Chocolates for Valentine’s Day – true love shows true taste


Can guarantee there will be some rubbish chocolate offerings around for Valentine’s Day, and I don’t just mean last minute quarter pound boxes picked up from the garage. In my view, I think all of these would pass muster and get you definite brownie points on the day:


For every occasion that needs chocolate, then Amelia Rope is always the answer if it's for a food lover


* I’ve written about Amelia Rope’s chocolate before, and think that your loved one would find her Purely Pink Duo a very tasty duet, not to mention stylish. One is a fantastic dark chocolate and the other is pale rose, so almost chocolate and flowers combined in one fabulous gift.


Chapel Down Truffles from Artisan du Chocolat - perfect Valentine's Day gift for a food lover


* I am rather fond of Artisan du Chocolat, and I would be very happy to find a box of their Chapel Down Truffles winging my way, as a very British alternative to champagne truffles. If you wanted something a little different then I would go for No 14 Salted Caramels Passion Fruit.


Hand painted chocolate heart from Rococo - perfect Valentine's Day gift for a food lover

* Rococo is one of those companies that just make chocolate look even more desirable, and do things that just make me want to buy a box or bar of everything. If I had to choose, then for Valentine’s Day then I love the hand painted heart. Looks too good to eat. Almost.


Montezuma's Limited Edition Valentine's Bar - perfect gift for a food lover


* Go with the generous option this Valentine’s Day with the 500g big bar from Montezuma’s. This is a limited edition bar, blending milk chocolate with orange and biscotti pieces.


Waitrose Chocolate Hamper - perfect Valentine's Day gift for a food lover


* If you’re looking for a one stop shop for gift shopping with a great chocolate selection, then try John Lewis. Whether or not you want a selection put together from Waitrose, or something from Hotel Chocolat or Fauchon, the selection is good. Up to you whether or not you feel the need to add cuddly teddies and the like to your order. I think most food lovers would rather have the heart shaped ramekins as an alternative.

Of course, you could take the risk on a box of Dairy Milk but why would you when there are so many fantastic alternatives?


The Friday Five – Food with Passion


So, we’re heading towards Valentine’s Day, the shops are full of pink and red and hearts, and it’s all about passion. Well, most of the folk I know are passionate about their food, at one level or another, so these are books for those that share that passion, in its many different guises!


The Bordello Cookbook - a gift of a cookbook for a food lover with a racy side


* The Bordello Cookbook – So much to love about this! I’d love to know if anyone owns it already, and I’d love to know some of the reactions as visitors casually glance along your bookshelf. Would be worth buying purely for those moments!


Consuming Passions: A History of English Food and Appetite


* Consuming Passions: History of English Food and Appetite – bawdy and vulgar, like a scene from Hogarth. History and food collide, and show that there were definitely times before when the British loved their food.

Fruity Passions - a gift of a cookbook for a food lover looking to make their own fruit wine

* Fruity Passions – An Introduction to Country Wine-Making – honestly, I’d buy this just for the title, but maybe there could be some fun and games when trying out some of the recipes. Foraging together has to be a very romantic thing to do!


In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful Hisotry of Forbidden Food. A gift of a book for a food lover with a naughty side


* In the Devil’s Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden History – food history from a slightly naughty perspective, from the moment Eve bit into the apple onwards. Is there any wonder we end up with food issues?


The Gastronomy of Marriage - a memoir of food and lover


* The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love – after all that lust and passion comes marriage. This is a great tale of how a couple come together and  learn to cook and eat together, without too many compromises.

Great books then to celebrate food in all its shades of passion from like to lust, through to marriage and even detours to the bordello. Something for everyone!


Getting spicy for Valentine’s Day


I was so trying to resist titling this with something kitschy based around red hot lovers, but this is really about great foodie gifts this Valentine’s Day for those who like additional spice in all their dishes. And it’s not all about heat, given the fabulous range of spices out there, and actually much easier to access all around the UK now, thanks to the internet. Here’s a few of my favourites:


St. John and Dolly Smith Pickles for food lovers who like the spice


* I’ve featured St.John and Dolly Smith pickles and chutney before, and think these are great products, with a great romantic story behind them. There’s a whole range of heat levels, or a gift box, and it would be something a bit different, as this is a small brand growing in distribution.


Tan Rosie Fiery Chilli Fudge


* Go sweet and hot with Tan Rosie Fiery Chilli Fudge. I met the team at East Midlands Food Festival, great people, great products, great story. Another great small business to think about supporting.


Chilly Filly pickles - great gift for food lovers who love it spicy


* Heading across to Suffolk now, and to Chilly Filly for great tomato chilli jam. There are some smaller jars, but for a gift I’d go for the big Kilner jar, which is a generous 1.2kg. Plenty to go round on your burgers, mixed into things like bolognaise, or to spice up a cheese sandwich.


Spice and all things nice from Gourmet Spice Company - amazing gift for food lover


* Someone else I got to meet at East Midlands Food Festival, I really like the range and variety at Gourmet Spice Co. I know I wrote about their Winter Spice Salt, and for Valentine’s Day then I like their hampers. This one has a smoked chilli oil, a spiced aromatic balsamic vinegar (which I have in the cupboard at home, in dwindling quantities) and a selection of rubs and salts. Some brilliant flavours for just over £20.


