Tag Archives: fondue

Even More FonDOs: My Trip To The Melting Pot in Raleigh

Wednesday is kind of a hit or miss day, don’t you think? It’s either really awesome or really MEHHH. Today, methinks, might fall into the first category.

First of all, my new (to me) Cannon Rebel XT  camera body arrived this morning. Of course, since the lens hasn’t arrived yet, I can’t actually photograph anything. But still- lots of smiles.Smile

Second, Jessamyn Not Jasmine was the runner-up Best Blog in Yes! Weekly’s Best of The Triad awards! You may not be able to tell by my fairly serious facial expression, but I’m REALLY excited. Oh wait, this is the internet and not reality TV so you can’t actually see my face. AWK-ward. Anyway, if you scoped my name through Yes!Weekly and this is your first visit to my little piece of the internet- Hello! Be prepared for seemingly random very liberal hysterical rants and unplanned blogging sabbaticals. I also really like to talk about food.

Speaking of food…

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend North Carolina Arts Day, which is a day/event where NC arts supporters converge in our state’s capital and lobby in support of government arts programming. Obviously, as an arts administrator, going to Arts Day was a pretty exciting event. It was really cool to see so many arts professionals take time off to make a statement in favor of arts funding. I met a lot of people (including lots of local politicos) and (since my hotel was across the street from my favorite grocery store) even snuck in a quick Trader Joes adventure. WIN-WIN.

 The night before Arts Day, however, I had an impromptu fancy dinner at The Melting Pot. I’ve discussed my love of fondue before, and the charm was definitely not lost on me. Not even kidding, the Melting Pot is (probably) my absolute favorite chain restaurant. However, eating there is NOT cheap and I’m only able to do it on special occasions (or during emergency eating escapades in the Carolina capital). Of course, since my camera was stolen right before my Raleigh adventure, I feared I wouldn’t be able to capture the magic of The Melting Pot in photographic form. But thanks to iPhones and friends, photographic memories were still made.

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In addition to their everyday fondue selections, The Melting Pot offers a rotating Big Night Out menu with fondue/salad offerings which fit into a specific theme. Currently, the Big Night Out theme is Latin America, and the cheese fondue special is a very fancy version of queso fundido. So…OBVIOUSLY we had to get it. This wasn’t the queso fundido you’d get at your local Mexican restaurant. I mean, I love melted queso fresco sprinkled with greasy chorizo just as much as the next cheese-aholic. But this fondue contained gruyere, fontina, AND gran queso. One of the best parts about The Melting Pot is that they make all the fondues table-side, and you’re able to see every element that goes into your meal. Our waitress was EXTREMELY knowledgeable, and she made sure that we knew about every aspect of our meal. As a restaurant patron, this is something that’s very important to me and I always appreciate when wait staff take the time to build relationships with their clientele. The queso fundido was served with the usual Melting Pot cheese dippers (an assortment of fresh veggies, bread, and apples) as well as a bowl of corn chips. Seriously, this singular fondue was enough to validate the cost of the entire meal.

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Next came the salad course. I just ordered the spinach and mushroom salad- nothing fancy. Actually, I wasn’t really a fan of this salad. It’s a certain kind of person that truly enjoys sweet flavors in a savory context and I AM NOT THAT PERSON. The dressing was a burgundy shallot vinaigrette- besides the fact that I kind of hate shallots, I thought the sweetness of the wine completely imbalanced the acidity of the vinegar, and the combination proved to be fairly unpalatable. I get the impression that this is a very popular salad at the Melting Pot, so I’m not going to completely denigrate it. It’s possible that my dislike of the dressing was based purely on my personal preferences. Basically, this is the Jessamyn version of reasonable doubt.

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As far as the entrée goes, each diner chooses a selection of dipping items and they share the actual fondue cooking liquid. My companions and I chose the court bouillon fondue (a no-nonsense veggie broth), and we each chose different entrée selections. Since I lead a functionally vegetarian lifestyle (save for the special occasions- you know, locally raised meats and barbeque festivals), I decided to get the Vegetarian selections. This particular plate includes Portobello mushrooms, asparagus, (REALLY FREAKING DELICIOUS) Thai-peanut marinated tofu, artichoke hearts, spinach-artichoke ravioli, and the Big Night Out Pasta (a fire-roasted corn salsa ravioli– stop drooling on your computer).

