There’s something about fondue that keeps people coming back for more. Maybe it’s the fondue forks (endless entertainment), or the ability to mix and match your favorite foods (apples and cheese, anyone?), or simply the chance to gather around a pot with a group of your favorite people to talk, to laugh, and most importantly, to eat!
The taste for fondue predates the American fondue craze of the 60s and 70s by nearly three centuries. Originally it was served as a peasant and town-dweller egg dish in France or Switzerland. The jury is still out on who actually started it all, but Switzerland has promoted itself as the homeland of fondue and claims the first recipe for fondue as we know it today. When people from the Alps refer to fondue in the traditional sense, they’re generally referring to the combination of melted cheese and wine (generally white wine and kirsch). However, you may be more familiar with broth, oil, and chocolate fondues, as they are all widely accepted and quite popular.
You don’t have to travel to the Alps to have a great fondue experience. With the right tools and ingredients, you can make your own fondue! And if cooking isn’t your thing, try one of your local fondue eateries. Go ahead, take the dip, and find out for yourself why people keep coming back for more.
Out and About
You can find fondue restaurants everywhere from New York to Portland. Here are a few suggestions:
The Melting Pot. This restaurant is on the high end of fondue dining, with a four-course experience (cheese, salad, entrée, chocolate) for about $30 to $40. You can also order one course of cheese or chocolate for $8 to $10, depending on the location. There are more than 135 locations in 35 states.
Urban Fondue. Located in Portland, Oregon. The prices start at $11.95 for cheese, $13.95 for dessert, and $15 to $24 for an entrée. You can also get the three-course meal for around $32 per person.
Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot. The hot pot is an Asian take on fondue and generally uses a communal broth or oil pot. This restaurant is located in Bellevue, Washington; Dallas and Houston, Texas; New York City; and eight different locations in California, including Cupertino, Irvine, and San Diego. The price is about $20 for all you can eat.
Fondue Stube. At Fondue Stube, a restaurant located in Chicago, you’ll find “a fondue experience in the classic, European tradition.” Cheese fondues are $9.75 for a half order and $17.50 for a full order. Oil fondues run around $18. You can also order entrees for $30 to $35 and all-you-can-eat meat fondues Monday through Thursday for about $30.
In the Kitchen
There are a few things you should know before you start.
Although it isn’t essential to have a fondue pot (called a caquelon), it is highly recommended. Most fondue sets cost about $20–25. If you’re on a budget and are willing to shop around, you might also be able to find a set at a yard sale (remember the fondue craze of the 60s and 70s?). However, Caroline Bégin of bestfondue.com suggests that—if you want to get technical—you’ll need different fondue pots for the different types of fondue. See the three examples below.
- Cheese: For the best experience, use an earthenware pot with a flat bottom and wide opening at the top. The pot will need to be suspended over a flame to keep the cheese warm. Traditionally, you would dip bread (artisan bread with a good crust) into the cheese, but you can get creative. Try ham, apple slices, or pretzels.
- Oil and Broth: These pots are generally made out of stainless steel, copper, or cast iron. Do not use ceramic pots because they will crack under the high temperature. This type of fondue is for cooking meat and vegetables.
- Chocolate: This type of fondue is sometimes referred to as a “cool” fondue because the chocolate is put in a small ceramic or porcelain pot and is kept warm by a tea light.
You will also need some fondue forks for dipping. These are longer forks that are perfectly designed for dipping your bread without having to bend all the way over the table. Regular forks are also generally provided with the meal so you don’t have to eat with the fondue fork.
It doesn’t matter whether you put on your apron or grab your wallet, fondue is meant to be enjoyed anywhere people gather for good food. So, happy eating! (Or as they say in the Alps: En Guete! and Bon appétit!)
By Eileen Leavitt
Fon-Do’s and Don’ts
- Share the brittle piece of cooked cheese on the bottom of the pot with the other diners.
- Hold the fork with the dipped bread over the pot for a few seconds to avoid getting hot cheese drops on the table or on your neighbors.
- Get creative. You might be surprised by the variety of fondue recipes out there.
- Drop your bread in the pot. If you do, men must buy drinks all around, and women must kiss their neighbor.
- Double dip. Bad manners.
- Use your fondue fork as a regular fork.
Authentic Swiss Fondue
1½ cups shredded gruyere
1½ cups shredded emmenthaler cheese
½ cup shredded Appenzeller cheese
2–3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 garlic clove, halved
1 cup dry white wine*
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 dash kirsch, a Swiss liquor (optional)
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 pinch nutmeg
*Although wine is an important ingredient for an authentic fondue, you can use milk as a substitute if you so desire.
For best results, use a steel or cast-iron medium-sized fondue pot.
- Before you put the pot on the burner, rub the inside with garlic halves.
- Add wine and place pot on medium heat on the stove. Heat the wine, but do not boil.
- Add lemon juice and kirsch.
- In a separate bowl, mix the three cheeses with flour.
- Add cheese one cup at a time to the wine, stirring after each cup and allowing the cheese to melt before adding more. The mixture should now be bubbling.
- Add pepper and nutmeg.
- Turn off the stove and place the pot over a spirit burner on the table.
- Keep the flame on and stir occasionally to keep the cheese melted.
Photo credits (from top): Flickr users Jen and Rosmary