There’s nothing complicated about a cheese fondue – it’s essentially a combination of melted cheese and wine poured into a pot before serving at the table. Such is its simplicity that it can be enjoyed at home although we strongly suggest enjoying the Melting Pot fondue experience, partly due to the premium ingredients used and partly because it’s Melting Pot, people!
But in its simplicity also lies its versatility. Cheese fondue lends itself so well to a wide range of dippers that there will likely be one that will satisfy your own unique tastes. Better yet, you and your fellow diners at the table can each choose different dippers for dipping into a single pot – and that, right there, is proof that dining out is also about your clan, your community, or your tribe, whatever you call your circle of family and friends.
A cheese fondue can also be a savory meal or a sweet dessert depending on your choice of dippers. Here then are a few choices that you may want to consider.
Breads Are Traditional Choices
Breads with their spongy absorbent quality are still the most popular dipper for a cheese fondue. While the Swiss usually use mi-blanc, a bread with a sturdy crust, the Americans are more innovative in their choice of bread for dipping. Often, it’s a matter of personal preferences as one person prefers croutons while another likes bagels.
Most types of bread can be used as dippers, such as bread sticks, croutons, French bread, baguette, sourdough, multigrain bread, bagels, pumpernickel, and rye. Many people even like to dip whatever bread is on hand or whatever takes their fancy, if it’s on the menu.
Keep in mind that the bread will be dipped into the cheese so a little preparation can go a long way. Ask the staff about the bread being lightly toasted before it was cut into cubes and served at your table.
Go Crazy on the Dippers
While bread is a delicious dipper for a cheese fondue, it isn’t the only choice. You can use just about any type of food that can survive dipping – or dunking, as the kids call it –into a pot of melted cheese and wine without disintegrating into the gooey goodness.
A few ideas include:
- Pretzels, tortilla chips, and dried fruits like figs and apricots, even candied walnuts if you like layering nutty and cheesy into a single bite
- Vegetables that are served raw or that have been blanched, steamed, and roasted. These include just about every vegetable possible like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, artichoke hearts, radishes, pearl onions, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, and summer squash. Even mushrooms like shiitake, crimi, and oyster as well as portobellos are great dippers.
- Steamed sweet potatoes and baby potatoes, such as fingerling and Yukon Gold, are excellent for a cheese fondue-base meal. Just be careful about eating too much as you don’t want carbs overload.
- Fresh fruits including grapes, pineapple, pears, and cherry tomatoes also go well with cheese. Think of it as enjoying your wine (grapes) and cheese albeit in a different form.
- Cooked meats like ham, steak and chicken should be cubed first before serving. Avoid overcooking the meats as these should still hold their structure enough to slide down the fork and down into the melted cheese.
- Cured meats like meatballs, sausage, and salami can also be dipped into the cheese fondue, a contrast of tastes that appeal to the more adventurous diner.
- Seafood like lobster and shrimp should be lightly steamed before serving as dippers. The cheese may have been melted over fore but it will not cook the seafood in a satisfactory manner.
- Pickled cucumber and pearl onions dipped into cheese may sound weird but it works. Just make sure to pat dry with a paper towel the pickles before dipping into the cheese fondue.
The quality of the cheese fondue from its blend of cheeses to its preparation will also affect the type of dippers that will go best with it. The likes of the Melting Pot usually uses two or more types of cheeses and wine in their fondues so that diners will enjoy different flavors and textures. The cheeses may be of Swiss, Italian and French as well as American origin – indeed, a veritable lesson in cheese history and manufacture, if you’re interested in it.
The cheese and wine are enough to give the cheese fondue its complex yet comforting flavor. But many restaurants also add herbs, spices and garlic to enhance the flavors, which may or may not be to your liking. You may prefer the simpler flavors of just the cheese and wine on days when you’re feeling lazy then switch to the fancier combos when you’re feeling sophisticated.
Whatever your choice, you have to remember that cheese fondue isn’t about being a snob, no matter how well-versed you may be in its Swiss, Italian, or French traditions. It’s about being with your family and friends in a Melting Pot restaurant and enjoying life in the here and now.