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Fondue Feeding Frenzy

August 30, 2012

I know I’ve previously written about The Melting Pot before (see The Melting Pot), but that was only in terms of their chocolate fondue.  However, The Melting Pot is more than just a dessert location, and it’s beyond just being a place to get chocolate fondue.  The Melting Pot is a total interactive dining experience all its own.  It’s certainly one of the most unique, and fun, ways to enjoy a night out.

If you’ve never traveled to Switzerland or France and experienced a real fondue, then you must get yourself to The Melting Pot to experience what this is all about.  Mind you, this is not a quick in-and-out type of restaurant.  If you go out for fondue, be prepared to indulge, or over indulge, in a dining experience that will last you a good 1.5 to 2 hours, if not more.  It’s all about savoring the fun, interactive, unique cooking methods and appreciating the food, drink and atmosphere.  If you’re not prepared to spend 2 hours at dinner, then fondue is not for you.  But if you want to be entertained while eating great food, then this place is a must.  As their motto states, “dip into something new”!

The Melting Pot began over 35 years ago in 1975 with a small location just outside of Orlando, Florida.  At the time, one of the waiters working his way through college noticed the popularity of the restaurant and convinced his brothers to join with him in scraping together enough money to open up a second location in Tallahassee, Florida in 1979.  That location was so successful that in 1981, they opened a second location of their franchise in Tampa, Florida.  In 1985 these brothers purchased the rights to The Melting Pot from the originals owners, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Today, The Melting Pot has over 140 locations in North America including restaurants in Canada and Mexico.

When you arrive at The Melting Pot and are taken to your table, you’ll see in the middle of your table a burner with a fondue pot on top of it.  Each place setting will have a napkin wrapped around 2 fondue forks with colored handles as well as a knife and 2 forks.  You’ll notice that each person’s colored handle on their fondue fork is different and no 2 people at the same table will have the same colored handles.  This ensures that when you dip your fondue fork into the fondue pot, especially for the entrée, you’ll never be confused by what is yours vs what belongs to anyone else at the table that you are dining with.  Your fondue pot is almost like a double boiler.  There is a pot filled with water, and onto of that pot is a bowl that rests just above the water level.  As soon as the waitress/waiter turns on the burner at the table, the water inside the pot will start to heat up and eventually boil.  The steam will escape at the seam that exists between where the bowl sits inside the pot.  At the same time the steam will heat up the bowl.  You’ll see the pot start to steam which signals that it’s ready.  When you order a cheese fondue, the cheese will go into the bowl, which by now is hot.  The cheese will melt and you’ll be ready to eat your cheese fondue.

Speaking of cheese fondue, this is the first of many choices you’ll have throughout the night as to how you want your dining experience to be.  At The Melting Pot, the cheese is considered the first course.  There are 6 different cheese fondues for guests to choose from covering the entire spectrum of cheeses.  There’s a Wisconsin Trio that features fontina, butterkase, and buttermilk blue cheese with white wine, scallions and a hint of sherry.  Or there’s the fiesta cheese fondue that features aged cheddar with lager beer, jalapeno peppers and salsa which they can make as spicy as you want and is served with tortilla chips.  If you don’t like that you can go with the traditional Swiss fondue which is Gruyère and emmenthaler Swiss cheese combined with white wine, garlic, nutmeg, lemon and Kirschwasser.  Or how about a classic combination of spinach, artichoke and cheese which combines fontina and butterkase with spinach, artichoke hearts and garlic.  But my favorite is the cheddar cheese fondue.  This fondue features aged medium-sharp cheddar and emmenthaler Swiss cheese blended with lager bear, garlic and seasonings.  Each cheese fondue comes with dippers, which include a basket of various white and wheat breads, a bowl of veggies which include cauliflower, broccoli and baby carrots, and finally a bowl of tart granny smith apples.

When you order the cheese fondue, the server comes to your table with all the ingredients and then makes the cheese fondue for you in the fondue pot at your table.  Every time my husband and I go, we order the cheddar cheese fondue, though I make a substitution and ask for the cheese fondue to be made with broth rather than the lager beer since I don’t like the bitter taste of it.  The server brings over a large tray filled with all the ingredients to make the cheese fondue.  First the broth gets poured into the pot, followed by a heaping bowl of shredded cheddar and emmenthaler Swiss cheese.  That is all swirled together until the cheese has melted.  A dash of Worcestershire sauce is added and some fresh cracked black pepper.  Some more cheese is added and everything is “cooked” together!

The idea is to take whatever dipper you choose, stick your fondue fork on the dipper and then just dunk it right into your pot of melted, delicious cheese.  Make sure to coat the dipper in as much cheese as you can get.  The combination of these dippers and the cheese fondue is incredible.  It’s stringy, melty, yummy cheesy goodness!

When the cheese course is done, it’s time to move on!  The pot of the melted cheese is cleared from your table and you await the next course.  You can either order a salad and skip the entrée, or you can order an entrée, which automatically comes with a salad.  The Melting Pot has a selection of different salads to choose from.  When we go to eat there, I generally like to order the Spinach Mushroom salads.  But, if you know me, you know I don’t like mushrooms so my salad actually becomes a spinach salad.  The salad comes with fresh spinach, baby Portobello mushrooms (if you want it), red onion, chopped bacon and Roma tomatoes with a warm Burgandy Shallot vinaigrette that comes on the salad.  I love the combination of the spinach and the red onion and diced tomatoes and bacon and the burgandy shallot warm vinaigrette combined with all those ingredients is just wonderful.  Tangy, tasty, and crunchy.