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It also included a bowl of semi-frozen edamame which, after they went for a swim in the court bouillon, were perfectly cooked and delicious. The Melting Pot also offers several delicious post-cooking dipping sauces for your entrée. My favorite, the gorgonzola cream cheese, is hanging out to the left of my edamame.

We also ordered the Dark and Dulce chocolate dessert fondue( a combination of dark chocolate and thick dulce de lece sprinkled with coarse sea salt) but I was too busy stuffing my face and soaking up the awesomeness of that flavor combination to remind Anna (my very patient photog companion) to take a photo. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like chocolate and sea salt? PLUS DULCE DE LECE? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Fondue is not just a delicious style of eating, but a study in food culture. It forces people to communicate while eating, and it can be reinvented in countless fashions. In my mind, that’s the essence of food- like music, it can bring any manner of people together in a positive way. The Melting Pot encapsulates this theory, and I will always recommend that my friends and family (that’s you, by the way) take the time to seek out one of these restaurants.

If you’re concerned about the price (a CONSTANT concern for yours truly), eating at the Melting Pot with a few friends can definitely help alleviate some of the financial pain. By splitting a cheese fondue between four people, you’re only paying about $8/each for a first course which could easily serve as a main course. Each salad is only $7. A Chocolate fondue for four is about $5-6/each. And if you decide not to get an entrée ( roughly $19-30), you can have a VERY filling cheese, salad, and chocolate fondue dinner for about $20. While it’s not the cheapest dinner for a student living on the verge of imminent bankruptcy, it’s definitely still a viable special dinner option.

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FonDOs and DON’Ts: Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

Yesterday, thanks to a series of modern science miracles (dayquil, sudafed) paired with home cure-alls (a 48 hour long relationship with my neti pot) and the best remedy of them all (SLEEPSLEEPSLEEP), I emerged from the depths of plague just in time to make a fondue Valentine’s Day Dinner for my girlfriend.

 

Fondue incorporates everything I love about food and community- it brings diners together to create a meal which is representative of individuals, while encouraging fellowship. Seriously, I could probably write a dissertation on ‘how and why fondue can create a food revolution’, but I’ll try to contain myself. Anyway, my obsession with fondue started a few years ago: ever since then, I’ve amassed a collection of fondue pots (so far I own seven) which are on display around my apartment. This also means that I’m constantly looking for excuses to use them.

(For those of you who are rolling your eyes at the thought of a fondue pot collection, I encourage you to take a look at your shoe/dvd/perfume collection and keep the judging to a minimum.)

Anyway, making a three course fondue dinner at home, while it does take a bit of prep work, is really easy. The process is made even easier when you haven’t spent your weekend dealing with a nose full of mucus, but that’s neither here nor there.

When planning a dinner of this magnitude (even if it’s only for two people), I find it’s helpful to make a detailed shopping list- this is a preventative measure so that you don’t end up wandering around a grocery store for longer than necessary. Ok, maybe I did that anyway- but that has more to do with the fact that I was sick, partially delirious, and the fact that I’m not immune to the well-orchestrated insanity of Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Already owning a fondue pot (or seven) makes planning a spur of the moment Valentine’s Dinner pretty easy- therefore, I would recommend investing in a fondue pot of your very own. Since I bought most of my pots at yard sales, my entire collection probably has an exact monetary value of less than $40. However, a couple of my pots are individually worth more than $40. For those who are not willing to scour yard sales, I would recommend purchasing a pot with a reliable non-stick cooking surface and easy to use heating system- if you’re going to purchase more than one pot, feel free to get exciting with your heat sources (butane fuel, tea light candles). However, if you’ve never done fondue outside of the occasional Melting Pot Dinner, I would recommend getting an easy to use plug-in fondue pot. There a couple of models which would make great starter pots- Rival FD350S and Cuisnart CFO-3SS, for starters.

Anyway, I made a classic Swiss cheese fondue and Fondue Bourguignonne, a traditional meat fondue. Here’s my first confession- I was too cheap and lazy to make a swiss cheese fondue from scratch, so I bought a pre-packaged Swiss fondue.

