The right food can set the mood!

Feb 5, 2002 6:21 AM

Have you ever wondered why hotels place those chocolate mints on your pillow at night? Believe it or not, chocolate has the power to enhance romance! Despite all the jokes about “chocolate decadence,” studies have shown that chocolate stimulates those activity centers in the brain that control romantic passion.

Perhaps that’s why axioms such as “Candy is dandy” have become popular around Valentine’s Day. But there are other avenues besides sweet treats to your partner’s heart.

In fact, there are much more foods, herbs and beverages that can stir the passions, dazzle the taste buds and crank up the libido.

Everyone’s heard about the aphrodisiac power of raw oysters. And although there’s probably plenty of myth associated with this legendary appetizer, oysters do contain a large amount of zinc, a mineral that is believed to boost production of hormones and heighten stamina.

Historically, fresh figs have been around since biblical times. And their shape, taste and texture have stirred the imagination of the ancient Turks and Arabs

For some people, there’s something magical about vanilla, both in its taste and smell. In fact, women have been known to dab small amounts of the sweetly-scented liquid in strategic locations in hopes of driving their men wild with passion. Another effective use of vanilla is to serve a cup of coffee with a whole vanilla bean in it.

Coffee itself is powerful in its influence on after-dinner activities. In fact, a Michigan study showed that people who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had more romance in their lives than those who drank none. The reason? People who drink coffee are more alert and energetic ”” handy qualities when wooing your loved one.

Honey should be at the top of your mood food list, as it was with the ancient Romans. Once known as the nectar of the gods, honey is rich in B vitamins, which power the passions. With its sweet taste and syrupy texture, honey has long been used as an aphrodisiac. A good way to serve it is to mix it with herbs and spices and add it to a jasmine tea.

Natural foods, raw fruits and vegetables are highly regarded in the mood food arena. Apricots, for example, were once considered sensual by the ancient Chinese.Another good one is the artichoke. Just the task of stripping off the leaves, dipping them into drawn butter, and scrapping off the tender flesh with your teeth may be enough sensuality to kick start a romantic evening.

Try asparagus, the most erotic member of the vegetable kingdom. In 19th century France, some brides were required to eat several servings of asparagus because of its power to arouse.

Don’t underestimate the power of beefsteak tomatoes ””known as love apples by the French ”” sliced and served with a little fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.

For a real taste of sensuality, get your anxious hands on a ripe mango. This exotic, sensual fruit with its moist flesh resembling peach and papaya, is juicy, messy and luscious. Another great appetizer is a bowl of grapes, the party animal of the fruit and vegetable kingdom. The most sensuous ones are the dark concord grapes, but they are seasonal and harder to find.

A ripe strawberry can also be the perfect food to solve the dating game riddle. Try drenching them in chocolate, sour cream, whipped cream or brown sugar. Add a glass of white wine and you have a potent combination.

You can really spice up your love life with a little ginger. This tangy root has for centuries been used in Asia and India as a powerful aphrodisiac. Raw, shredded ginger may be used in noodle dishes, or in gingerbread with honey.

Another potent spice is nutmeg, which was used in India, along with honey and a half-boiled egg, as a stimulant to romance.

If none of these mood foods seem to be working, get a box of Good N’ Plenty. A Chicago foundation has found that some people are aroused by the smell of the licorice candy. The reason? Nobody knows. But if it works, it’s worth the 65 cents!