Seven Secrets of Seduction

3. Sip some spirits. Speaking of wine, if you plan to open a nice bottle with dinner, be sure to choose one that goes well with the food you have chosen. As a rule of thumb, choose a crisp cold white wine such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc if you are serving fish; a robust red Chianti, Merlot or Pinot Noir for pasta and meat. Of course you can't go wrong with the queen of all wines, champagne.

From the sound of the bottle being opened to the golden effervescence flowing into a crystal flute, this sparkling wine sings celebration and romance. Enjoy it, but don't overindulge. Small amounts of alcohol can lower your inhibitions and promote relaxation, but too much will decrease desire and impair your sexual performance.

4. Include aphrodisiacs. Foods such as champagne, oysters, chocolate and figs have acquired a reputation for producing amorous results. Chocolate, for example, contains large amounts of phenylethylamine, a chemical that also is naturally produced by the body when one is having feelings of love. So be sure to include a few of your favorites on your Valentine's Day menu.

If you are going to indulge in caviar, be sure to keep the caviar tins closed and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator (but not in the freezer) until you are ready to serve. For oysters, always buy from a good fishmonger. You don't want to risk getting sick. Oysters should be served on the same day they are purchased and opened only just before they are served. To shuck an oyster: Hold the oyster in a heavy cloth and insert the sharp tip of an oyster knife into the hinge (where the top and bottom shell join). Twist the knife to open the shell, prying it apart with the width of the blade. Then, while pulling at the top shell with the thumb of the hand that is holding the oyster, carefully slide the knife along the inside of the upper shell to cut the muscle that attaches the flesh. Pull off and discard the upper shell. Cupping the oyster in your hand so as not to lose the liquid, slide the knife under the oyster meat to free it from the lower shell. Remove any bits of broken shell. Any that are slightly opened should be discarded.

5. Set a sexy table. Simple touches can change an atmosphere from the everyday to Valentine's Day in a matter of minutes. Break out candles, china and linens (if you're saving them for a special occasion, well, this is it). Dim the lights. Splurge on an arrangement of flowers. Turn on some jazz or other soft music that you and your valentine both love. Another romantic option: Instead of eating at the dining room table, serve the meal picnic-style in front of the fireplace. Set out a blanket and some pillows and invite your valentine to dine in casual comfort.

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