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From the Valley, With Love : The ingredients for romance are here, from the standard to the sublime.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lovers in the Valley. What a concept.

But, in fact, the Valley has seen its share of passion, from Encino’s Gable and Lombard to Northridge’s Barbara Stanwyck and Chatsworth’s Robert Taylor, who exchanged sultry glances over milkshakes at Kent’s Pharmacy on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge.

All the ingredients are still here for a memorable Valentine’s Day.

Flowers, for instance. Long-stemmed red roses are the overpriced norm, and they are available at every supermarket. But if you want to impress someone special with your willingness to pay a great deal of money for the most predictable of romantic gifts, you can get a dozen red roses at Mark’s Garden in Sherman Oaks for $100.

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These are premium blooms, co-owner Richard David assures. For its premium price, the shop (named for co-owner Mark Held) does more than plunk the red beauties in a vase. David says arrangements involving swag treatments are popular with its upscale clients. “We don’t use baby’s breath,” he says (as if I asked).

David says that the shop’s clientele seems to be increasingly sophisticated in its floral tastes. Lots of people plan to gift their sweeties with a bowl of Dutch tulips ($60 and up) or an arrangement of long-stemmed French tulips ($75 and up). And the shop’s florists are up to their elbows in roses, tulips, hydrangeas and other spring flowers, filling orders for their popular English garden basket ($50 and up).

Candy is also dandy (although liquor is still quicker). You can always join the legions of the smitten at See’s, or if love has temporarily clouded your cognitive abilities, you can make your own bon bons, with supplies and skills acquired at the Candy Factory in North Hollywood.

With the largest selection of candy-making supplies on the West Coast, this East Valley shop stocks more than 20,000 candy molds and a sea of heart-shaped boxes. As owner Frank Sheftel explains, you can buy chocolates here, including a diet-busting 5-pound box for $100, or you can learn how to do it yourself. There is a drop-in candy-making class from 2 to 4 p.m. today that will teach you the basics and allow you to craft three different chocolate gifts. Cost is $15.

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Sheftel’s shop recently whipped up 1,200 full-sized chocolate gavels that Polygram used to promote its new TV show “Comedy Court.” And the store set up a candy-making station for the recent premiere of “101 Dalmatians,” allowing guests to put dark chocolate dots on white chocolate Dalmatians and vice versa.

But enough about Sheftel and show business. What about X-rated chocolates? Yes, the Candy Factory stocks them. According to Sheftel, tastes in erotic chocolates are always evolving, and his newest molds have a decidedly ‘90s look. In this era of safe sex, it is hardly surprising to find chocolates shaped like condoms. “They are $2 each, $10 for a six-pack.”

Even if it is a cliche, a quiet candlelight dinner is always nice. Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to get a Feb. 14 reservation at the most romantic local eateries, such as Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas or the Four Oaks Restaurant in Beverly Glen. A week ago, JoeJoe’s, a relatively new Sherman Oaks hot spot, was already fully booked until 10 p.m. (and the kitchen closes at 10:30 p.m.).

That means you probably won’t be having chef Tom Munoz’s Valentine’s Day special, a four-course prix fixe dinner for $35. It starts with oysters on the half shell or a salad of celery root and watercress with roasted pears and hazelnuts and proceeds through a dessert of strawberry rhubarb crisp or chocolate mousse cake. A bottle of champagne is an additional $22 to $55.

You might opt instead for a romantic evening of theater. One unusual choice is offered by the Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre, which will be performing scenes from both classic and contemporary plays. “In observance of Valentine’s Day,” a Rep official explains, “each scene will carry a romantic theme--love lost, love found, and love somewhere in between.” The venue is what makes this one different. The event is being held in model homes in the new Castlerock development in Valencia Northbridge: The theater-goers will move from room to room for successive scenes. The organizers promise drama, great views, hors d’oeuvres, desserts and beverages for $30 per person.

Instead of flowers, you might want to send your love a cookie bouquet. This is another option that’s probably foreclosed for this year, but those who planned ahead had a dozen designs to choose from at Cookies by Design in Tarzana.

Owner Pam Whittlebakes to order and charges $6 a cookie (seven make up the standard bouquet). Whittle has heart-shaped cookies, of course, but she also has a Prisoner of Love bouquet that features teddy-bear-shaped cookies sporting frosted prison stripes.

This is the same woman who offered white Ford Bronco cookies during you-know-who’s criminal trial. “And you should have seen my Heidi Fleiss cookies!” Whittle says. “They were so cute. They had little garter belts.”

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Perhaps the ultimate in Valley romance begins at one of the least likely spots--the Van Nuys Airport. A busy commercial airport, Van Nuys has its romantic roots. Some of the airport scenes from “Casablanca” were shot here. Today, 55 years after Bogey promised, “We’ll always have Paris,” King Aviation offers a sunset ride that starts in Van Nuys and quickly moves elsewhere--over Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign, downtown Los Angeles and Malibu.

A 40-minute ride costs $90 per person in a small plane, $165 per person in a jet helicopter. The package includes dinner at the airport-adjacent 94th Aerosquadron restaurant--and you’ll always have Van Nuys.

But you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a perfect Valentine’s Day in the Valley.

Forget the roses.

Forget the naughty chocolates.

Remember the champagne.

And if love has made you really goofy, have the one with the better voice read aloud Rupert Brooke’s “Dust,” the single most romantic poem ever written (not the best, the most romantic).

Reseda will become a beach in Tahiti.

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Trust me.


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