A Valentine's Brinner

What does everyone love on Valentine's? Either chocolate or a substitute for chocolate -- power, sex, hallucinogens, puppy dogs (please don't mix those all at once). Now, what does everyone love, anytime? Breakfast for dinner: "brinner." If you didn't get in gear and make reservations for a fab dinner for Valentine's, this is the perfect save.

Years ago, we were introduced to the joys of chocolate bread and vanilla butter by one of our favorite food writers, Marian Burros, via an interview with famous, formerly married food-writing team Jane and Michael Stern, who dubbed the dish ''our ultimate self-indulgence." They wrote: "A perfectly unbalanced dinner a deux. If, by chance, there is any left over, it makes unbelievably delicious-smelling toast the next morning.''

We agree wholeheartedly, having baked it with their recipe ourselves, but if that's not an option, Central Market is offering homemade chocolate cherry bread. Whether they make it this time of year for Valentine's or for Presidents' Day (cherries, geddit?), we don't need to know. It's a suitable, time-saving substitute. To make a quick but sensual, romantic brinner, you'll need:

--The chocolate cherry bread from Central Market. Pop the chocolate bread slices in a 400 degree oven for maybe 3-4 minutes, max. Turn it if you like both sides toasty. Keep an eye on it; it's already dark and you merely want to warm it a bit.

-- Butter, softened. Mix about a half-teaspoon of confectioner's sugar for every pat of butter, and blend with a few drops of real vanilla flavoring. Stir that up and transfer to a snazzy little bowl for presentation's sake.

--Fresh fruit, to jazz up the plate. Or if you want to buy some high-quality cooking chocolate, melt at least 6 ounces with a teaspoon of canola oil and you've got Choco Fondue! What you apply it to is up to you.

--A poached egg or two and some oven-grilled chicken/apple sausage.

--Bubbly from wherever. (We like Cristilano. Note: Cristilano, NOT Kristal, and available for about $6 at Spec's.)

--Maybe something to mix in the bubbly. (Try framboise or, if you're throwing caution to the winds, toss in peach Schnapps and frozen peaches.)

Lay out your spread, wash it all down with bubbly - and you may be forgiven for not going through the cattle call that comprises a restaurant on Valentine's Day.

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Lee Riner