Like most normal people, I love fondue. I especially love cheese fondue and chocolate fondue – which is interesting because I don’t normally LOVE cheese or chocolate (I know – I’m strange). But both cheese and chocolate fondue are the best possibly forms of themselves – I love delicious, hot, melty cheese and the same goes for lovely, flavorful, melted chocolate. Chocolate fountains were all the rage for a while but they tend to be messy. Restaurants like The Melting Pot are usually pretty popular, despite the high price tag (every time the local one runs a Groupon deal they sell out almost immediately!). So whether you think fondues are stuck in the 70s or are a reemerging trend, or somewhere in between, why not try fondue at your next dinner party? Here are a few suggestions to make sure your fondue doesn’t turn into a fon-don’t (eye roll!).
To start, I recommend only doing either cheese fondue or chocolate fondue. You can certainly have an entire fondue meal and cook meat and vegetables in a broth (which is the main course at fondue restaurants like The Melting Pot). I might try this with just my husband and I, but I’m not about to try that with other guests. You never want people eating undercooked meats and getting sick, so I think I might leave that up to the professionals.
I think that fondue works best with either a small group gathered around at the same time, or as a self-sufficient item away from the main buffet (where people gather around). Are you sensing a trend here? Fondue is great for gathering! Anytime I’ve served fondue it’s been a great conversation starter.
Cheese fondue is the more finicky option, in my experience. Chocolate (depending on the recipe and how you serve it) can last longer.
When I serve cheese fondue, it’s almost always as an appetizer and for a smaller group. This is partially because my fondue pot is on the small size – it’s perfect for about 4-6 people if that’s all I’m serving. My pot looks like this one:
It’s older than I am and it was passed on to me by a family friend. However, it still works well. It is designed to work with sterno but I find that sterno is just too strong and burns the cheese. I use a votive candle instead. This strategy will not work if you are hoping to have your fondue casually consumed over an extended period of time. The cheese will probably start to look less than pretty if it’s left alone for too long, but I’ve found that if I put it immediately in the pot and light the candle and we start eating, usually the fondue is gone before it starts to look yucky.
For chocolate fondue, I like to use my crockpot. There are also some great cheese fondue recipes for crockpots and slow cookers, but I tend to prefer to bring out my old fondue set just for funsies. But I usually serve chocolate fondue for larger parties and I want it to stay warm and gooey for hours, so a crockpot is perfect. Just make sure you find a recipe that is designed to cook in the crockpot.
I often see “gift sets” of personal fondue sets that you light with a tealight – I have one of those but I’m not a fan. It’s definitely meant for just 1-2 people so it’s not ideal for entertaining. I’ve found that the ceramic doesn’t heat evenly and if you don’t “scrape the bowl” the chocolate is near impossible to get out once it hardens.
For cheese fondue, I keep it simple: bread, cut up and cubes, and usually baby carrots or raw broccoli florets (there’s just something yummy about cheese and broccoli, right?). For chocolate, you can get a lot more creative. Marshmallows are a traditional standby, I like to use them to supplement other options. Cookies are great, so is cut up fruit or strawberries. The last time I made chocolate fondue for a party, I had about a third of my mother’s delicious red velvet cake that no one was eating (not that it wasn’t delicious – it was Christmas and there were just far too many treats around) so I cut that up into bite size pieces and it went immediately.
For both cheese and chocolate fondue, make sure you have some sort of skewers. My old fondue set has metal ones, I use bamboo ones for chocolate. Have plenty of napkins and cocktail plates around – fondue is messy!
I’ll close with sharing my two favorite fondue recipes. I’ve tinkered with them to a place where I love them, but feel free to make them your own:
Beer Cheese Fondue (serves about 4-6)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2/3 cup of beer
- 1/3 cup milk
- 6 ounces grated white cheddar cheese
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and stir for 1-2 minutes until golden and bubbly. Add in beer and milk and stir to combine. Obviously you’ll need to make sure someone drinks the rest of the beer! Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese, stir until melted. You can keep it on the stove on VERY low heat until you are ready to transfer it into your fondue pot.
Amaretto Chocolate Fondue (serves 12-15)
- 14 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 10 oz white chocolate chips
- 2 cups marshmallow fluff
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 – 2 tablespoons of almond extract (or amaretto)
Combine everything into the crockpot and set on low heat for at least 90 minutes before you plan to serve it. The almond extract or amaretto has a strong flavor so if you aren’t sure if you will love it, err on the side of caution – you can always add more. If you think it is to thick, add more whipping cream. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips because that’s what I almost always have on hand – most recipes call for regular chocolate, but the strong flavor of the semi-sweet is cut by the white chocolate and the amaretto so it works for me. Feel free to experiment!
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