I've been hearing an awful lot about superfoods lately; the image of a dew-flecked blueberry, flying in to swat the cheeseburger from my hands, its cape heroically billowing in the wind, has been reeling through my brain. I've also been thinking a good bit about sexual potency—this having mostly to do with an increasing number of emails promising me quick and natural penile enlargement. Upon the convergence of these two themes, I decided to scout out some sexual superfoods. My findings? Chicago restaurants are trying to get you laid.
Vieiras a la Plancha at Cafe Iberico
Oysters aren't the only game in bivalve town; according to the results of a 2005 study, scallops pack an equally frisky wallop. Performed by a coalition of Italian and American scientists, the study found that the amino acids in many bivalves increased sexual hormones in rat test subjects.
Five plump sea scallops bring the libido-boosting juju to Cafe Iberico's vieiras a la plancha dish. Grilled to perfection, the scallops rest atop a bed of saffron-drenched rice. Aside from the titillating "bling" appeal of the spice's golden hue, saffron was considered by the Knights of Arabia to be of great use when arousing women. Affluent Romans colored their bathwater with the stuff, a preference eventually shared with Cleopatra, who was fond of making love in a saffron-tinted dip. The dish is then topped with sliced almonds, an age-old symbol of fertility that's been said to awaken dormant passions in women.
Uni Shooter at Usagi Ya
While everyone else is nursing those spicy tuna rolls, hardcore connoisseurs go straight for the uni. For thousands of years, the Japanese have held the lowly sea urchin in rather high regard for the spiky echinoid's anandamide content. A Cannabinoid neurotransmitter—yep, as in the same family as marijuana—gives a little rush and a rousing bout of the munchies. Many people assume that when you order up urchin, you're getting the creature's eggs. Not so. Those creamy yellow portions at the end of your chopsticks are actually the gonads; the spiny hermaphrodite carries around five nigiri-ready servings.
Usagi Ya caters to urchin-lovers, offering a myriad of special uni dishes—many of which aren't even listed on the menu. For an introduction to the wonderful world of uni, go for the shooter appetizer; those golden gonads are dressed with zesty ponzu, quail egg (and the fertility-associated libido lift that accompanies it) and blood-pulsing hot sauce. Seasoned sea urchin lovers go straight for the pure stuff, opting for sashimi-style served on phallic-friendly cucumber slices.
Gnocchi al Pesto at La Gondola
If visions of spinach-encrusted teeth keep you from digging into pesto on date night, consider that this concoction contains a chorus of aphrodisiacs. In addition to being a common ingredient in love spells, basil has also been the focus of cross-cultural folklore; women in Italy need only place a pot of bacia-nicola (rough translation: "Kiss me Nicolas") on their window sills to signal a lover. In Moldavian myth, when a man receives a sprig from a woman, he'll marry her. And the herb represents love, eternal life, protection and purification in Hindu lore.
La Gondola makes its pesto in house, adding libido-boosting pine nuts, vitamin E-loaded olive oil and an ingredient that you've been conditioned to avoid in romantic situations: garlic. There's some scientific evidence to suggest that one of the aroma-contributing chemicals that comprises garlic is also found in female secretion. Stuffed with fresh ricotta, the handmade gnocchi underneath all of that sexy sauce resemble tiny little pillows.
Goji Bar at Vosges Haut-Chocolat
Tofu, kombucha, trail mix—hippie food generally isn't considered sexy, but the granola-loving Goji berry is a different story. Eastern medicine has long employed these berries to strengthen the center of all sexual energy: the adrenal system. In addition to helping out with diabetes and cholesterol, the berries also do a number on metabolic syndrome, the precursor to erectile dysfunction. Its sensual side-effects have earned it the nickname "happy berry" in China and some believe it even boosts fertility.
At Vosges Haut-Chocolate, these powerful little devils are folded into one of nature's favorite stimulants: cacao. The milk chocolate in Vosges' Goji Bar clocks in at 41-percent, its flavor profiles enhanced with pink Himalayan salt. Linked to both the ancient Aztec and Mayan gods of fertility, chocolate contains that wonderful alkaloid Phenethylamine, said to boost serotonin levels in the brain. As for the salt? Some dated superstitions attribute decreased sexual stamina in men to an absence of salt in the diet.