Valentine’s Day: Baller or Bust

You, yes you, the one with the sad-sack look on your face lurking in the cheap and cheesy Valentine’s Day aisle at the grocery store. We see you, and we know exactly what happened.

click to enlarge Chocolats Latour's Luscious Lips
Chocolats Latour's Luscious Lips

You, yes you, the one with the sad-sack look on your face lurking in the cheap and cheesy Valentine’s Day aisle at the grocery store. We see you, and we know exactly what happened. You’re a busy person and you’ve waited until the last minute to purchase a gift that is meant to convey all the deep feelings you have for your significant other.

We totally get that and, thankfully for you, we’re here to save you from the choices that could have otherwise landed you in relationship jail. First of all, put down that giant heart-shaped, red satin bow-festooned box of way-too-sweet bonbons, which are full of wax, chemicals and lots of things you can’t pronounce, and go for the real stuff.

Head to

Haute Chocolate

in Montgomery, where owner Lisa Holmes and her staff have created loads of creative “outside the box” sweets for your sweet, including the three-pound Lisa’s Double Chocolate Chip Fudge Frosted Brownie ($25.95) — with or without nuts — custom baked in a signature heart-shaped pan, and a heart-shaped version of Haute’s popular peanut butter buckeye dipped in milk, white or dark chocolate ($3.95).

Shalini Latour of

Chocolats Latour

has also whipped up some Valentine’s Day decadence. Look for Luscious Lips ($9), a box of five lip-shaped truffles and caramels. Truffle flavors include French Kiss (white chocolate with lemon and lavender), Sweet Lips (amaretto caramel), Flaming Lips (chili truffle) and Stolen Kiss (red wine truffle). Latour also has Full Hearts ($20), a delicate chocolate heart-shaped shell filled with salted caramels and tiny dark chocolate hearts. For those of slightly more modest means, try a Dark Passion bar ($6.50), with candied blood oranges, hibiscus and cinnamon. Find Chocolats Latour at Coffee Emporium, Saturday in the Findlay Market farm shed and at Le Bon Vivant in East Walnut Hills.

Macaron Bar

in Over-the-Rhine is also getting in on the Valentine-themed dessert action with their Fahrenheit 513 macaron. The traditional almond meringue cookie is dyed a bright red and sandwiched with a ganache made with local Maverick Chocolate’s award-winning Fahrenheit 513 chocolate, a blend of cocoa, dried chillies, cinnamon and star anise. The F513 macaron ($2 each; $12 for six; $23 for 12) is available through Valentine’s Day.

Chances are good that if you waited to purchase a gift, you neglected to give even a passing thought to dinner, right? No worries. 

Even if you and the love of your life spend every night passionately sharing gazes over Cup Noodles, we guarantee a Valentine’s evening replete with reservations, printed menus and table service. For the past 24 Valentine’s Days,

White Castle

has been decorating its locations and offering people the most romantic sliders of their lives. District supervisor Tommy Loveberry — no, we didn’t make that up — invites you to call the corporate offices at 513-559-0575 to book a table (reservations are required) and wait for the love and onion chips to flow.

If you’re already the type to dine out often, why not consider staying in and cooking for your lover? Nothing is sexier than dining à deux, and even the preparations can get a bit steamy. 

If you’ve got a bit more room in your budget, head to

Dutch’s Larder

to stock up on provisions, where Jim Cornwell and his crew are busily preparing gourmet goodies for everyone, whether you’re looking for restaurant-quality meats to prepare yourself — think locally grown 30-day aged prime beef rib-eyes and various cuts of local heritage pork — or almost-prepared dishes that require just a bit of last-minute prep, like sous-vide truffle-stuffed chicken breasts and duck confit. 

All of that kitchen work will certainly make you thirsty, and on this day of romance thoughts naturally turn to Champagne, but its hefty price point doesn’t sit well with everyone. No worries, says Kathy Merchant, a wine educator from The American Wine School and author of

VinoVenturesCincinnati.com

. 

“Champagne is for lovers, but don’t overlook its French sparkling sibling,” she says. “I absolutely love crémant, which is what wine made in the traditional method is called if it hails from other regions of France. If you adore that chardonnay/pinot noir blend, go with Crémant de Bourgogne. It’s just one region away, the grapes are the same, and it’s easy to fall in love with the price. Can’t resist Champagne? Try a ‘grower’ selection instead of one of the big houses like Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon.”

Zach Eidson of

Oakley Wines

agrees. He stocks plenty of proseccos from Italy, cavas from Spain and crémants from France, running $12 to $20. And if Feb. 14 is the day you’ve chosen to pop that big question, he carries those special “grower” Champagnes for around $50 to $60 per bottle. ©
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