Posts Tagged With: Fondue

101/365: National Cheese Fondue Day

I’ll spear you the suspense and get right to the point: April 11th is National Cheese Fondue Day!

Fondue originated in Switzerland as a method of using up hard cheese. One can only have so many paperweights, you know? It comes from the French word fondre, which means “to melt.” OK, logical enough. It was a traditional peasant dish, made with white wine and served in a communal pot; stale bread is most often used for dipping. Stale bread and old, hard cheese, eh? Those Swiss really knew hot to stretch leftovers. Fondue really took off in the 1950s when Konrad Egli introduced it at his Chalet Suisse restaurant in New York. We’ve discussed him before; he’s the dude who invented chocolate fondue as a promotion for Toblerone. Before long, every bell-bottom and polyester-clad cook in the 1970s was serving fondue; it’s as much a symbol of that decade as disco, Watergate, and Farrah Fawcett. It remains popular in Switzerland, too, where it is a symbol of Swiss unity; the Swiss Cheese Union promotes it aggressively with marketing campaigns featuring slogans like Fondue isch guet und git e gueti Luune – “fondue is good and creates a good mood.”

I happen to agree. Fondue IS good and it DOES create a good mood. Tara and I met for lunch at Gustav’s, a German restaurant down the street, midway between where we both work. It doesn’t get more convenient than that. This is the second food holiday we have celebrated here; we also had the fondue for National Cheese Lover’s Day. What can I say? Their fondue is really good! And I’m thinking Tara and I need to break down and buy our own fondue set already. Hey…maybe we’ll get one as a wedding gift!

When the check arrived, I asked our waiter if he knew it was National Cheese Fondue Day, and he had no idea. Then he said, “The cheese fondue is our most popular dish…this would be a great marketing idea!”

Yeah. No kidding. It still amazes me how rarely people in the food business realize when there’s a food holiday celebrating a dish they are known for. Talk about a lot of missed marketing opportunities. Maybe I should consider becoming a food consultant or something…

Cheese Fondue

Categories: Dairy | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

36/365: National Chocolate Fondue Day

Anybody longing for the 1970s should get a kick out of today’s food holiday: February 5 is National Chocolate Fondue Day!

Fondue pots (along with disco, polyester, and Bert Reynolds movies) might be synonymous with the 70s, but fondue has been around for a lot longer. The Swiss have a lot of cheese, you know, and needed a way to use it up once it became hard, so they figured they could melt it down and dip things in it. Surprisingly, even though Switzerland is just as well known for its chocolates as for cheese, it was a restaurant in New York City called Suisse Chalet that actually created chocolate fondue. Chef/Owner Konni Egli was looking for inventive new dishes to promote his restaurant in 1966, and turned to the Swiss National Tourist Office, conveniently located a block away. They were looking to promote a new chocolate bar called Toblerone whose oddly-shaped triangular pieces were meant to be eaten individually, each one resembling the Matterhorn (the mountain in Switzerland, not the theme park ride in Disneyland). Konni hit upon the idea of melting down the chocolate and creating a new type of fondue, one that was sweet instead of savory.

Incidentally, Toblerone chocolates were at the heart of a Swedish political scandal in 1995 when Mona Sahlin, a candidate for Prime Minister, used taxpayer money to purchase two Toblerone bars. She ended up dropping out of the race. Which begs the question: if the chocolate is known for its distinctive shape and tastes so good you’d risk your political career for a bite, why were the chefs at the Swiss Chalet trying to melt it down in the first place? But they were, and they did, and the rest is chocolate fondue history.Chocolate Fondue ingredients

When we were discussing what to dip in our chocolate fondue, I suggested apples. Tara thought that was an odd choice, but it turns out apples and other fruit (strawberries and bananas) are popular accompaniments, as are marshmallows, pretzels, and graham crackers.

I decided, in the interest of authenticity, to make Konni Egli’s original chocolate fondue recipe, using Toblerone, heavy cream, and a splash of brandy. We don’t own a fondue pot, which is a bit shocking considering our (ok, MY) penchant for anything retro. But I set up a poor man’s double boiler (a small pot inside a big pot), melted the chocolate, added the cream, and – voila! We had a chocolate fondue dish that would make ol’ Mr. Egli proud.

By the way, the Toblerone chocolate bar itself? Out of this world! I balked at the $2.69 price tag, but man, that’s some seriously good chocolate. And the little chocolate triangles really do look like the Matterhorn. Groovy.

Dig the fancy plating, yo.

Dig the fancy plating, yo.

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Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

20/365: National Cheese Lover’s Day*

January 20th is a trifecta of food holidays: buttercrunch, granola bars, and cheese are all celebrated. With so many sweets being honored this week (and, well, always), we didn’t want to tackle buttercrunch. For the record, it’s a toffee-like candy similar to Almond Roca or peanut brittle. Shout out to buttercrunch! And unwrapping a granola bar seemed too easy. I eat granola bars at least once a week for breakfast. Cheers to the granola bar, but today is not your day to shine. Since Tara and I are both cheese lovers, we’re celebrating in the cheesiest way imaginable.

Fondue.

But more on that in a sec…

Cheese dates back to prerecorded history, and was discovered by accident. Ancient folk seldom got together for Tupperware parties, so they used animal skins and internal organs to store their food. It is believed that an Arab trader stored milk in an animal’s stomach. The rennet from the stomach turned the milk to curds and whey. No, the trader’s name was not Little Miss Muffet. Hieroglyphics in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2000 B.C. depict cheese making, and Homer describes the Cyclops as being a skilled cheese artisan in his epic Odyssey (“We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks were loaded with cheeses…”). When even a one-eyed mythological giant digs cheese, you know its popularity is going to explode, and sure enough cheese became a staple throughout Europe and the Middle East. Not so much in Asia, which is why you never see cheese on Chinese menus, but they’ve perfected moo goo gai pan so it’s all a wash anyway.

Cheese is often condemned as being unhealthy and leading to heart disease, but some of the countries best-known for cheesy diets – Greece and France – have low incidences of cardiovascular disease, so the jury is out on that one. It’s okay to love cheese! (Except for Velveeta and Cheez Wiz. Neither one of which is real cheese anyway).

There were dozens of ways we could have celebrated this holiday – mac ‘n cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese omelets, tacos – and hundreds of varieties to choose from (cheddar, muenster, jack, parmesan, string). Narrowing our options down was tough, but we decided to leave the cooking to Gustav’s, a German restaurant known for their cheese fondue. Theirs is made with swiss, and is amazing. Holes and all.

Cheese Fondue

Hot, bubbly, cheesy goodness.

Categories: Dairy | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

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