Get in the mood for love with these edible passion potions around the world.
The Aztecs, ancient Greeks—heck, even Adam and Eve—all had one thing in common: They knew that certain foods boosted their libido. Their traditions have been passed down through the centuries, and while science may not always prove the case, there’s definitely something to these love drugs. So on this Valentine’s Day, why not head to the source and experience them first-hand … and make a romantic getaway out of it?
WHERE: St. Lucia
Chocolate has long been reported to, let’s say, create the mood for love, thanks to two chemicals it contains (tryptophan and phenylethylamine). So what better place for romance than St. Lucia, which since the early 1700s has capitalized on its rich volcanic soil to produce some of the best cocoa around? In the past, the decadent lode was carted off to European chocolate producers; today, much of it thankfully stays here. Lovers should head to Jade Mountain, one of the world’s most romantic resorts, for the chocolate-inspired treatments in its Kai en Ciel spa. Another option is to take Boucan by Hotel Chocolat’s “tree to bar” chocolate-making class, which involves making chocolate from beans you have picked yourself in the estate’s cocoa groves.
WHERE: Champagne, France
Sparkly bubbles, sinuous flutes, a sense of joy. Champagne is a mainstay of romance, yet the region where it’s officially produced, only 45 minutes by TGV train from Paris, remains off the wine-tasting radar. The vineyard-fringed town of Épernay is a good base. Here, Avenue de Champagne hosts some of the world’s most prestigious champagne houses (Moët et Chandon and De Castellane among them) occupying palatial mansions and villas; more than a million bottles of bubbly are stored in an underground web of chalk cellars. You can tour the houses, all ending with a tasting.
For one of the most romantic overnights anywhere, Les Crayères in nearby Reims is a mini-Versailles showcasing boiseries, gilt mirrors, oil paintings, chandeliers, and couture fabrics in the heart of a private park; its Michelin-starred, haute-gastronomic Le Parc restaurant serves more than 400 champagnes. Guaranteed, you will have champagne dreams.
Cleopatra loved oysters; Casanova ate dozens a day. An American and Italian study in 2005 proclaimed that these bivalves are, indeed, aphrodisiacs. Maybe, or maybe it’s just the sensual experience of eating them, voluptuous and whole. Whatever the case, one thing is sure: Among the world’s best are found in Tasmania, at Freycinet Marine Farm in Coles Bay. Take a tour, or simply enjoy the briny little trinkets on the farm’s deck. Better yet, fill a basket and head to one of the nearby Freycinet National Park’s many picnic areas and shuck to your heart’s content amid pink granite peaks and sandy bays.
WHERE: Santa Fe, New Mexico
The heat of the chile pepper allegedly warms the body, stirring up passion. So what better place for a romantic interlude than the kingdom of chile peppers: New Mexico! Here, roasted green peppers were traditionally eaten in summer (though now they’re frozen and available year-round), and dried red chiles were fire roasted and made into ristras, or strings of chile. Either way, you can sample some of the best in Santa Fe, with nearly every restaurant showing off their chile prowess. You won’t go wrong with Café Castro (try the carne adovada), Tomasita’s (watch out – they like it hot), or Casa Chimayó (Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives couldn’t get enough of the blue corn chicken enchiladas). Though the most romantic restaurant is hands-down Geronimo, with its crackling fire, white tablecloths, and wood beams. Find a discrete table and order away.
WHERE: Cape Winelands, South Africa
What better way to get in the mood than with a sultry sip of Cabernet? Red wine contains the powerful antioxidant resveratrol, which literally gets your blood pumping, so it’s said. So what better excuse to head to the sublime Cape Winelands, near Cape Town, where wine has been produced since 1659? The setting itself is the stuff of fairy-tales, with craggy mountain peaks flirting with the clouds, impossibly green valleys, hydrangeas and roses, gleaming white farmhouses … and vines, everywhere you look. Go to the oldest vineyard, at Groot Constantia, which, centered on the original thatch-roofed Cape Dutch homestead, is romance mille fois. Or hop aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram, an open-air hop-on-hop-off tram that stops at several wineries throughout the stunning Franschhoek Wine Valley, and taste to your heart’s content.
