If you are like me (well until recently), the first idea that might come to your mind when you hear the word fondue is that of lovers sitting by the fire place melting chocolate in a bowl and dipping into it, marshmallows or strawberries on a stick. Well there is some of that and much, much more.
On a recent trip to Michigan, I found myself in Ann Arbor, a college town home to the University of Michigan which is famous for its science and health programs and also the football team the Wolverines. I was enamored by the scene of young and diverse crowds walking the streets of Ann Arbor. A few years ago, Forbes.com ranked Ann Arbor, among the top livable cities based on factors such as the economy, livelihood and culture. I could not agree any less. Even though I did not get to explore much of the city, the little bit I got to see was impressive enough to steer my interest in this city.
As a personal tradition, when I go out looking for a restaurant, I either target a few places I have researched online and after a mini tour I pick my favorite. Other times, I just park my car somewhere and explore my options for about half an hour before making a selection, the latter is what I did in Ann Arbor when I chose to dine at The Melting Pot. I decided to eat from there for two reasons; first the whole idea of eating a entire dinner prepared in Fondue style was exciting and secondly the staff made me feel welcome and more than eager to introduce me to the whole concept. And so I began my exploration which they call, “The Fondue Experience.”
The Server quickly sat me at the bar and began to explain the practice of Fondue; the preparation of food by cooking small pieces in a heated liquid. He added a red wine sauce with some fresh herbs and vegetables in a metal pot sitting on a heating plate and explained the cooking temperatures to me. Once he was done explaining, it was time for me to take the reins and cook the food to my desires. Being the cook I am, I did not have a problem being left to my own devices.
I ordered a three course meal which included for starters, vegetables with cheese sauces, for the entre I had thin strips of beef and pieces of sausage and salmon, and for the desert I ordered some fruit and cake to deep in chocolate.
The vegetables which included broccoli and crimini mushrooms were fresh and crunchy. I stuffed the crimini mushrooms with some of the cheese sauce before dipping them into the brine. After a little bit of stumbling while trying to navigate my way around cooking the vegetables with fondue, the pieces were ready to be scooped out of the bowl and eaten. I was not that crazy about the outcome so this part was certainly not the highlight of my dinner.
When I moved onto the entrée , being the meat lover I am, I knew preparing the strips of beef, the sausage and the salmon was going to be fun. By this time, I had also garnered more confidence in my fondue skills. I seasoned the meats with salt, pepper and a herbal blend. After a couple of minutes in the brine, the pieces were ready to be scooped and I enjoyed every one of them. I thought to myself that I should have skipped the vegetables and doubled up on the meat!
And to end the meal came the desert. Who doesn’t love chocolate fondue! I dipped a piece at a time; the strawberry, banana, pineapple, cake and rice krispies in a bowl of melted dark and white chocolate. This was certainly a perfect way to sum up my fondue experience, it was sweet, pleasant and satisfying.
I certainly recommend that you pay a visit to your local Melting Pot Restaurant. I must however mention that the prices are a little steep especially considering the fact that you are cooking your own dinner. However, taking advantage of specials such as Restaurant Week, sitting at the bar for a party of 2 or targeting happy hour should help with reducing the sticker shock. Otherwise, I certainly look forward to having more fondue experiences in my area and becoming more familiar with the practice.by