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I was very pleased with this purchase- it made my life SO MUCH EASIER, and cost less than it would have cost to individually buy the necessary cheeses. I bought this box of cheese for $6.99 at World Market and it was worth every penny. To dip in the cheese, I chopped up a couple of granny smith apples and half a loaf of 3-grain whole wheat sourdough from Whole Foods.

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I think it’s best to use a really hearty bread for cheese fondue- it’s less easy to drown your bread in the cheese, and it helps decrease the odds of cheese overdose (something I’ve never experienced, but am absolutely sure can happen. To someone who is less cheese obsessed).

Fondue Bourguignonne is really easy to make, as it’s just 2 cups of oil (I used canola) heated to 350 degrees. You dip the meat in the oil, cook until your desired ‘done-ness’ and voila- meat, it’s what’s for dinner. However, Fondue Bourguignonne is NOT healthy, and VERY dangerous. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby. I mean, if you’re not using an open flame then it’s probably ok, but sputtering oil does not feel good when it comes in contact with bare, tender skin. Basically, use caution when preparing this dish.

Since this was a special occasion, I tried to buy really high quality meats- I decided to use a local London Broil, and local sweet Italian sausage. I chopped both meats into bite size, fast cooking pieces.

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As a rule, I don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s very expensive, and it becomes especially expensive to buy meat which doesn’t make me feel like a horrible person for even looking at the packaging. However, when it’s possible to find meat that was butchered from animals who were raised in humane conditions and fed meals which are representative of their actual dietary needs (as opposed to wide-spread animal homicide through corn feed), I have less of a problem incorporating meat in my diet. For me (I can’t and won’t speak for anyone else), it’s important to be able to make a direct connection between the meat I’ve consumed and the animal that gave up its life. It’s nearly impossible for me to come to terms with meat that’s been slaughtered in factories which exploit both the animals and the workers. However, I think it’s important to support local farmers, and raising livestock is one of the traditional crucial elements of a working farm. Do I eat meat on a daily basis? No. Will I eat meat if the circumstances are acceptable? Sure.

Anyway, one of the best parts of making a meat fondue is getting your meat nice and crispy, then coating it in tasty dipping sauces.

I made two dipping sauces from scratch- they were both REALLY easy, and pretty healthy.

First I made a mustard sauce using the rest of my FAGE Greek yogurt- I even mixed it up right in the container.

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Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

3 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Coriander

1 clove Garlic

1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and chill until serving.

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I have to say, this sauce turned out awesome- This is my own original recipe, and I was really pleased with the consistency and flavor. Most mustard sauces use mayonnaise and/or sour cream as a base, but Greek yogurt gives a delicious creamy texture for a fraction of the calories. Plus, on a personal note, I think it tastes better.

I also made a Teriyaki Sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used Maggi bouillon dissolved in H20)

– 3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp fresh or bottled lemon juice
– 2 tsp cooking sherry
– 2 tsp honey
– 1 clove garlic

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan; heat to boiling. Refrigerate until serving time. Can be served warm or cold.

This sauce also turned out quite delicious.

When preparing new recipes, I know many cooks on a budget can be deterred by expensive ingredients that they don’t use frequently. I mean, hello? Cooking sherry? It’s not exactly an every day ingredient. However, my method for gaining a recipe friendly pantry is to make a list of dry ingredients which occur frequently in recipes. Then, gradually (one or two at a time) purchase the ingredients during routine grocery store trips- this way, when you come across a new recipe or concoct a dream recipe,  you have the necessary tools on hand without going into spontaneous debt. I’ve accumulated countless vinegars, oils, and spices using this method: most recently I bought toasted sesame oil which has elevated my impromptu tofu scrambles to another level.

For dessert, I decided not to make a river of chocolate fondue and opted for a couple of (GASP) store bought desserts.

Actually, this was probably my best idea- I bought four tiny desserts (two mini chocolate covered cheesecake bites, a mini-cannoli, and a petit four). This way, my girlfriend and I were able to have a very sweet dessert without creating a ton of leftovers and without breaking the caloric bank. Also, they were only .99 per treat- Whole Foods Market, you are my valentine.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. If you’re single, try not to let the antics of your slobbering friends (myself included) get you down- self-love is much more important than love from a partner.

And if you’re slobbering all over someone, try to remember than Valentine’s Day is not the only day of the year that you should make a noted effort to show care for the one you love (or ones– monogamy is not for everyone).

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