DIEHARD fans of Bob Dylan were intrigued when, during his London concert last weekend, the idiosyncratic fiftysomething folkie, usually so taciturn between songs (not to say forgetful of their lyrics), dedicated 'Mr Tambourine Man' to 'Nick, the chef'. It's common knowledge that many veteran rock stars long ago gave up sex and drugs in favour of food and drink - Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd appeared as the guest restaurant critic in the Times recently - but who is this chef, so close to Dylan's stomach?

Anxious to discover the dark dietary secrets of the man who wrote 'Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues', the Gastropod called backstage, only to be told by Debbie, of the Popcorn catering company: 'Dylan often says that onstage these days, but nobody knows what it means.'

Could Bob have been referring to Nick Nosh, of the Nosh Brothers, self-styled 'hooligan gourmands' who have just graduated from catering rock'n'roll receptions to running their own restaurant in London's Fulham Road? When the Gastropod put this question to him, Nick became evasive, admitting that he has met Bob Dylan, but denying he'd ever cooked for the great man. Then he added, 'Forget about it, man,

It's just a ragged clown behind,

I wouldn't pay it any mind.

It's just a shadow that you're

Seein' that he's chasing.'

THE phrase 'a hearty meal' takes on a novel connotation this weekend as lovers who don't feel confident enough to tackle Sophie Grigson's heart recipes on this page but are looking for something a bit special for Valentine's Day, descend upon their supermarkets. At Asda they will find heart-shaped pizzas with a choice of two toppings for pounds 1.99, while Sainsbury is selling heart-shaped pork chops at pounds 2.68 per pound. Naturally, you'll need something bubbly to wash it down. Asda has slashed the price of Asti Spumante to pounds 3.59, and Sainsbury offers the Australian methode champenoise, Angas Brut Rose, at pounds 4.75.

Readers lucky enough to live close to a specialist cheese shop, such as the Rosslyn Delicatessen in Hampstead, north London, can round off their hearty meal with a heart-shaped cheese, such as chevre for about pounds 5, or creamy Neufchatel for pounds 3.50.

MORE traditional romantics may prefer to play safe with their beloved and stick to chocolate, but the Gastropod is reminded by those hedonists at the Chocolate Society (0943 851101) that, to be truly effective as an aphrodisiac, chocolate must contain at least 50 per cent cocoa solids.

It's too late for non-members to get their hands on the society's 123 Collection of Valrhona chocolates, which comes in a matt black box designed by Sonia Rykiel and is described as a 'sensual adventure into the world of high cocoa- contented chocolate', but we can all make the effort to find the most potent variety on offer at our local chocolate shop. Be warned, though, that phenylethylamine, the ingredient in chocolate that creates a state of euphoria which can easily be confused with being in love, acts on the brain much like amphetamine, and is potentially addictive.