The good gourmet: Valentine treats
Looking for some foodie ideas for a Valentine's Day treat? Nothing says 'I love you' more than a traditional heart-shaped box of chocolates. Butler's Chocolates offers a wide choice, including a chocolate truffle heart stick (€5.50), six creamy chocolate truffle hearts wrapped in pink and red foil, and a medium velvet heart box (150g, €15.50) -- a mouthwatering selection of 11 assorted chocolates.
The small velvet heart box (70g, €9) comprises five decadent chocolates in a gorgeous keepsake box. These delights are all available online at www.butlers chocolates.com and can be sent worldwide.
Staying with sweets, Marks & Spencer has some fun chocolate treats: its Big Bar Of love (€4.49) is a huge, chunky slab of indulgent Swiss milk chocolate, or you can go for six heart-shaped biscuits with pink and red icing (€3.79), heart-shaped milk chocolates wrapped in pink and red foil (€3.79), or fruit-flavoured heart-shaped jelly beans (€3.79).
For a timeless sweet treat Pandora Bell has brought out a range of handmade lollipops (€2.50) in strawberry, mint, lemon and orange. They are made in the traditional way, by stretching and rolling sugar syrup. The flavours and colours are natural.
I am also a huge fan of Pandora Bell's honey nougat with almonds and pistachios (200g, €7.49). Beautifully packaged, this classic bar of soft white nougat is rich in honey and sweetness, with the savoury bite of fine Italian nuts.
Available in various food shops nationwide -- check out www.pandora bell.ie for a list of stockists or to place an order.
Alternatively, you can say 'I love you' with a real difference by signing your loved one up to Sheridans Cheesemongers Cheese Club. For €35 a month, cheese is sent out on the second Wednesday of every month, along with tasting notes. To sign up for the club, either contact Sheridans Cheesemongers directly on 046 924 5110 or fill in the application form online at www.sheridanscheesemongers.com.
Le Palais des Thés at 31 Wicklow Street, Dublin, has a specialty tea for lovers. Thé des Amants, which literally translates as 'lovers' tea', is a black tea with almond, apple, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. Especially for Valentine's Day, it comes in a nicely presented tin box, and the tea has little red love-hearts mixed in with the leaves. It costs €15.50. For more information see www.palaisdesthes.com.
Finally, Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook (€24, Hodder & Stoughton) is perfect for all food lovers. Willie Harcourt-Cooze, the star of Channel 4's Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory, reveals how to use the ultimate luxury ingredient in a collection of 60 recipes.
An ingredient in its own right, Willie shows how 100pc cacao chocolate can enhance an astonishing range of sweet and savoury dishes, from cloud forest chocolate cake and black beans with arepas to Venezuelan hot chocolate and chicken mole.
A real chunk of 100pc Venezuelan or Peruvian black costs €10 and is now available at Brown Thomas.