WHERE: Digby, Nova Scotia
The amorous nature of scallops dates back to Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, who is said to have been carried to earth on a scallop shell. The tiny, unassuming town of Digby, Nova Scotia, boasts some of the world’s best scallops, where they’re even served on burgers. Though for something a little fancier, the Fundy Restaurant on the waterfront is the place to be, with the freshest Digby scallops always on the menu. After indulging, take a romantic stroll along the harbor, taking pix of the picturesque scallop fleet.
INSIDER TIPBe sure to return in August, for Digby Scallop Days.
WHERE: Sambava, Madagascar
The vanilla bean right-out smells sexy and exotic. Or maybe it’s just the thought that induces euphoria and relaxation. It is, after all, the number one ingredient in fragrances. Whatever the case, the place to seek it out is Madagascar, which vaunts more than three-fourths of the world’s vanilla plantations. Here you can take a plantation tour out of the remote northeast city of Sambava (make arrangements through Boogie Pilgrim Tour Operator), along the Vanilla Coast; guides will help you barter for vanilla. After, enjoy the nearby tropical, wave-filled, white-sand beaches, where, chances are, you will be the only ones around. Or stop to see more vanilla plantations on the way to Marojejy National Park, famed for its lemurs.
WHERE: Périgord, France
The Romans knew about this earthy, pungent-flavored fungus for its aphrodisiac properties. Rare white truffles are the world’s most coveted truffles, with the best found in Alba, Italy; but they’re available only in autumn. So in February, aim for the delectable black truffles in Périgord, France, about 50 miles east of Bordeaux. Truffle markets pop up everywhere, with the most popular being at Sainte-Alvère village and Sarlat-la-Caneda. You’ll also find this so-called black diamond featured on intoxicating menus throughout the region.
But for the ultimate experience, join a truffle hunt and help specially trained dogs track down these sought-after subterranean trophies, which grow underground among the roots of oak, hazel and chestnut trees. An excellent option is Truffière de Pechalifour in Saint-Cyprien, where Edouard Ayouard will share his truffle passion while showing you around his farm then inviting you to sample various truffle products.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the Ecomusée de la Truffe in Sorges, where a 1.8-mile trail winds through vineyards, walnut plantations, and meadows—the perfect truffle habitat; guided tours are offered.
WHERE: Almoharín, Spain
Adam and Eve knew figs in the Garden of Eden (some say the forbidden fruit was the fig—check out Michelangelo’s depiction of the Tree of Knowledge on the Sistine Chapel ceiling). Indeed, figs have long been connected to fertility; the potassium is supposed to be an aphrodisiac, after all. Today, you’ll find the world’s capital of figs at Almoharín, in southwest Spain, a pastoral region with charming fincas, Roman bridges, and breathtaking natural scenery. Figs come in all varieties here—including the double passion whammy: the Rabito Royale, aka smooth figs covered in chocolate with a chocolate truffle center. Find them in shops throughout the town of Almoharín, including La Higuera.
WHERE: Columbia, South Carolina
Watermelon contains citrulline, which relaxes the blood vessels (some call it a natural form of Viagra). Innovators in South Carolina have rediscovered a thought-to-be-extinct antebellum variety called the Bradford watermelon, a variety so sweet and delicious that 19th-century growers armed themselves and poisoned would-be thieves. South Carolina restaurants are now using Bradford watermelons in their menus, including Terra, a farm-to-market restaurant in West Columbia that also happens to be super romantic with its exposed brick and warm hues (not to mention, its patio). While watermelons won’t be ripe in February, you can enjoy them in molasses and other delicious forms.