photo credit bell'alimento

We’re a week into a freakishly warm February, and your wall calendar or planner (hope you read the Go Girl Gift Guide!) indicates that Valentine’s Day is around the corner.  Currently being single, I have accordingly made Valentine’s cards for elderly New Yorkers, read about radical vulnerability (thank you VICE magazine) while sitting cozily by the wood stove next to my cat, and felt authorized to formulate Valentine’s Day advice for others.  With all that said, I will authoritatively tell you that nothing says romance like cheese (You think the recent solar flare displaced cheese state particles into the Windy City or is this legitimately true?).

Cheese and chocolate truly are a FANTASTIC combination.  I was first introduced to hot chocolate with cheese in Ecuador, at a posh little dessert restaurant in the gringo district within Quito.  At this restaurant, a mug of hot chocolate is served with several cubes of cheese on the saucer. The cheese is placed into the mug of hot chocolate and subsequently becomes melty and mmmm.

Tena, Ecuador, where the cacao trees grow

Ecuadorian chocolate holds a special claim to fame in my fame claim book.  Nowhere else have I been handed fresh cacao (cough cough: Portlandia!) pulp to taste from a cacao pod whacked off of the tree by a woman with a machete and an uncle who was a shaman.

For your own shamanistic chocolate and cheese experience, you can drive to Wisconsin and pick up a little somethin’ somethin’ just across the Illinois border.  The romance level will definitely be off the chart when you go chocolate CHEESE fudge shopping at the Mars Cheese Castle.  Yes, castle as in fairy tale/disney/proper homage to cheese.  In Chicago you can also  buy chocolate fudge made with cheese.  It sits in the fancy cheese section of the grocery store (obvi!), and the friendly cheese woman at my local Dominick’s will gladly slice and wrap whatever quantity you desire. Be cautious. Be aware of its irresistible perfection. This New York cheddar cheese fudge is so paramount that it gets its own category on the Herkimer County Cheese product website.  It’s categorized as “unique”…in a good way!

Or you could stir up a pot of homemade hot chocolate on the  wood stove or stove top and toss a couple cubes of cheddar in there yourself. I recommend using goat milk  with your favorite hot chocolate mix and adding a little extra cocoa powder.