By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by Todd Coleman.

We have a little fishmonger whose ramshackle shop, just down the street from our house, is situated in one of the Intracoastal Waterway inlets that creep through our village. It’s called Grant’s Oyster House, and although I hear Grant hasn’t been around for a few generations, it’s as authentic a coastal establishment as you’ll ever find.

The distinctly fishy smell greets you the minute you turn into the drive, which is always full of fishermen and their trucks. Grant’s is the place to find local celebrities, crabs, clams, profound amounts of shrimp, a small population of cats on the prowl, and a sign that warns you not to feed the alligators. But mostly, Grant’s has oysters.

We go to Grant’s all the time. It’s here we learned what a bushel and a peck actually mean (we were still just singing ‘and a hug around the neck’) and that transporting a decent amount of oysters for more than a minute leaves your car smelling like you, too, might be in the fish business. And in our own way, we are. The oyster business, at least.

We’ll eat oysters all day long. We love our oysters raw. We love them broiled just enough to pop the shell. We love them served with lemon, cocktail sauce, and a saltine cracker. Or Rockefeller, casino, fried (like the one above), Mobile style, rolled into a loaf, baked into stuffing, served in a po’ boy, tossed into a salad… we’ve yet to meet an oyster we didn’t like.

Some people save their oyster consumption for the warmer months, but for those of you digging your way out of another snowmegeddon or just trying to warm up from a lighter February chill, there’s nothing better than oyster stew. A rich, creamy broth to compliment the silky brine of the oyster is a match made in culinary heaven, and it’s the perfect Valentine’s meal. It hits the spot for a winter meal and warms you up, and your other half can spend the meal dreamily wondering about the rumored aphrodisiac side-effects. (Personally, I think there’s no better love-potion food than one made by your partner for you as a special treat. In that context, even macaroni is an aphrodisiac.)

I swear by this recipe, which combines the perfect oyster, heavy cream, brie cheese, and just enough sherry to spirit you away to the blissful land of the well-fed, sated, and happy. It’s terrific with some crusty bread and a chilled white — or even chilled water — and while it’s not particularly fancy, it’s a perfect expression of love.

Because it warms my belly and my heart, I’ll be eating oyster stew on Valentine’s! What are you planning for Valentine’s dinner? Are you making anything special or just something simple?