My husband always chooses the caesar salad.  The salad includes crisp romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, shredded Parmesan and seasoned croutons finished with Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts.  My husband always gets the Caesar salad because he absolutely loves the Parmesan-encrusted pine nuts.  It’s a little crunchy and a little salty and all cheese.

When the salads are done, it’s time for the entrée!  There’s numerous entrees that you can choose from that include all sorts of protein items.  Essentially, at The Melting Pot, when it’s time for the entrée, there are 4 different aspects that come together to make the entrée.  There is the cooking style, the dipping sauces, the vegetables and the meats.  There are so many choices, it’s sometimes hard to know where to start!

For the meat selection, there are a variety of combinations of meats and seafood.  I like to order the Land & Sea.  This entrée comes with premium filet mignon, all-natural breast of chicken and succulent white shrimp.  I always get fooled by their entrees, because when they come to your table, it doesn’t really look like that much, but this turns out to be more than enough food.  I like this particular entrée because it has a mix of meat and seafood.  They used to have a Signature Selection entrée that included all of the above along with cedar plank salmon, which was terrific.  Unfortunately, they don’t offer that selection anymore.

My husband almost always gets the French Quarter.  The French Quarter comes with premium filet mignon, all-natural breast of chicken and succulent white shrimp all seasoned with Cajun spices and accompanied by flavorful Andouille sausage.  It’s the Andouille that does it for my husband as he can’t resist it.  He also like that the meats and seafood in this entrée are all coated in the spicy Cajun spices which give the proteins that extra kick!

When it comes to cooking styles, there’s several to choose from.  The idea with an entrée fondue is that you basically have a pot of flavored broth or oil, you take your fondue fork, stab your protein and then put your fork into the fondue pot.  Let your fondue fork rest in the pot for a few minutes until the protein is cooked and then take your protein out, use the dipping sauces to enhance the flavor of your protein and it’s ready to eat.  Though there are various cooking styles to choose from, the cooking style we enjoy the most is Mojo.  Mojo is a Caribbean-inspired bouillon featuring fresh-garlic and citrus flavors.  Out to the table, the waiter will bring a pot full of the bouillon and let it sit for a few minutes until it starts steaming and boiling.  When the pot is ready, the waiter will then add fresh-squeezed lemon and orange juice to the bouillon along with fresh garlic and cilantro.  You can smell the citrus and cilantro and the fragrance is wonderful.  The great thing about this cooking style is that the protein and the vegetables you put into the fondue pot really do start to take on the flavors of the bouillon and it’s fantastic!

Along with the entrée plate, every table is also given a bowl of veggies that they can cook in their pot.  The veggies include broccoli, mushrooms and quarted red potatoes.  All you have to do is drop the veggies into your pot and wait a few minutes for them to cook and soak up all the wonderful flavors that are in the pot – the citrus, the cilantro, the garlic, etc.  Along with your fondue fork, you’re also provided with a slotted metal spoon which is referred to your search and rescue spoon.  When you’re ready for the veggies and they have finished cooking, you take your spoon, search out the vegetables and rescue them from your fondue pot.

Lastly, you’re given a wide variety of dipping sauces that are meant to accompany and complement your entrée.  Each of the dipping sauces pairs nicely with different meats and vegetables.  The angry cocktail sauce is fantastic for the seafood, especially if you like horseradish as it’s about 50% horseradish and it’s strong; which is why it’s angry!  There is also a terriyaki sauce and a plum sauce as well as a mustard curry sauce.  My husband’s favorite is the gorgonzola port sauce which he uses to dip everything into.  And finally, there’s the green goddess which I think is great for vegetables.  The green goddess is made from a combination of cream cheese, parsley, chives, diced onions, milk and sour cream.

Don’t eat too much during the entrée though.  It would be a disappointment to leave The Melting Pot without having some chocolate fondue for dessert.  A personal favorite of my husband and mine is the bananas foster fondue.  To your table, the waiter will bring out a pot of white chocolate with fresh banana slices and some sort of caramel swirl.  To the pot, they will pour in flaming rum to flambe the sauce and finally a sprinkle of cinnamon creates sparks and you’ve got your bananas foster fondue!  It smells warm and heavenly and tastes even better!

Accompanying your dessert fondue is a plate of dippers that includes red velvet cupcake chunks, fresh strawberries and bananas, a small slice of cheesecake, graham cracker and oreo cookie crusted giant marshmallows, brownie bits and rice krispie treats.  This dessert is decadent and rich and sinful, but oh-so-good.

The Melting Pot is an experience that everyone must try once.  It’s a great date night restaurant or a fun night out with a group of friends.  The cooking experience is half the fun of the restaurant, and the sinful food makes up for everything else.  My husband and I love The Melting Pot and always look forward to our visits.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    August 31, 2012 9:43 am

    I love the salmon – it’s SOOOO good! It’s terrific withthe curry sauce and I think the plum. Also, I’ve tried the cheddar cheese, the fiesta cheese, and the traditional swiss fondues and they are all terrific, although I think if I had to pick a favorite I would go with the fiesta – they let you add as many jalapenos as you wish which for me is a lot!! I tell people it is a fun date place, but don’t go on a first date or if you don’t know the person well or you might be stuck for hours with nothing to talk about. It is really fun – thanks for introducing us to it.

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