WARMING UP FOR THE HOLIDAY: Valentine's Day is on the decidedly nonromantic day of Thursday this year. Nothing we can do about it. This weekend, there are several Valentine's Day practice events, chances for you to hone your love chops.

Chocolate is always a go-to item on Valentine's Day. Chocolate is to Valentine's Day what barbecue pork rinds are to Super Bowl Sunday. According to the hardworking people at the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, more than 36 million boxes of chocolate will be sold for the occasion, and 50 percent of women will give chocolate to their Valentine.

Well, we'll see how much chocolate is left to sell after we're finished with our job as Chocolate Judge at the annual Belmont Shore Chocolate Festival, from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Actually, we, along with Chief Chocolate Justice Lisa Ramelow and others, will be judging homemade entries. You're not even allowed to taste them. Thank the Health Department.

You will, however, get to sample dozens of chocolate offerings up and down Second Street in the Shore. We Olive will have blood orange olive oil brownies; Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory will be dipping things into chocolate, including Oreos, apples, licorice and bacon; NY Upper Crust Pizza will have chocolate-covered cannolis; Open Sesame will have cardamom crunch with pomegranate syrup; and so on along the business district.

Ten dollars gets you a book of 12 tickets to purchase your samples.


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You can buy them at Chase Bank in the middle of the block at 5200 Second St.

For the entire menu and other info, check your Web at www.belmontshore.org.

SMOOTH JAZZ: It's flowers and chocolates for the ears as local jazz legend Al Williams brings in a slate of smooth jazz greats for an evening of romantic music at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Terrace Theater.

Singer, songwriter and keyboardist Angie Stone tops the list, performing music from her four Top 10 R&B albums. You also get a jazz version of the Three Tenors, as in tenor sax, with Euge Groove, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot.

Tickets prices start at $45; with VIP dinner packages available for $130. You can get tix at the box office today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. or from Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000.

PREHISTORIC LOVE: Everyone with even the slightest smattering of knowledge knows that dinosaurs have been extinct for almost 2,000 years. But they come back to life in all their biblical-times glory and, we need to add, cuteness, as the Dinosaur Petting Zoo comes to the relatively modern Carpenter Performing Arts Center on Sunday for three sessions, at noon, 2 and 4 p.m.

It's a huge blast for kids in particular, who get to cuddle up close to these lifelike creatures ranging from little babysaurs to roaring raptors. It's rated for kids ages 4 and up.

General admission tickets are $20. Call 562-985-7000. For info, and to catch a video sample of the show, go to www.carpenterarts.org.

FRIDAY PLAYLIST: After our first of four February Friday Playlists honoring black musicians for Black History Month, we received a ton of suggestions. We don't usually do requests unless they come to us written on a bar napkin with a minimum gratuity of $5, but we're feeling all generous, plus lazy, so we figured we'd let someone else do all the work this week. That someone else is Cousin Ed, an old guy with an affinity for 1960s-era Motown. We've included all 10 of Cousin Ed's artists, but we've changed many of his song preferences because they weren't up to our higher standards.

1. "Ooo Baby Baby," Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

2. "Where Did Our Love Go," Supremes

3. "Reach Out (I'll Be There)," Four Tops

4. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," Temptations

5. "For Once in My Life," Stevie Wonder

6. "I'll Be There," Jackson Five

7. "What's Going On" Marvin Gaye

8. "Respect," Aretha Franklin

9. "That's the Way of the World," Earth, Wind and Fire

10. "Brick House," Commodores

tim.grobaty@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2116 or twitter.com/grobaty