When I was a kid in the '70s, my mother, a city girl who married a meat and potatoes farmer, tried desperately to get her family to join the fondue craze. I remember her having friends over around our old farm kitchen table, elegantly dipping pieces of bread into a big pot of warm cheese and thinking it was the most disgusting supper ever.
Where were the meat and potatoes? Where were the vegetables? Where was the apple pie? C'mon people. Eventually, my father and I won our battle against fondue, and the fondue pot and silly long forks got shoved somewhere in the far reaches of the old wooden cupboards, never to be seen again.
Alas, today, I must add my aversion to fondue to the long list of things for which I need to apologize. Because here I am, about to buy my first real fondue set - an earthenware pot from Fromagination in Madison, which, by the way, thoroughly sucked me into the fondue craze with their signature fondue mix. (In fact, Fromagination is hosting a fondue lunch every Wednesday in February, with three seating times around the noon hour - call ahead for a reservation).
Turns out I REALLY like fondue. Apparently it's like a lot like wine -- until you've had a really good version, you don't realize the potential of the medium.
I first discovered exceptional fondue at Roth Kase cheese in Monroe. Roth Kase built a beautiful culinary center a couple of years ago, and I've been lucky enough to be invited to a few of their sit-down fondue lunches with groups of cheese buyers, retailers and media. Through Roth Kase, I've learned the secret to good fondue: quality Gruyere and emmenthaler cheeses, and exceptional kirsch - a clear, dry brandy.
In fact, The Melting Pot, a chain of fondue restaurants, uses Roth Kase cheeses almost exclusively for all of their fondues, but my favorite one is an Alpine-style fondue made with Grand Cru Gruyere Reserve, Grand Cru Gruyere Surchoix, MezzaLuna Fontina, Pinot Grigio and lemon juice. Serve it with artisan bread, apples, grapes and pears, as well as a little nutmeg and black and white pepper, and voila - I introduce you to heaven.
And so the tradition carries on ... I informed my daughter of our plans to host a fondue dinner with friends and her face contorted to resemble -- I'm just guessing here -- the same face mine must have looked like when I was a kid and my mother served fondue for the first time. Somewhere, my mother is smiling.