A few months back while shopping for my daughter's elaborate Halloween costume, I found myself in several thrift stores. It was during one of these visits that something odd struck me. In each store, nestled among the crock pots and bad 1970s trivets, stood a lonely fondue pot.
It became a bit of a joke between my daughter and I to see if we really could spot one in every store and sure enough we were not disappointed. There they were, in all their glory, in various stages of neglect, some with all their little dipping forks tied up neatly with a string, others scattered about "left for dead" in their original packaging. This was puzzling to me because some of my favorite parties over the years have involved fondue and I couldn't figure out why all theses lovely pots were now, well, homeless. Until it hit me. People do not know how to throw a fondue party.
Here's what usually happens. Novice entertainer buys the pot on a flight of whimsy, thinking it will be a great evening of food, fun and kitsch! They fire it up with great gusto, serve a bunch of heavy bread and strong cheese, and then wash it all down with melted chocolate and fruit and wonder why everyone at the end of the night feels a bit ill.
Cut to: the next run to Salvation Army, and you can guess what's on the top of the heap.
Although I'm spoiled to live in sunny Southern California, I can't help but think of the rest of the country that is dealing with, ahem, "weather." Looking at all the images of towering snow drifts and blocked SUVs, I can't help but think it would be a terrific time to dust off those fondue pots and hold a fondue party, the right way.
Here are my top tips for throwing a successful fondue party...and for preventing the thrift shop "drop off."
- Do count the number of forks your fondue set comes with and that's the exact amount of people you should invite. Having guests "share" the dipping forks is not a good idea.
- Do buy enough Sternos to keep your pot going through the night. If you are serving two courses of fondue (e.g. cheese and chocolate) you will most likely need two to three Sternos for each course in order to keep the cheese and chocolate hot.
- Do most of the prep work the day before. You don't want to be cutting four kinds of fruit moments before guests arrive.
- Do designate a dipping order for the table. Clockwise or counter clockwise. That way everyone will have their turn "to dip" and you'll avoid locking forks with other guests.
- Don't assume that your guests have had fondue before. It's up to the host to explain the procession of the meal and lay a few ground rules regarding fondue etiquette.
- Do not allow guests to eat from their dipping forks. Not only are they sharp and could end up hurting someone, but eating from the dipping fork is a great way to spread unwanted germs! Make sure each guest also has a dinner fork.
- Don't invite children under six to a fondue party. You're just asking for it. Period.
- Don't rely on just chocolate and cheese. You need to serve additional items such as meat, vegetables and a salad to make this a "meal," otherwise you will have a bunch of cranky, queasy guests!
For a Beth's "Fondue Party" Menu and all her recipes, see here: