I always raise an eyebrow when I think of “romantic dining.” I know, it’s a thing. But I’m wondering what, exactly, is romantic? I’m not poo-pooing the whole thing, I’m trying to suss out what it means, especially for an issue that features the topic. You might notice that I threw in a piece on medical tourism as part of our “romantic getaways” section. I’m stretching definitions a bit. I’m aiming for context and intention. In terms of medical tourism, it’s more like, “Honey, love of my life, I want to have children with you. Let’s go abroad and undergo reciprocal in-vitro fertilization.” There might not be a Hallmark card for it, but there’s a whole lot of love in that scenario.
Much the same can be said for any meal or drink or dessert shared between two people in love…or in lust…or in a-little-more-than-like. Bradley Traynor gets to that when he offers up five offbeat places for Valentine’s Day. I have one to add to the mix that’s not offbeat, but is definitely considered romantic. Does it fit the bill?
After our January First Thursday at The Melting Pot, I decided to give fondue a try. Sure, I’ve had fondue before, whether the taleggio greatness up at Scott Graden’s New Scenic Café in Two Harbors or at my own apartment with my red electric pot from Target. But I’ve never gone to a fondue restaurant for a whole meal that’s been prepared by dipping things in hot liquid. Oh, what fun. I wasn’t there on a date, so the friend who joined me for First Thursday is my surrogate for assessing whether or not it would be romantic, and I’ll tell you that it’s not just hype (“Oh, you guys should go for fondue! It’s soooooo romantic!”), it passed with flying colors.
We went for the four-course fondue meal. Together, we chose a cheese course, ours was the Alp & Dell option made with gruyère, raclette and fontina cheeses, white wine, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, and black pepper. It was constructed right in front of us (I took mental notes) then we were given pieces of apple, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes to dredge through the glorious goo. Let’s stop and assess right here. Anything involving melted cheese will automatically get my pulse going a little faster. And if someone actually does all the putzy prep work by cutting up all those food items into smaller pieces, I’m yours. The risk at this point was that I was falling in love with the kitchen staff who prepared these goodies.
After choosing our own salads (I had the house salad and my friend had the pear and gorgonzola salad), we had to choose which style of entrée prep we wanted, as in, what did we want to be dipping our entrée meat into for cooking? There were two bouillon (broth) options, a bourguignonne (oil) option, and a coq au vin (wine) option. Since I’m not a drinker and the cheese course was a little wine-y for my preference, we knocked out the wine option. The broth would be tasty at some point, but perhaps not for our maiden fondue voyage. These choices that are shared are an interesting test for romance…can two people come to a cooperative decision about the cheese course? The entrée liquid? CHOCOLATE? It’s all about compromise and harmony. And, luckily, we had that going for us and chose baptism by oil. Then, we each ordered three different meats/foods for ourselves from a section of delicious offerings and sat back as our raw meats, raviolis, dipping sauces, tempura batter, veggies, and oil arrived safely and soundly at our table.
Speaking of cooperation and harmony, what I can tell you about fondue is that it is a time that is ripe for learning and laughing. And those two things make me amorous every time. We’re given some good instructions for cooking the different meats and went at it, making a mess and a lot of fun as we went. At one point, I dipped a piece of broccoli in tempura batter and deep-fried it to a crisp and professed my love to it. Sumptuous. The shrimp, steak, chicken, and pork that we’d chosen was no match for our full stomachs, so I cooked up the remaining raw meat and got a to-go box for the rest of it. Not as lovey-dovey, but very practical. Which can be romantic too, you know.
Ending our meal with a chocolate-caramel “turtle flambé” dessert fondue was something that neither of us will regret. It was impressive in presentation (FIRE!) and we made room in our dessert compartments for the pieces of pound cake, bananas, crisped rice bars, brownies, and other sweets that were dipped into the delectable chocolate. If I’d had a deep-fried tempura-battered piece of broccoli left over to try, I’m sure I would have dunked it right in. Since I place high value on interaction, cooperation, laughter, and talking (as well as I love to make and eat food), The Melting Pot definitely gets my nod for a “romantic dining” establishment, and I can’t wait to try it with someone I’m actually dating. But my friend gets major props as being highly dateable, and I’m sure his boyfriend agrees.
Whatever your plans, wherever you go, whoever you’re with, make every day a chance for romance. With to-go boxes.
With love and thanks,