Chocolate & Wine 3

Oops, it’s Valentine’s Day and you’ve forgotten to get a booking at your partner’s favourite restaurant, which now has more reservations than a nervous bungee jumper. You are, in common parlance, dead, or you will be if you don’t act fast.

You could just take him or her somewhere that doesn’t take bookings, such as Longrain in the city or Cicciolina in St Kilda, or go for oysters and champagne at the bar at Oyster
Little Bourke or the Melbourne Wine Room.

The danger with this is that your valentine might want to know why you didn’t book somewhere proper – and then the jig is up. If you haven’t booked, it is far better to point out that going to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day is “such a cliche´” – that’s when all the least sophisticated people have a big night out – and you didn’t want to share your beloved with a room full of strangers.

Then set a time for that evening when you can be alone. This should buy you a couple of hours organising time at least. As Shakespeare so famously wrote, “food be the music of love” – so there is no better way to celebrate Valentine’s than by feeding the one you love something delicious in
nice surroundings.

Get a rug, an ice bucket, two champagne flutes and a chilled bottle of fizz – remember Valentine’s Day is all about presentation, so those extra touches make it look like you’ve planned ahead even when you haven’t – and then head off with them to buy fish and chips from your favourite chippy to enjoy on the beach with a glass of the fizz. Or pull together a picnic as simple as smoked salmon sandwiches and take your valentine to a leafy spot in a botanic garden
– or, even better, boating at Studley Park. The boating costs $36 for two hours, but check with the boathouse (98531828) to make sure the boats aren’t already booked. Don’t forget the insect repellent.

The presence of young children obviously complicates matters. Let’s face it: few teenage babysitters are willing to admit they are free on this night of the year, especially at short notice. This means the Valentine’s Day treat
may need to be given at home, which necessitates something more focused and luxurious.

Immediately, I’m thinking chocolate – but chocolate alone is hardly enough! You need to add a sexy tipple. This is where wine whiz Natalie MacLean steps in. Natalie has compiled a list of 50 chocolate dishes, each perfectly matched with
a sexy wine or two. The dessert section of her online food and wine matching tool at www.nataliemaclean.com/matcher will reveal the right match for everything from chocolate brownies (oloroso sherry) to dark chocolate mousse (liqueur muscat or pink champagne).

When it comes to bars of the stuff, she’s equally helpful. Natalie firmly believes that the creamy flavours of chocolate go best with sweet, full-bodied, high-alcohol wines. So it’s an Italian amarone with your squares of bittersweet chocolate or a Hungarian tokaji with milk chocolate.

If chocolate is not your valentine’s weakness, fear not because Natalie’s website will also tell you what goes with
anything from asparagus to zucchini. Chocolate’s most popular valentine partner is probably flowers rather than
wine, but if you’ve left everything this late then the best bunches may have already sold out. Instead, why not give the one you love a small rose bush? Then you can attach a cheesy card about how it will “continue to grow like our love.”

Alternatively, live by the very sound rule that you only give flowers when they are not expected and when you haven’t
done anything wrong. You’d better get a gift instead. Here again, there are some sound pointers on what to buy. For her this means nothing with a plug on it, nothing that relates to the home or cleaning and nothing that you want. Sadly, this usually includes saucy red lingerie and that signed photo of Tony Lockett with his greyhounds. Whatever it is, make sure it comes in folded tissue paper and is then placed in a smart box that is tied with ribbon.

For him? Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t a year’s subscription to Bacon Busters just about the most perfect present any bloke could get? I mean, what could be better than four issues packed with nothing but pig hunting. Well, other than some sexy red lingerie, a bottle of sweet nutty sherry and some brownies. Alternatively, you could just take our most important piece of advice and try and book somewhere for dinner on Thursday night – now!

For more articles on chocolate and wine pairings, click on the tag below called “Chocolate & Wine” …

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