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It’s February, or “mid-winter,” for those of us who are counting the days to when the first tender buds appear on the trees. What a year we’ve had so far and, if you find yourself lacking in the love department as February 14th approaches, MercerMe is here to remedy that.

Yours Truly has trolled the county in search of ways for you to get your love groove on… or get it back.  Some of it may be familiar to you and some of it may be new, but either way, don’t be caught on February 14th empty handed and looking sorry.  With a plethora of ideas and places to let your love glow — from treats and sweets, to baubles and knick-knacks, to dinner, music, warm beverages, or even love notes that help you say those words that often fail us — fear not, because here at MercerMe, we ‘gotchu.’

 

Last year at the end of The Great Cake Quest, I shared with you a great find, Sugar Cupid.  This one-woman show, consisting solely of Laura Falcone Martin, blew me away with absolutely amazing creations.  And, after a field of steep competition, she came out with the best tasting and most original cupcake I had eaten on that adventure, a banana pancake cupcake with maple syrup icing.  And Her Royal Sweetness is at it again, this time taking on everyone’s favorite ubiquitous Valentine’s Day treat: the “conversation heart.”

“I see Valentine’s day as a ‘no pressure’ reason to remind people that you care about them…plus it involves sugar!” this educator come baker exclaims.

Those chalk textured candy “conversation hearts” are the things childhood memories are made of, and Falcone-Martin has upped the ante on that memory by creating an extra “love” size. The four-inch cookie is draped in Sugar Cupid’s classic icing and boast some clever saying, like “Be Mine” or “You Rock,” among others.  You can put them together and present them to to your beloved…or even just your “beliked.”

“You can get them individually or you can get a package of 3 and make a simple sentence declaring your feeling,” said Falcone-Martin.

Celebrating her second year in baking business, Falcone-Martin is excited for the future.  “This time last year, I delivered my own ‘little cupid,’ so Valentine’s Day has a special meaning for me now.”

Sugar Cupid’s strong point is helping you celebrate things with class, but always a touch of whimsy. If you scroll her website, www.sugarcupidsweets.com, where you can also order your “conversation hearts,” you will see cakepops, fondant cakes, cupcakes and all manner of blood sugar elevating delights. I personally have a special place in my heart for Falcone-Martin’s cookies. They are somewhere between a butter cookie and a sugar cookie with just enough flakiness and butteriness to let your taste buds know that one cookie really isn’t enough. So, Valentine’s Day is in about a week and since Falcone-Martin’s baking calendar is filling up, you would want to order soon…like today! And enjoy!

 

Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a bummer for those of us without a specific special someone to celebrate with and trying to maneuver around all the hearts, flowers, chocolates and lovers can put one in a real funk. But Killarney’s Publick House, at 1644 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road  in Hamilton, has solution to that problem: redirect that funk at their Annual Stupid Cupid Dance Party, on February 11, and leave the party with several valentines.

Owner Seamus Farrell and manager Robin Krieg showing off the best pour pint of Guinness around, accompanied by a sea bass salad

This is the place where singles can swing the loneliness away and find a new crowd to get loud with. There will be a DJ and an Absolut photo booth, along with a special Valentine’s Day menu featuring broiled crab cakes, chicken masala, and (old favorite of theirs) steak oscar.

Owners and best buds of 24 years, Jack Manousos and Seamus Farrell, invite you to grab your friends and make a real party of it, but reminds me quite assuredly that, “We are more than just a neighborhood bar.”  He told me this after I timidly revealed him that I don’t often frequent bars.

Manager Robin Krieg, added, “Yes.  We have all the regular bar food — mozzarella sticks, wings and such — but we have a incredible menu items we make from scratch, using local ingredients.”

“We will feature a ‘Love Martini’ made with absolut citron, malibu rum peach snappes, cranberry juice and a sugar rim,” continued Farrell, an affable spry owner with the slightest hint of an Irish brogue dotting every few words.

They are also featuring a cosmo with a twist but you will have to make a trip to Killarney’s to try that one! In addition to their tried and true Irish pub fare, like shepherd’s pie and rosemary lamb chops, the culinary staff at Killarney’s offers a unique take on things with a decidedly Irish flare, including Guinness beef stew and Irish surf and turf, all of which will be available after the 14th is a hazy cocoa dusted memory.

So, grab your best mates and show them some serious BFF love while partying the night away at Killarney’s Publick House in Hamilton. Have a drink or two and dance like noone is  watching — but they are and will be uploading to youtube.

 

Gluten-free and feeling out of the loop? Letting celiac disease ruin your party? No need to worry, Wild Flour Bakery and Cafe in Lawrenceville has got you covered. Owner and head baker/chef Marilyn Besner was excited to show off some of the offerings they will be rolling out for the holiday of love.

Wild Flour owner/chef Marilyn Besner displays a tray of chocolate truffles just in time to woo the gluten-free heart this Valentine’s Day

“We have gluten-free vegan and non vegan truffles,” Besner said proudly holding up a tray of uniformly decorated truffles.

As the quiet buzz of the lunchtime crowd started to build, I saw her other chef, Karim, preparing a sandwich for a waiting customer. “Valentine’s Day is the one day you get to focus on your significant other,” he says, placing the sandwich out for pick up, next to a tray of heart-shaped gluten free sugar cookies waiting to be packed.

The folks at Wild Flour have decidedly put their best gluten-free foot forward with their love day menu. With festive treats like cream puffs, eclairs, French macaroons and chocolate raspberry ganache tartlets, there is no reason why a gluten aversion should leave you loveless… flourless maybe but definitely not loveless.  And, if your insatiable sweet tooth is in need of a bigger fix, Wild Flour also offers a vanilla cake with rosettes and a chocolate ganache cake with dipped strawberries. You’re welcome.

This is one of three installments to help those of us who are amorously-challenged or just plain at a loss of what to do. There is lots to choose from and lots more to come.

For now, give Sugar Cupid a holla (by texting or calling 609-802-1478 or check her out on FB) to get a bunch of conversation hearts for the ones you love.

Grab your BFF or whiny side-kick by the selfie stick and head on over Killarney’s Publick House on February 11 for the “Stupid Cupid Dance Party” and dance the night away.  With a menu that’s is varied, there is sure to be something to soothe the forlorn tastebud. No excuse to stay home this coming weekend with Jack, Seamus, Robin and bar-keep Stephanie, setting things off at Killarney’s Publick House 1644 Whitehorse-Mercerville Rd. Hamilton.

Don’t forget your gluten free loves on this day and check out Wild Flour at www.wildflourbakery-cafe.com and located on 2691 Main Street in Lawrenceville or, as I call it: the sweetest quarter mile in Mercer County.   Place your order with the folks at Wild Flour by calling 609-620-1100.

So step away from the Facebook posts and go give some cocoa dipped, nicely iced, gluten-free, Guinness-scented love this Valentine’s Day. Chances are, you’ll probably get some in return. Love it up! Tell all your friends!

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”

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