Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beginners' Fondue

Tonight, Ty and I did something we rarely do: dine out.

Cooking for myself has improved my palette to the point where most restaurant food tastes bland and flavorless, but we wanted to check out a brand-new restaurant in Richmond, Hangers. We'd heard it was upscale and delicious, comparable to one of our favorite spots, Malone's in Lexington. We were definitely not disappointed; I had a savory Mediterranean pasta, which was very well-seasoned and contained a variety of veggies, even artichokes, a personal favorite. And, Richmond-area vegetarians, the tomato bisque is very tasty!

What most excited me about the menu, though, were the fondue options! We love fondue and have an awesome Trudeau fondue set at home, as well as a tiny candle-burning chocolate fondue set for smaller, more casual snacks. Fondue parties are extremely fun and entertaining, and, as far as cooking for a group of guests goes, it's one of the quickest meals to prepare. However, when just two people are dining, fondue cheese can be a little time-consuming to perfect and to upkeep so it doesn't burn. We love The Melting Pot, but the closest one is about a forty-minute drive. So tonight at Hangers, as an appetizer, we were thrilled to have cheese fondue with veggies and bread, and for dessert, an absolutely amazing chocolate fondue with fruits and Rice Krispies slices. So delicious, and we didn't have to put any effort in for just the two of us to enjoy it!

Although we had a romantic, candelit dinner (see top picture) and a very pleasant night out, you don't have to travel to an expensive restaurant to enjoy great fondue--in fact, as we discussed over dinner tonight, we actually like my home-made cheese fondue better than any we've had at a restaurant before. My first cheese fondue was made with this scrumptious plan from Simply Recipes, and it's an excellent starting point. This is definitely an omnivore-friendly dish; I've made it for several meat-eaters and they were all huge fans. This recipe is not as bland as restaurant fondue cheese--it's extremely flavorful. From there you will be able to alter the recipe to your liking; we actually like to add much more than a "pinch" of nutmeg as the recipe calls for. If you're just starting out in the kitchen, making well-seasoned and guest-pleasing fondue cheese is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the spice rack.

At home chocolate fondue is an extremely simple dish to make and such a tasty treat, especially with a good blush wine! Use either a block of baking chocolate or a bag of chocolate chips, and, depending on how you desire it to taste, add a dash of vanilla, a tablespoon of white sugar, and, if you like, amaretto or a fruit-flavored liqueur like Razzmatazz. One night, Ty and I decided to have an "art date" at home in the living room--we each had an easel and worked beside each other with a steaming pot of fondue chocolate in the middle, along with cool banana slices and strawberries. The clash of hot fondue chocolate and chilled fruit makes it taste even better.

Is it the sharing of a dish or the accidental bump of the dipping forks that makes fondue such a romantic course? If ever there was a perfect date food, I guarantee you it was made in a fondue pot!

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