I visited Philadelphia’s Italian Market looking for something to give Valentine’s Day dinner a kick, but so many foods are thought to be aphrodisiacs, it was hard to know where to start. Oysters being almost universally acclaimed, I began at Anastasi Seafood at Ninth and Washington Streets.
Proprietress Janet Stechman is a strong believer in the power of food to improve mood and health.
“There are foods we eat only at certain times of the year,” she said. “Foods we eat when we’re not feeling well, when you want to get turned on.”
She recalled that every Christmas her grandmother would prepare eels for her grandfather.
“People believe that eels, if you eat eels…you know how eels are hard and straight…I don’t know how to put it,” said Stechman.
Alas, eels are out of season, so what would Stechman prepare for Valentine’s Day?
Oysters on the half shell, to start.
“People say, ‘Eat oysters, love longer.'”
Follow that with an octopus salad, then a main course of lobster or crab.
“Lobster and oysters are the most passionate of the seafoods. I catch people feeding each other, which I think is quite provocative.”
Serve with Prosecco, and finish with espresso and tiramisu.
But Stechman’s romantic dinner lacked one widely acclaimed aphrodisiac: chocolate.
On down Ninth Street to Anthony’s Chocolate Shop, where manager Marissa Leone said her most popular Valentine’s Day items are chocolate-dipped strawberries, which combine two purported aphrodisiacs.
“People come in and buy chocolate to say ‘I’m sorry. I love you. Please forgive me,'” she said. “I think chocolate has a little of that something that brings out the best in people.”
Across the street, Cardenas Oil and Vinegar Tap Room beckoned. Gleaming urns dispense a wide variety of infused olive oils, which customers are encouraged to sample.
“To taste olive oil is using all of your senses, taste, smell, touch, and on the skin it moisturizes,” said manager Erica Renner.
I chose the olive oil with garlic, garlic being another aphrodisiac. Combine that with a chili pepper vinegar and I’ll have a very sexy salad. Bit savory for a massage, though.