Roses are red. Violets are blue.
Want to get lucky?
Better give chocolates, too.
Cliche or not, no one can deny that chocolaty sweets go hand-in-hand with Valentine's Day with roots that go back to ancient times.
Montezuma, the fifth Aztec emperor, believed chocolate made him virile and consumed plenty of the sweets, while Giacomo Casanova, an 18th-century Italian adventurer, believed they induced romance. Physicians in the 1800s even advised their lovelorn patients to eat chocolate to reduce their romantic yearnings.
While gourmet chocolate purveyors John Kelson and Kelly P. Green of Los Angeles-based John Kelly Chocolates don't have scientific proof of chocolate's effects on the libido, they do know
"We have many people who taste our chocolates who have, let's say, special reactions," Green said coyly. "They start blushing."
"It hits different parts of your tongue, sending all this flavor through your mouth that is all a part of the pleasure of eating chocolate," Kelson chimed in.
But aphrodisiac or not, the numbers don't lie.
Valentine's Day is the fourth largest candy-selling holiday, with more than $1.012 billion sold during the lovers holiday in 2012, according to the National Confectioners Association.
This year, candy sales are projected to increase slightly to $1.048 billion, with chocolate making up roughly 71 percent of those sales, NCA spokeswoman Susan Smith said.
To be even more precise, more than 36 million heart- shaped boxes of chocolate are said to be sold each year for the holiday.
"Chocolate is such an affordable treat - such a small treat that makes everyone happy - that it really isn't a stretch to say that chocolate sales will do well again this season," Smith said.
Smith added that when Valentine's Day falls on a weekday like today, chocolate sales always experience a boost.
"It's a small, easy gift to give during a busy weekday, yet is still appreciated by so many people," she said.
And contrary to popular belief, women are more likely to give chocolate as gifts to men during Valentine's Day, according to a survey conducted by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association.
But the newest trend with the age-old favorite may be the gourmet chocolate movement.
"High-end chocolate does seem to be growing at a very fast pace, with many folks producing chocolate from bean-to-bar in small factories," Smith said.
These fine, handmade chocolates, aside from providing favorites like turtles (chocolate covered pecans with caramel) and the standard truffle, often incorporate exotic ingredients from around the world.
John Kelly Chocolates gained popularity with its unique "truffle fudge" known for a distinct creamy consistency and rich, fudge flavor.
Celebrities Madeleine Stowe, Renee Zellweger, Scott Wolf and Tim Roth are among Jim Kelly Chocolate regulars, Green said.
"I think Americans are very interested in new things and new tastes," Smith said, "especially if those things contain perceived benefits."
Smith points to the increasing demand for dark chocolate, which medical studies suggest is loaded with antioxidants and has heart and brain health benefits, as well as chocolate-dipped fruit, ginger and tea-infused sweets.
"Those are all products that make us feel like we're doing something good for ourselves," Smith said, laughing, "while we're still indulging."
SWOONIN' OR SPOONIN' - COOK UP SOME ROMANCEHAZELNUT CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup toasted, skinned finely ground hazelnuts
3 to 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
Place 1 pound of chocolate in a 2-quart mixing bowl. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream into a bowl with the chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 1 minute, then stir together with a rubber spatula, whisk, or immersion blender until thoroughly blended.
Mix in cup of the hazelnuts and blend well. Cover the truffle cream, let cool to room temperature, and chill in the refrigerator until thick but not stiff (2 to 3 hours). Or let the truffle cream sit at room temperature for several hours or overnight until completely set and thick.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a large, plain round pastry tip with a inch opening and fill partway with the truffle cream. Holding the pastry bag 1 inch above the paper, pipe out mounds about 1 inch in diameter. Or use a small ice cream scoop to form the mounds. Cover the mounds with plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 2 hours or in the refrigerator for 6 hours.
Dust your hands with cocoa powder and roll the mounds into balls. These will be the truffle centers. Cover and chill the centers for another 2 hours in the freezer.
Remove the truffle centers from the freezer and bring to cool-room temperature so the outer coating won't crack when they are dipped. Line 2 more baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Melt and temper the remaining pounds chocolate. Place a truffle into the tempered chocolate, coating it completely. With a dipper or fork, remove the center from the chocolate, carefully shake off the excess chocolate, and turn the truffle out onto the paper. After dipping 4 truffles, sprinkle a pinch of the remaining hazelnuts on top of them, before the chocolate sets up.
Let the truffles set up at room temperature, or chill them in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes. When the truffles are set place them in paper candy cups. In a tightly covered container wrapped in several layers of aluminum foil, the truffles will keep for 1 month in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer. The truffles are best served at room temperature.
- Carole Bloom, author of "Truffles, Candies & Confections: Techniques and Recipes for Candymaking"