May it Please the Palate: There is much to consider when planning a special meal

When you're out to eat, what do you order? Whatever you want.

What if it's your first date? What if it's Valentine's Day?

You can't order what you want. Oh, no. It's not that simple.

You've got to look good while eating it. That rules out pasta, nachos, chicken wings, asparagus, and crab Rangoon.

Or anything that requires a bib - I don't care how much you love that lobster.

(Then again, Jennifer Beals comes to mind, eating lobster in "Flashdance." Still, unless you're her, sorry - NO LOBSTER!)

How about something that is low maintenance on the plate? Yeah, a piece of fish! That means you can eat it with a fork, no knife, and it won't drip.

But then, you will smell like fish. And unless you are Susan Sarandon in "Atlantic City," that's probably not a good idea.

Anything that causes bad breath, on Valentine's Day, rules out a lot of dishes. Like all Greek food. Which is why they don't celebrate Valentine's Day in Greece.

So what CAN you eat? Good question. So I ran this past my experts, and here's what I came up with ....

Red wine and chocolate.

Seriously, there is nothing like the image of two lovebirds, stemware in hand, making goo goo eyes at each other, like in a magazine ad, shy yet flirtatious. With a chocolate dessert between them, just waiting to be nipped into.

That's Valentine's Day. That's what you should have for dinner. Your favorite red wine, and this:

Molten Chocolate Cakes with Raspberries and Cream

--Emeril

* 1 1/2 TSP unsalted butter, plus 1/4 pound (1 stick)

* 4 TSP all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons

* 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

* 2 TBS cold heavy cream

* 2 TBS confectioners' sugar

* 2 large eggs

* 2 large egg yolks

* 1/4 cup sugar

* 1 TSP vanilla extract

* Pinch salt

* 1/2 cup cold heavy cream

* 2 TBS confectioners' sugar

* 1 TBS nut-flavored liqueur

* 1/2 pint fresh raspberries

* 4 sprigs mint

* Sweetened cocoa, as garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and flour 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or baking dishes with the 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of flour in each, tapping out the excess flour. Set on a baking sheet.

2. In a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the remaining 1/4 pound of butter with the chocolate, cream, and powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt until thick ribbons form, about 3 minutes. Sift 2 tablespoons flour into the egg mixture and fold together. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture. Divide among the prepared dishes and bake until the sides of the cake are set and the tops are puffed but still soft, about 12 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and let cool in the ramekins for 2 minutes, then unmold onto dessert plates.

5. Meanwhile, in a bowl whip the cream until beginning to form soft peaks. Add the sugar and nut liqueur and beat until stiff peaks start to form. Spoon a dollop of the whipped cream on each unmolded cake, and garnish each plate with raspberries and a sprig of mint. Sprinkle cocoa over the cakes, and serve.

And if you're still hungry after all that ... dang. Order some pizza.

Just skip the anchovies.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a law firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

He can be reached at: nroumel @nachtlaw.com

Published: Mon, Feb 13, 2012

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