When it comes to love, you've got to hand it to the French. Back in the 1400s, a High Court of Love was established in Paris on Valentine's Day. Parisians used the language of law to deal with love contracts, quarrels and betrayals. Judges were selected by a panel of women on the basis of their poetry readings. French is the language of romance, especially when it comes to food. The most pedestrian dishes seem elegant and seductive when pronounced with a Gallic twist. Consider that coeur a la crème is no more than mild fresh cheese, set in a heart-shaped mold. Crowned with berries and splashed with Grand Marnier, it is a splendid thing. So, too, sable noisette (hazelnut shortbread hearts), galette framboise (raspberry tart), and espresso crème au chocolat (espresso cream with chocolate) are sweets to soften a frozen February heart.

Should you cringe at the notion of codified love, or the rampant commerce Feb. 14 inspires, consider celebrating SAD instead. Single Awareness Day is for those who prefer singleship to partnership, and use this alternative Valentine's Day to celebrate their status together. The ritual greeting? "Happy SAD!"

No matter what you call it, the 14th of February is a day for dessert. These recipes were designed to work together on a buffet and can stand on their own. Most important is that they are all best served with champagne (but then, isn't everything?).

Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis writer and cooking teacher.