All chocolatiers work at warp speed this month, preparing their little aphrodisiacs for Valentine's giving. Fifth-generation chocolatier Kelly Walker, who owns Chocolates by Kelly, is no exception. From her kitchen inside the Blanchard's Coffee shop upstairs at 5047 Forest Hill Ave., she's busy producing a line of limited-edition chocolate cordials — vodka cranberry with a twist of lemon; hazelnut and champagne; classic dried cherry soaked in brandy — along with truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries and fleur de sel caramels. Her giant peanut-butter cups “are the breakfast of champions,” she says — and playing with food is an operational necessity.
Unlike some artisans, Walker doesn't mind sharing her secrets, and teaches monthly classes on the art of confection-making. She hand tempers single-origin Venezuelan chocolate and occasionally Belgian or American chocolates and constantly experiments with new flavor combinations such as balsamic-strawberry chocolate or lemon-mint.
“If there were ever a magical food, it would be chocolate. It's the food of gods and has been used as currency,” she says. “The way it crosses over class lines is what I find to be so fascinating about it. Everybody loves chocolate or knows someone who does.”
Find Chocolates by Kelly at Blanchard's (notable for its house-roasted beans) daily except Sunday, 7:30-11:30 a.m.; other retailers include the Wine Cellar in Midlothian, Joe's Market and the Caboose in Ashland. 814-5496.
Pescados: Five-course Valentine's dinner with a flambAc table-side dessert, in three seatings. This event has sold out the past five years, and Todd Manley's fun-loving finesse is part of the reason. $65 per person plus drinks, tax and gratuity. Reserve at 379-7121. 13126 Midlothian Turnpike. www.pescadosseafood.com
Avenue 805: A week of romance as the restaurant offers Valentine's special dinner pricing Feb. 9-14. Three-course dinner for two is a heart-lifting $40, plus tax and tip, and includes choices of soup or salads; salmon, Cornish hen or pork tenderloin; and dessert for two. By reservation only. 805 N. Davis Ave. 353-2505. www.avenue805.net
Chez Foushee: Three-course Valentine's dinner, $45 per person plus tax, starts with Frangelico-scented parsnip ginger bisque with a savory crouton and huckleberry gastrique, and ends with chocolate mousse tower and other delights. Afterward, special late Valentine hours, 9 p.m.-midnight with music, specialty cocktails, appetizers and desserts. The restaurant and neighborhood partner Linden Row Inn offer an overnight package for the occasion. Reservations required at 648-3225. 203 N. Foushee St. www.chezfoushee.com
TJ's at the Jefferson Hotel: Special Spanish wine dinner featuring Jens Riis with Kysela Pere et Fils, Feb. 13. Space is limited to 25 guests at $75 per person, including tax and gratuity. To see the menu, visit the hotel's Web site at www.jeffersonhotel.com; to reserve places e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 649-4629. Wine available for purchase following the dinner.
CafAc Gutenberg: Closed for the first three weeks of February so that new owners, chefs Jen Mindell and Garrett Berry, can update the building's interior and menu and prepare for a reopening at the end of the month. Look for an emphasis on comfort, affordability and the staff's creative energy at 1700 E. Main St. 497-5000.
Legend Brewing Company: Celebrates its 15th year in business and a major expansion of the brewery production. Anniversary party is Feb. 8, 3-10 p.m. with quality beer, a food buffet, bands and bagpipes. Admission for people older than 21 is $20; nondrinkers are $10 and kids 12 and younger get in free. 321 W. Seventh St. 232-3446. www.legendbrewing.com.
Correction: We spoke too soon about a new patio unveiling at Amici Ristorante in Carytown. The building's insides are reopened and refined, but the patio enclosure is under construction. Watch for progress there in a few months.