Valentine's Day has for decades been one of the busiest nights in the restaurant industry. But taking one's romantic interest out for dinner isn't the only way to express love or desire, and besides, what do you do when you get home again? Simple: Eat candy. What kind? That depends on what you're trying to say to the object of your seduction.
If You Really Love Me, You'll Accept All My Flaws
Little Debbie "Be My Valentine" iced brownies
Supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations ($1.79)
Some people might be insulted to be handed a gift of a long rectangular box of Little Debbie's seasonal iced brownies. After all, a package of five cellophane-wrapped delicacies costs less than most Valentine's Day cards, and they don't taste very good, even by the bargain-rack bakery's usual standards. The blood-red frosting is super-sugary, and the brownie is the thickness of a copy of Soap Opera Digest, with a similar mouth feel. But the meaning is in the shape, not the flavor. They're supposed to look like hearts but appear to have been trimmed by a 5-year-old with a pair of plastic safety scissors. Why not take a cue from Debbie and remember that love is all about looking past imperfection. And cheapness, sometimes.
I'm Hoping to Rekindle What We Lost After the State Fair
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory ($3.50)
Union Station, 30 West Pershing, 816-421-2571
A crisp Granny Smith apple gives this confection on a stick the crunch and tartness it needs to stand up to the sweet, filling-extracting power of the caramel stuck to it. Don't worry, though — they spray it with Pam first, ensuring that the product doesn't stick to the waxed-paper wrapping if you get it to go. It doesn't affect the taste, but don't watch. As in relationships, some illusions must be preserved.
Who Loves His Little Bunnykins?
Personalized chocolate-covered fudge hearts
Laura Little's Candies ($6.99 for 4-ounce heart, $11.99 for 8-ounce heart)
2100 West 75th Street, Prairie Village, 913-722-2226
Let's be real: If you really want to make an impression with a personalized Valentine's Day gift, you should think of an engraved piece of jewelry or a monogrammed cashmere sweater. But if that's simply not in the budget, the venerable Laura Little's confectionery shop sells chocolate-enrobed hearts made of fudge, truffles, or peanut butter and crispy rice treats. For no additional charge, the staffers use pastel frosting to write a name or a lovey-dovey message on the heart, or a very personal nickname or an amorous request — even naughty and highly suggestive instructions. If you can ask for it with a straight face, they'll accommodate you.
You Know You're My No. 1 Mistress, Right?
Mini chocolate-heart box
Godiva Chocolatier ($6)
Oak Park Mall, 11487 West 95th Street
Overland Park, 913-888-8344
Here's proof that not all heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are created equally. It's also proof of the dent that Godiva's boxes can make in your wallet. The heart-shaped chocolates from the heart-shaped box are silky, sure. But the brand name stamped into the candy is why you're really buying these.
I Just Want to Get Into Your Pants, OK?
Chocolate boxers or corsets
Annedore's Fine Chocolates ($2.95)
5006 State Line, Westwood Hills, 913-831-0302
Love may be a many-splendored thing, but sometimes sex is a more urgent priority. Sheri Weedman, the owner of Annedore's, knows what you need. She offers a lusty array of aphrodisiac confections: chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-covered candied ginger, port-wine truffles, a dark-chocolate bark made with sea salt and Sicilian orange peel. If that's too subtle, though, there's always a pair of chocolate boxer shorts or a chocolate corset. "They're a little racy for Annedore's," Weedman admits. That means they're just right for us.
Let's Get Sticky, Messy and Wildly Erotic
Sifers Valomilk Candy Co. ($1.45-$3)
5112 Merriam Drive, Merriam
Available throughout the metro
There's something almost pornographic about the sight of an attractive man or a sexy woman biting into a Valomilk. It's the only candy bar in the world that spurts out a deliciously sticky, white-marshmallow-cream filling. It does for chocolate what Annette Haven did for the adult-film industry in the 1970s and '80s. Candy entrepreneur Russell Sifers, who continues to produce the famous bar introduced in 1931 by his grandfather, Harry, says part of the attraction is that Valomilk — which sold for a nickel during the Depression — is now one of the more costly confections in the United States. "You can find them for $1.45 at some of the Hen House stores," Sifers says, "and they retail for $3 each in Chicago." The candy is sold throughout the area, but Sifers has fans who insist on stopping by his factory and buying cases of it. "One Valentine's Day, a man came by my office and said his wife didn't want diamonds, just Valomilk."