Food Matters: Eat these foods, get in the mood?
Power CouplesEnjoy multiple aphrodisiac foods in these local dishes
- Fondue au chocolat with strawberries and bananas at La Creperie du Village French Alpine Bistro
- Grilled asparagus with crispy speck and piquillo Hollandaise at The Monarch
- Dark Chocolate espresso mousse with chile and pomegranate seeds at Campo de Fiori
- Godzilla Roll (eel, cucumber, strawberry, avocado) at Kenichi
- Octopus with Oaxacan mole at Bosq
APHRODISIAC. The five-syllable word rolls off the tongue like melted chocolate, doesn’t it? We all know what it means: something utterly seductive, including food, drink, or supplements thought to spark lust, enhance intimacy, and, only until the advent of modern medicine, cure infertility or impotence and treat sexual dysfunction.
Named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty often depicted chillin’ in a seashell, aphrodisiacs have played a role in the culinary arts since the beginning of time. One category involves suggestively shaped foods, such as eggs, banana, eggplant, avocado, and fig. Others are scientifically linked to physiological effects that heighten arousal (chile pepper, coffee). Then there are status symbols (lobster, caviar), which suggest luxury and power—enchanting via exclusivity.
And yet: most medical professionals cite the placebo effect as the reason why certain foods have developed a provocative reputation.
“Research has shown (aphrodisiacs) to be largely ineffective at producing a sexual response in either men or women,” writes Dr. Brent Bauer in a buzz-killing commentary on the Mayo Clinic website. “Some preliminary evidence is slightly more encouraging for a few natural supplements, such as ginkgo, ginseng and maca, but more research is needed.”
Since studies have shown that the placebo effect is a real, if unexplainable, phenomenon, there’s no harm in experimenting over dinner. Down to explore? Taste these popular aphrodisiac foods and decide for yourself:
The ancient Mayans called cacao, “food of the gods.” Today a scrumptious symbol of Valentine’s Day, chocolate is chock-full of chemicals (phenylethylamine, tryptophan) that boost levels of feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and anandamide. Dark chocolate contains the highest concentration of flavonoids, or antioxidant phytochemicals that influence euphoria, so choose a high percentage of cacao to get happiest.
Casanova reportedly ate 50 raw oysters daily for breakfast; the shellfish is rich in zinc, a mineral linked to increased sperm count and testosterone. As zinc was once lacking in the human diet, supplementation was thought to improve overall health, thereby bolstering sex drive.
“Zinc is a known contributor to vitality,” quips John Beasley, chef and raw bar specialist with McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group, which operates Clark’s Aspen. The restaurant boasts one of the largest selections here: between 12 to 14 cold-water oysters, sourced from specialty growers split between East and West Coast, served alongside house-made cocktail sauce, mignonette, and freshly shaved horseradish root. (The latter is only subtly spicy, with a sweet, floral quality—an exotic treat.)
“Oysters are one of the only foods we eat for celebration,” explains Beasley, estimated to have shucked some 700 shells last Saturday when visiting town. “Most people don’t eat them for sustenance, but to share with someone else.”
Feel the burn, baby: Spicy foods are proven stimulants. Chile peppers in particular contain capsaicin, a compound shown to increase heart rate and metabolism and induce sweating—the same physical reactions that define “hot and bothered.” Consuming chile peppers and copulating are both activities that enhance blood flow necessary for arousal in the first place, plus they release painkilling endorphins that create intense feelings of pleasure.
Along with celery and onions—yes, considered an aphrodisiac along with garlic, despite the pungent aroma—asparagus certainly falls into the “resembles human genitalia” category. Rich in phytonutrients that help protect blood vessel walls, improve blood flow, and are associated with a lower risk of erectile dysfunction, asparagus is also a good source of B6 and folate, vitamins that may help boost arousal.
Ancient Romans called these heart-shaped, crimson-colored, succulent-sweet berries a symbol of Venus (Aphrodite to Greeks). They’ve been erotic emblems ever since, even more so when dipped in melted chocolate. High in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamin C, all of which correspond to good health, strawberries puréed into a cool soup are fed to newlyweds in some regions before setting off on honeymoon.
Screw apples: some say that Aphrodite’s beloved pomegranates were the real forbidden fruit of the Bible. The ruby-red arils—little juicy seeds high in vitamin C and antioxidants—are only uncovered by ripping apart a pomegranate’s bitter flesh. And a small study in 2011 (albeit funded by a juice company) found that daily pomegranate consumption reduced levels of cortisol, corresponding to elevated testosterone levels in men and women.
More than a few Aspen barflies believe that agave spirit is a surefire panty dropper. More telling: some studies indicate that tequila may act as an apéritif, stimulating metabolism and appetite. (For sex? Very possible.)
Valentine’s Day diners at 7908 Supper Club might check out the bar’s date-night deal, perhaps to chase chef Craig Walker’s special lobster pot pie: Two Clase Azul reposado shots, plus the brand’s signature blue-and-white ceramic bottle-turned-vase stuffed with red roses ($100).
“We go through so many bottles,” says 7908 lead bartender Mitch Kortus, regarding the Feb. 14 gift offer. “I don’t know of a bigger aphrodisiac!”