DIY Delight—The Melting Pot

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Photos by Greg Shapps

Few words or phrases in the dining lexicon can stir up such specific connotations—both positive and negative —like “fondue.” Not merely a style of cooking and presentation, fondue as a social concept hits on very distinct ideas of era, mood, and communal sustenance.

NMAG0212_TableForTwo_4For some it’s more a matter of fon-don’t, hearkening back to their shaggiest and most unfortunate remembrances of bell-bottomed entertaining in the 1970s. For others, however, that steaming cauldron is less a generational bygone than a bubbling vessel of romance that is very much in style whenever lights are turned low and passions are running high. Then there is, of course, the adamant contingent for whom the case is settled as soon as the conversation turns to a vat of melted chocolate on the table.

Back to Front

NMAG0212_TableForTwo_2It is, in fact, this last group that tends to steer the good ship SS Fondue more often than not, if the very first question posed to us by the hostess as we entered the Melting Pot on a quiet Sunday evening is any indication: “Were you planning on dinner or just the chocolate?” We had indeed come for the full fondue meal experience, but the fact that the desserts-only query was such a standardized greeting leads one to believe that the number of patrons making the trip just for that decadent final course is not insignificant. It was, by night’s end, not hard to see why.

The genius is in the simplicity of it all, really. While the dessert menu features several creative one-pot chocolate concoctions like turtle and bananas foster, the basic heart of the operation is really just a kettle of melted white, milk, or dark chocolate and a plateful of luscious dipping possibilities—from miniature brownies, pound cake, and Rice Krispie treats, to banana slices, strawberries and cookie-coated marshmallows. Revolutionary? Not in the least. Yet a trip around the intimately lit room of high-backed booths revealed few, if any, tables either opting out of this sweet exclamation point or quibbling about its lack of creativity.

Always the Bridesmaids

NMAG0212_TableForTwo_5The inherent appeal of the dessert slate, alas, tends to render the preceding courses of the meal second-class citizens on the old burner table (note the sequencing in this very article). Perhaps many diners, in something of a reverse remembrance of motherly admonishments on the way to the cookie jar, are wary of spoiling their appetites for dessert with a big meal beforehand. Due—at least in part—to our relative inexperience with the fondue format, however, we came in with no such fears and thus opted for the full, four-course bonanza.

The parade started with a traditional cheese course, an amalgam of cheddar, beer, garlic, and spices prepared at the table by our fondue sherpa John and served with a variety of bread cubes, apple slices, and vegetables—classic rec room fare circa 1976 (minus the Bread—the band, not the starch) and utterly fantastic, of course (just reread that ingredient list).

NMAG0212_TableForTwo_3Next up was a pair of California salads with candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and a solid raspberry vinaigrette; tasty, but without a connection to the pot, this felt like a perfunctory course cribbed from some other menu in the name of tradition. The entrée spread, on the other hand, was fondue gospel all the way. With our pot of vegetable stock at full rolling boil and a quiver of skewers at the ready, we happily poked and submerged an array of tenderloin, ahi tuna, white shrimp, and marinated chicken, and paired them with the half-dozen sauce options for a delicious grown-up version of a campfire cookout.

Now, about that dessert course…

The Melting Pot
4931 South Route 59