Nothing spurs romance like melted cheese or chocolate. Gaze into your beloved’s eyes and dunk, eat, repeat at these five spots around the DMV, then use their dip tips and recipes for your own fondue experience at home.
Chef Rob Weland’s Capitol Hill local American spot does classic Swiss cheese fondue for $18 per person, served with bread cubes. (You can also upgrade your carbs to Parker House rolls or poppyseed gougères for $6 and $7, respectively, and add on other dippers like cauliflower, mushrooms or pickles for $6-$10.) When you’re making fondue at home, Weland says a heavy crockery or enamelware pot placed over a traditional gas flame is best for cheese.
On Saturday, February 25 at 7 p.m., the Umbrian restaurant and gourmet market will host an evening of fondue and raclette at their second annual Melt Party. For $35 per person, guests will experience four different stations with different preparations, including traditional Alpine fondue and Italian fonduta served with bread chunks, crudités and cured meats, and and risotto served in a wheel of grana padana and fried cheese curds, served with marinara sauce. The secret to great cheese fondue at home, says Via Umbria’s cheesemonger Alice Bergen-Phillips, is to stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t clump at the bottom.
This lively Reston restaurant where modern meets rustic serves Italian cheese fonduta with spicy chicken sausage and pickled vegetables ($11.) “We do a Mornay-style fonduta,” says chef Adam Stein. “We start with a béchamel (milk, butter and flour) and then added Queso Oaxaca, a mild white cheese similar to a firm mozzarella.” At home, Stein suggests experimenting with different types of cheeses--the béchamel base means you don’t have to worry as much about a cheese’s melting properties.
The U Street Corridor gastropub features a goat cheese fondue (naturally!) with fresno peppers and herbs, served with grilled rustic bread, radishes and shaved fennel ($12). Want the recipe for this eclectic take on the Swiss favorite? Too bad, because executive chef Nathan Beauchamp says it’s a heavily guarded secret. He does submit that Swiss and goat cheese mixed together will result in an extra gooey fondue, so feel free to experiment with your own recipe. In March, the restaurant will be introducing a raclette dinner option. For $65 per person (and available for parties up to ten), guests can gather over a three-course meal centered around this melty speciality--made with the cheese of the same name. Dinner starts with a salad of red endive, arugula, pickled red onions, and grilled fennel, followed by raclette served with shrimp skewers, pork loin skewers, finochietta and country ham, along with vegetables including potatoes, cauliflower, roasted carrots, radishes, mushrooms, cornichons, pickled vegetables and olives. The evening ends with decadent chocolate pots de crème.
The wine bar adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown tempts with savory and sweet options for fondue, perfect shared between two to three friends. Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue ($19) comes with crusty bread, cornichons and cocktail onions, while Cabernet Cuvée Chocolate Fondue ($20), which incorporates ENO’s own Private Label Cabernet Blend, includes bacon, strawberries and apples; orange zest pound cake can be added for $3. For the best chocolate fondue at home, manager Hugh Lefevre cautions to avoid getting any water into the chocolate, which will make it grainy. “Liqueurs are a popular way to add flavor to chocolate fondue, but many are water based and can cause the same granularity,” he says. “Keep this in mind when choosing accompaniments, [too].” To mix things up a little, add a dash of cayenne pepper or coffee grounds. And if the chocolate is too thick after melting it, adding a tablespoon of olive oil can help.
Cheese Fondue (Recipe courtesy of Garrison, Washington, D.C.)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tsp. Kirsch (clear fruit brandy made from Morello cherries)
- 2 cups grated Emmental cheese
- 2 cups grated gruyère cheese
Accoutrements: Cubes of bread, apple and slices, par-cooked potato chunks, raw vegetables, etc.
Stir cornstarch and Kirsch together in a bowl. Cut garlic clove in half, rub fondue pot with cut side and discard clove. Add wine to fondue pot and bring to a simmer. Add grated cheese to fondue pot in half cup batches, stirring until melted. Add cornstarch and Kirsch mixture to pot and simmer until thickened. Transfer fondue pot to burner and serve with accoutrements.
Cheese Fondue (Recipe courtesy of Via Umbria, Washington, D.C.)
- ¾ cup shredded Guntensberg cheese
- ¾ cup shredded Comte cheese
- ¼ cup shredded Raclette cheese
- 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ garlic clove, halved
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 pinch nutmeg
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the three cheeses and toss with the flour. Rub the inside of a fondue pot with the garlic halves, and discard. Add the wine, and heat over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Stir in the lemon juice, then add a handful of cheese at a time to the wine mixture, stirring constantly and not adding more cheese until the previous has melted, is bubbling gently and has the appearance of a light creamy sauce. Season with the pepper and nutmeg. Remove the pot from the heat, and place over an alcohol safety burner on the table. Adjust the burner flame so the fondue continues to bubbly gently.
Italian Fonduta (Recipe courtesy of Red’s Table, Reston, VA)
- 1 ¼ cup shredded Oaxaca cheese
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup melted butter
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated onion
- ¼ cup white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
Accoutrements: spicy chicken sausage and pickled vegetables.
Cook the melted butter and the flour together over medium heat for around ten minutes. Add milk, cream, white wine and granulated onion, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Turn heat to lowest setting, sprinkle in shredded cheese a little at a bit, incorporating more before adding more cheese. When all the cheese is added and the mixture is smooth, turn off the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with accoutrements.
ENO’s Cabernet Cuvée Chocolate Fondue (Recipe courtesy of ENO Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.)
- 1 pound premium rich milk chocolate
- Splash of ENO’s Private Label Cabernet Blend (or another cabernet sauvignon)
- Dash of cayenne pepper, black pepper or coffee grounds (optional)
Accoutrements: strawberries, bacon, apples, pound cake
Combine chocolate, wine and optional seasoning in a double boiler over medium heat. Heat until melted, stirring constantly. Transfer to a fondue pot or bowl, and serve with accoutrements.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.