s no truth to claims that these bivalves are aphrodisiacs, but oysters are loaded with zinc, which your body needs to make proteins and DNA, and it can help you fight off bacteria. Though the science is not so sexy, oysters are romantic “because what makes food romantic is its visceral nature, and oysters are extremely visceral,” says Sims McCormick, cofounder of Real Oyster Cult, which sources and curates oysters from sustainable farms and ships them overnight. “The fresh smell of the sea when you shuck the oyster, the merroir [the liquid that spills from it], the feel of plump, sweet meat in your mouth — it's sensual.”​

2. Caviar

Another food that claims to stimulate desire, caviar or fish eggs are said to have been a favorite of Casanova. Roe is rich in vitamins and minerals such as omega 3 (good for healthy circulatory and immune systems) and vitamin B12 (keeps nerve and blood cells healthy). Because caviar is so pricey, it’s in that category of decadent things that people want to splurge on to show a lover they are worth it. “It's effervescent and crunchy, and that makes it sexy,” McCormick says, adding that it’s nice to place those sexy eggs atop an oyster.

Domestic caviar is less expensive than imported. Siberian caviar starts at about $75 an ounce.​

3. Truffles

The aroma is the truffle’s calling card — an earthy, almost garlicky, moldy, meaty, sweet, sweaty smell that adds complexity to any food. “If you want to impress someone, shave a couple of black truffle slices on top of your food,” Daguin says. Black truffles can cost $1,000 to $2,000 per pound, depending on the time of year, but you’re only using a scant few ounces, so consider splurging.

4. Chocolate

spinner image Homemade chocolate candies for Valentine's Day on dark table background.
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The dark, silky candy has always had the cultural cachet of being a special, romantic treat. Chocolate contains the chemical phenylethylamine, a stimulant that appears to have positive effects on mood and triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins. But chocolate’s voluptuous, creamy mouth feel is what keeps Valentine’s Day gifters coming back for more. Again, scarcity will increase desire, so spring for something artisanal and high-end in the chocolate world — whether it’s milk, dark or white chocolate — that’s unique with complex flavors you can talk about.

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5. Lobster

Lobster is often a bit messy, which can translate to romance. “There is something sensual about eating with your fingers,” Daguin says. She suggests boiling the lobster with lots of hot spices and salt and pepper, so you don’t have to reseason, and keeping it in the shell. Then dip it in truffle butter and share. The decadence of a morsel of lobster meat with hot butter dripping from it is hard to rival

6. Wagyu Beef or Venison

Cooking something with a special ingredient always makes it more meaningful, Daguin says. Wagyu beef, with its highly marbled meat, is exceedingly tender and melts in your mouth with a rich and almost buttery taste, while a pink cut of venison evokes the outdoors. Paired with a red wine sauce, venison is a bit more inventive than traditional steak.​

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7. Spicy foods 

Many spicy foods contain capsaicin, which triggers the release of endorphins that contribute to a feeling of well-being. A 2015 French study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found a correlation between hot sauce usage and higher levels of testosterone in men. That said, don’t go crazy with spicy food on Valentine’s Day: A burning mouth and the sweats aren’t too sexy.

8. Codfish

Yes, codfish. Edelman’s perspective is that if a dish is made with love, it’s romantic. The foodie created his idea of romance when he riffed on a meal he ate at a Manhattan restaurant and came up with pecan-crusted codfish drizzled with sautéed shiitake mushrooms. “There are a lot of steps,” he says, which satisfy his requirement for extra effort.​When making this dish, he buys all the ingredients fresh at a market, then grinds and chops the pecans, rolls the cod in egg batter, coats it with pecans and herbs and sautés the shiitakes in olive oil and a dollop of truffle oil. “It probably would take an hour to cook it, but I’m drinking wine along the way,” he says.​

9. Shareables

Sharing a meal is the ultimate in closeness. Fondues with chocolate or cheese are fun, special-occasion meals. Pasta dishes with great mouth feel and gorgeous aromas can be supremely satisfying and sexy. Daguin swears by her cassoulet, a traditional French thick bean and meat stew. When you put something in the middle of the table to be “convivial,” as Daguin says, those efforts will boost the romance quotient.

10. Fruit

Go with a color scheme as a Valentine reminder — red strawberries, pomegranates, watermelon. Some of those ripe fruits give off a sweet aroma, and you can dip strawberries in chocolate to feed your partner. To get beyond traditional, give passion fruit or papaya a try — both are said to increase libido.​​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information.

Stacey Freed is a contributing writer who covers remodeling, construction, lifestyle issues, education and pets. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Real Simple and This Old House. ​​

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