Fabulous gifts from Arabica for food lovers


* Arabica are definitely a fave with me, as I love Middle Eastern flavours. Very stylish packaging, but definitely not a case of style over substance. I would be very happy to get a couple of jars of their spices, like the cous cous spices, the dukka and the zat’ar special blend. Would be different, not necessarily spicy but definitely great flavours.

So, up the heat quotient this February, regardless of what the weather outside does.


Valentine’s Day Foodie Gifts for Red Hot Lovers


So, the love of your life likes it hot and spicy and you need a great foodie gift for them for Valentine’s Day? Here’s a few suggestions to keep things all aglow.


Slap Ya Mama - cajun seasoning for a gift for a food lover who likes it hot


Give their BBQ moments a real kick with Slap Ya Mama seasoning blend. Invented by Wilda Marie Fontenot, this is Cajun seasoning with a real kick, and will add something different to even a plain old banger.

What about mustard that takes things up a notch? Cherith Valley offer a fresh, spicy version with jalapeno and cilantro. A dynamic burst of flavour that will liven up everything from a ham sandwich to a hot dog, and not to mention make a darn fine salad dressing.
Who says the English can’t be hot? Well Chillililli is a red hot versionof that very English classic, piccalilli, and will definitely spice up your cold cuts!
Even if they have a cupboard full of chilli, then they really should have a tin of El Avion’s hot smoked paprika. Adding flavour and smoke as well as heat, this is one store cupboard standby that I would not be without. It’s amazingly versatile and a little will go a very long, long way. Love the retro design of this tin, I am guessing it has been like this for ever.
Get back to some authentic chilli roots, with this great Chilli Lovers Gift Set from Spices of India. Chilli peppers from Kashmir, Reshampatti chilli powder, chilli oil dipping sauce, chilli paste…well, this lot should keep even the coldest night at bay. If they love Indian food, then this is a mix of great authentic stuff with plenty of heat.

Chilli gone barmy with Montezumas - great gift for a food lover who likes it hot


Mix it up a bit, with chilli and chocolate. Montezuma’s are one of my favourite chocolate makers, having shopped with them since the early days. And if you need some spicy sweet treats, then the Chilli-Gone-Barmy gift is perfect. I’ll fight you for the Chilli & Ginger dollops!

So, here’s hoping your gift is the start of a red, hot, passionate day. Or at least gives your everyday eating a bit of a boost!


The Friday Five – Getting it on for Valentine’s Day


I’ve already written about my loathing of “special” Valentine’s Day menus, which generally are an affront to most food lovers. I think it makes a great excuse for a night in together, with something really special on the menu. If you think

you might go down that route, then these books are chosen for adding something a little special to your repertoire for the evening.


The New Intercourses: an aphrodisiac cookbook


1. The New InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook – this one is almost worth it for the stunningly beautiful photography, but there are also fabulous recipes. In addition you’ll get useful tit bits of info on each of the alleged aphrodisiacs. I can’t vouch for this 10 year anniversary version, as I have the original. Lets just say I am still cooking from it though!

2. Shaken: 250 Very Sexy Cocktails – yep, I would imagine most of these would get an evening off with a bang. Possibly best to eat food too, otherwise you’re not going to get through many of these! Sounds like a fun way to get things going.

3. Romantic Cakes – perhaps you want to create a memorable dessert to finish off the meal, and a beautiful cake would certainly tick the right boxes. Very hearts and flowers, pretty, beautiful and romantic, and also could be incredibly tasty. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love cake, and this book has some truly beautiful cakes to recreate.


Seriously Naughty Cakes


4. Seriously Naughty Cakes– if you want cake, but not the slushy hearts and flowers stuff, then this is the book for you. From Saucy Stockings to the Roly Poly Strip O’Gram, this is not your average cake decorating book! A creation from this will certainly raise at least a smile.

5. The Cookbook of Everlasting Love: Sex On A Plate or Food As Foreplay – jeez, I’ve no idea if this is any good, but can you imagine nosy people’s faces when they’re browsing through your book shelves and come across this one? Go on, it’s worth it just for that alone.

So, you could create your own naff Valentine’s menu, or create something wonderful and romantic. Either way, it should be memorable, and hopefully very tasty! Enjoy!


Getting ready for Valentine’s Day


How to make Valentine's Day not suck. Or how to give a Valentine's Day gift to a food lover that they'll really love


Is there anyone, with the exception of card and lingerie manufacturers, who really loves Valentine’s Day? My particular pet hate is “special” menus for the evening, having being scarred by a Chinese restaurant experience in my earlier years. The pudding of perpetual delight was nothing close to its billing!

I would think most food lovers would skip eating out that night, even without a special menu, as restaurants are going to be packed with people who don’t eat out any other day of the year. In a similar vein, there’ll be a whole raft of gifts for alleged food lovers that most of us would not give cupboard space to, let alone let them cross our palates. So, I’m going to do my best to sort out the good from the bad and tasteless, depending on the kind of foodie you’re going to be buying for.

If you really can’t be bothered to put much effort into it, then I would just order some really good champagne in and retreat for the weekend. If you’re a bloke and want top brownie points, then do that and order roses from The Real Flower Company, they are the most beautiful arrangements ever. Do not, in my experience, order from Next or M&S to be delivered on the day. They’ll be dead before Tuesday and she’ll be ringing for a replacement.

More ideas to follow, to try and ensure a Valentine’s Day of great taste, not one that sucks!

Fabulous shot by Sister72 over on Flickr.