Food as foreplay: Local chefs heat things up

What's sexy about food? What foods are sexy? In honor of San Valentino (actually, he provided the perfect excuse), Dish tendered these titillating questions to a few local chefs.

Their answers made me realize that romantic dinners are in no way limited to oysters and champagne, strawberries and chocolate, candlelight. Maybe they'll inspire you to make, break, or spice-up your own dinner plans for the 14th.

Howie Velie, chef and owner of Magnolia in now-sultry Scottsville, reminds us that all food can potentially function as foreplay.

"I find all food to be an aphrodisiac," he says, "from Cheez Doodles to foie gras. It's part of a whole package: a romantic dinner, staying home on a rainy night. After all, aren't food and sex our two biggest cravings after survival?"

He has a point– though I'm glad that, instead of Cheez Doodles, Magnolia's Valentine's Day menu includes such offerings as "rose petal and field greens with champagne vinaigrette," "bourbon and brown sugar cured strip steak with pomegranate demi glace," and rapturous desserts like a "bourbon and white chocolate bread pudding with hard sauce."

Surely one of the sexiest new restaurants in Charlottesville is Zocalo. Two chefs heat up Zocalo's kitchen– Andrew Silver and Ivan Klavans-Rekosh. What makes food sexy for Klavans-Rekosh?

"The people who prepare it," he says with confidence. "More than just the ingredients, it's the passion that people put into it."

Both he and Silver agree that the sexiest item on Zocalo's menu is their smooth, fresh and exotic carrot-vanilla sauce, which they drizzle over texture-rich scallops sprinkled with chili dust. Now I can see why they've already had several in-house engagements.

"First dates, engagements– we like to play our part in bringing people together," Silver says. As for this team's Valentine offerings, we'll just have to wait and see, since when we spoke they were still passionately at work on the menu.

Everyone knows that places like Zocalo and Mas are sexy. But what about the White Spot? Can a diner be sexy? If the owner calls an idyllic island in Greece home, I figured the chances were better than average.

What foods are sexy to Dmitris Tavampis, the ever-present owner of this intimate diner on The Corner? "Greek salad with olives," he tells me after a brief pause. Why? Because, he later admits, "woman look sexy eating olives, you know, with their hands."

Which is sexier, the Gusburger or the gyro? "The gyro, of course," he says without skipping a beat. "But you've gotta' have it the simple way, the way we make it in Greece– only with pita and tzatsiki. Here people like food with a lotta' extra stuff on top."

When it comes to food and sex, Tavampis reminds us, less is more.

Simple, sensual, intimate, and very fresh-­ good food is clearly closer to the spirit of Valentine's Day than any commercialized Hallmark notion. So this year, why not try saying it with food?


Smoothie Crown seeks successor

 Smoothies are hot lately. Last week, Dish announced the opening of a new Tropical Smoothie Café on the Corner (slated for March). Well, for any of you interested in blending business with health-conscious pleasure for a living, this could be your week.

Matt and Jennifer Horton, owners of the Smoothie King at Barracks Road, are looking for a successor. The couple recently decided to move to New Orleans to be closer to Jennifer's family. N'awlins also happens to be home of the original Smoothie King. Warmer weather certainly must make for higher smoothie sales. I know my cravings for frozen beverages were way down in January.

Though it's been successful overall since it first opened in 1998, Matt admits that business has been slow this winter.

"Thank goodness," say Matt and Jennifer. "We're so busy other times that we almost look forward to winter. Rainy February days are great for getting office work done."