There’s cheese fondue. Then there’s Kim Martin’s cheese fondue.
On Jan. 6, Michael Maxim posted a comment on my Facebook page: “Hey Suzi Thayer, I need some fondue tips...where’s my article on that? Please and thank you.”
I told him I’d get right on it, and he replied that he looked forward to a “Fondue Fiasco” story. Then he came up with the brilliant idea of enlisting Kim Martin of Eventide Specialties in Boothbay Harbor to make the fondue.
On Feb. 20, the Fondue Fiasco happened. Besides Michael and me, Andy Bielli and Sue Mello were the other lucky recipients.
I hadn’t had cheese fondue since Todd and Lyle’s at Townsend Avenue Coffee Shop & Wine Bar. It reminded of the fondue Mum used to make after a day on the slopes. We usually had both cheese and steak fondue, and it was always a fun treat.
Mum used two cheeses in her fondue: Swiss and Gruyere. Little did I know that Gruyere is actually a type of Swiss cheese. And little did I care. It was good. And back in the late ’60s (in case anyone has forgotten how old I am) fondue was a novelty. My mother is something of a trendsetter.
Within a few years a fondue pot was in everybody’s pantry. Pantry: Ugh, I want one so bad.
As I said, having fondue, cheese or steak, was always fun as well as delicious. It was always a family gathering too. Everyone had to eat at the same time to ensure all got their fair share. And one or two lucky ones got to dig the crusty golden brown prize at the bottom of the heated pot.
I tried to make it a few times over the years, but it never blended properly. The cheese and wine simply didn’t mix to make the smooth creamy lusciousness that my mother’s always was.
Todd and Lyle’s did mix the way it was supposed to, and they gave me their recipe. Nope. I gave up and finally threw away my 40-year-old fondue pot.
Enter Kim Martin. Kim is a magician in a kitchen, and I knew her fondue would be perfect. I figured it would be the best fondue ever, too, and it was.
Cheese fondue is basically cheese and wine. Good cheese, and a good wine, according to Kim.
When we gathered in Eventide’s kitchen, there was a platter of four different hunks of cheeses. Eventide’s cheeses are from all over the world – 150 different varieties. For our fondue she had chosen one American cheese, one Italian cheese, and two Swiss cheeses: Alpha Tolman, a Swiss Raclette, a Gutenburg, and a Fontina.
Kim explained that a fondue is pretty simple, but not that simple. You don’t throw a slab of Velveeta into a fondue pot, melt it, and call it fondue. Cheese fondue is made by layering. “You want to layer the tastes, you want to taste the flavor of the cheeses, and you want the flavors of the cheese and wine to mix well.”
Next we chose a white wine. It should be the wine you want to drink with the fondue. Of course I asked Kim if I could use Two Buck Chuck. I don’t think she heard me.
She said Rieslings are fabulous in fondue. I’ve always thought Rieslings were sweet, but she explained that it’s mostly the cheap ones that are sweet. That explained it :-). Most Rieslings that grownups drink are dry.
The first step in making a cheese fondue involves a clove of garlic. Cut it in half and rub over the inside of the fondue pot. Don’t skip this part. It is a must. My mother even did this back in the 60s.
Next you throw the cheeses – around a pound (3 ½ to 4 cups) into a food processor, or a blender, to shred.
Heat a cup of the chosen wine until it’s bubbling around the edge, not boiling, then gradually stir in handfuls of cheese.
Mix a tbsp. cornstarch with 2 tbsp. Kirsch, a 45 percent alcohol content cherry brandy (yikes!), and stir that in. That’s going to help to thicken, and blend the concoction.
Grate a little nutmeg and some fresh ground pepper into the pot of creamy lusciousness. I asked Kim if I could just use the already grated nutmeg in my pantry :-). I was like, “So you’re going to actually grind some real nutmeg?” Duh.
Once the fondue was hot, but not boiling, Kim poured it into the fondue pot over the lit sterno, and cut up a fresh crunchy baguette, while Michael handed out fondue forks, and Andy, Sue and I sipped wine, made ooh and aah sounds and yukked it up.
The fondue, as you can imagine, was absolutely ridiculously heavenly, and the fiasco was a success.
I did google fondue and found a recipe on the Food Network site that calls for Swiss and Gruyere cheeses.
If the thought of deciding what cheeses to use, and going out to buy them, is overwhelming, guess what? You can get in your car and drive to Eventide. Kim will put together a fondue kit for you, including the cheeses, the clove of garlic, the bread. It will be the best fondue ever, and you can say you made it!
See ya next week.