Order your Valentine’s Day sweets and treats while they’re still available
Step aside, traditional truffles. Candy companies and other organizations around Syracuse are preparing for Valentine’s Day with some new chocolaty treats. And whether it’s dark or milk chocolate, organic or from Ghana, on this holiday, celebrated Tuesday, Feb. 14, a box can be synonymous with love.
Based on pagan traditions, Valentine’s Day was originally known as Lupercalia, a fertility festival devoted to Fanus, the Roman god of agriculture, and the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Including festivities like slapping women with goat hides, it’s far from the tradition most of us are familiar with.
With the initial rise of Christianity, so came the death of Lupercalia and the beginning of the Christian tradition, St. Valentine’s Day. The familiar holiday based on romance and surprises possibly contains the martydom of three saints, all named Valentine or Valentinus. Which one is responsible for the holiday? It’s a mystery.
All we do know is it stuck. In countries like Canada, England, Mexico, France, Australia, and the United States, people celebrate Valentine’s Day with vibrant cards, the colors pink and red, flowers—especially roses—and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.
Terry Andrianos, the owner of Hercules Candy Company, 209 W. Heman St., East Syracuse (463-4339), has her own ideas about enjoying the holiday. Andrianos says she and staff were busy making chocolate goodies as soon as Christmas ended. “Valentine’s Day is our third busiest day of the year,” Andrianons says, “because people don’t plan for the holiday. It’s fast and furious.”
Along with heart-shaped novelties, Andrianos says her favorite recipe to make during this time is the chocolate rose, explaining that while she always enjoys a bouquet of red roses, “our dozen is only $30 and you can eat it.” Each chocolate rose—milk or dark—comes on a long stick with leaves—similar to a stem—and is sold packaged in a floral-type box. Hercules is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Nothing shows you care like the right dessert. Michael Speach, owner of Speach Family Candy Shoppe, 2400 Lodi St. (478-3100), emphasizes the importance of having fresh fruit in your Valentine’s Day diet. Speach has been coming to work at 4 a.m. the last few days to make chocolate-covered strawberries, stressing that the combination only stays fresh for a 24- to 48-hour period. “It’s a labor of love,” Speach says.
Although Speach says his shop does carry the product year-round, there is a higher demand during this time of the year because of the strawberry flavoring, which he had been incorporating into other candies and desserts. “For Valentine’s Day, you see more strawberry flavors,” Speach says. His shop is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with special Monday hours on Feb. 13
Another popular dessert to share with your sweetie is truffles. P.J. Goodman, the owner of Sweet on Chocolate, 208 Walton St. (478-0811), says truffles rise in popularity during Valentine’s Day at his shop. “It’s the most romantic thing to do,” Goodman says. “These are bite-size candies that you can share with another person.”
Sweet on Chocolate is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Because of Valentine’s Day, it will also be open Sunday, Feb. 12, noon to 4 p.m.Nun Better Chocolates and Custom Gift Baskets, 1118 Court St. (701-0920), is also using strawberry flavors and pink-colored icing to accentuate their holiday spirit. Proceeds from sales of the chocolate go to charity and all of the candy is handmade. Visit the nuns’ shop Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Between bitter and sweet tastes, you might add some wine to the festivities. Gary Decker, the owner of Vinomania, 313 E. Willow St. (422-8466), combines chocolate and wine for Valentine’s Day fun. He will be hosting a wine and chocolate tasting event with Around the World Imports at Vinomania on Friday, Feb. 10, 4 to 6 p.m. Vinomania’s regular hours are Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Kevin Dabit owns Around the World Imports, 105 Green St. (701-4544), which will be sampling chocolates from countries such as Ghana, Ecuador, Austria and Bolivia, to name a few. It takes place Saturday, Feb. 11, 1 to 4 p.m. All of the chocolates are fair trade, organic or vegan. “People buy wine and do the sampling because chocolate and wine complement each other.”Other organizations are also busy making candy commodities and other treats. Tom Redmore, the committee outreach organizer of Columbian Presbyterian Church, Routes 11 and 20, LaFayette, helps with recipes. His church will hold a fundraiser on Feb. 11, 1 to 4 p.m. called A Taste of Chocolate, with proceeds that go to the church and LaFayette Outreach, a food pantry and services referral agency. In an attempt to give some love to the men, as well as the women, Redmore is sampling a hearty holiday recipe this year: chocolate chili. Redmore started with a Mexican dish and then added his own flair to the ingredients. “I wanted to do something for the men." Make some chocolate chili at home with the following recipe.
Chiarello Chocolate Chili
This recipe, by Michael Chiarello, is from foodnetwork.com.
3 pounds beef chuck
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus 2 tablespoons
Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 red onions, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin with seeds, stems removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 (12-ounce) bottles beer
1 (12-ounce) can diced tomato in juices
1 quart chicken stock
3 (12-ounce) cans black beans, drained
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks
Cut the chuck into 3/4-inch pieces, or, to save time, have your butcher do this for you. Place the chuck in a large bowl. Season liberally with pepper (about 20 turns of the pepper grinder) and salt to taste. (Remember: half of this will come off in the pan.) Season with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cumin and 2 tablespoons chili powder. Mix well and coat the meat with the masa harina (this is a ground hominy flour common to Mexican cuisine and easily found in the Mexican food section of many grocery stores). The flour will thicken the sauce and give it a specific Mexican taste.
Preheat a Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the pot in one layer. Leave it alone, without turning, so the meat will brown and caramelize. As it browns, slowly turn each piece with tongs. Once all sides are caramelized, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to saute vegetables. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelize and get soft. Add the jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft.
Add the tomato paste. Add the remaining cumin, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, oregano and 2 heaping tablespoons chili powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add diced tomatoes, and stir. Then add the reserved meat. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 90 minutes until the meat is tender. Strain juice from the black beans, add to the chili and bring up to simmer. Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it melts. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.