Do You Fondue?

I have always maintained that great things happen over dinner, and a cooking class with my dear friend, Jamie, just proved my theory.  A couple of weeks ago I booked a night out at Mia Cucina, a culinary store in the North Shore district of Chattanooga.  I have heard great things about the classes offered and finally had the time to slip away and enjoy one!  Even the most talented of chefs learn new things, so I knew this stay-at-home mom would definitely benefit.

The topic of the evening was fondue parties; such a retro affair for sure, but one that is becoming increasing popular again thanks to restaurants like “The Melting Pot”.

Our instructor for the evening, Amanda Varnell, was full of energy and had a lot of fun sharing recipes and conversation as we lingered over our meal.

lin·ger

  [ling-ger] 

verb (used without object)


to remain or stay on in a place longer than is usual orexpected, as if              from reluctance to leave
to dwell in contemplation, thought, or enjoyment
to be tardy in action; delay; dawdle


That summed up our evening.  It was one I could’ve enjoyed for another couple of hours, as Jamie and I happily mingled with total strangers over a glass of wine and dinner.

When planning a fondue, the big decision is to decide what you want: just an appetizer course, a main course, or dessert course.

Of course the option to do all three is my favorite!

I will be honest with you, hosting a fondue takes a lot of preparation.  Everything needs to be sliced, diced, shredded, and arranged before you sit down to enjoy an evening over food.

Jamie and I chopping up fresh ingredients for the fondue

You can save a little time by prepping the cheese and bouillon in on your stove top and transfer them to the fondue pots.
Amanda whisking up our cooking bouillon 

The most traditional fondue is a cheese fondue.  I love dipping fresh french bread, apples, and raw veggies in hot, drippy Jarlsberg and Gruyere cheeses flavored with garlic and wine.

traditional cheese fondue

Using the freshest of ingredients really increases the flavor and enjoyment of the meal.

Our second course was the meat courses.  We had so many delightful flavors to taste: shrimp, scallops, tilapia, New York strip, chicken breast, tenderloin, and pork loin.  I recommend that you make sure no one has seafood allergies before choosing to serve it at your table.  You might want to consider using two pots for your fondue, or eliminate the seafood.

Cooking fresh vegetables with your meat is really delicious.  We used potatoes (lightly boiled), mushrooms, and broccoli with our main course.
We used a “bouillon” based broth flavored with garlic, an assortment of fresh herbs, white wine, and lemon grass paste (a new one to me) for cooking.

Making a dipping sauce or two is a great way to accent the flavors of the meat if you desire.  We had a delicious green goddess dip that really set off the vegetables, a spicy cocktail sauce for the seafood, and a teriyaki sauce for the chicken, beef or pork.  These are definitely optional, but I recommend using at least one.

beginning of dessert

The dessert course was my definite favorite of the evening.  Honestly, who wouldn’t like a silky carmel and chocolate fondue to smother your fresh strawberries, marshmallows, rice crispy treats, or pound cake?

And since dessert is most everyone’s favorite course anyway, I thought that I would share the recipe for our scrumptious chocolate fondue we enjoyed.

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli is highly recommend)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup prepared caramel

Place all ingredients in a fondue, heavy bottomed pot or double boiler over low heat.  Stir consistently until the mixture is melted and smooth.  DO NOT ALLOW TO BUBBLE.  Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods around fondue pot.

If you would like to have more recipes, please let me know and I’ll be glad to share them! 

Conversations around food can be magical and having a fondue increases the interaction among those who are dining as well as the amount of time you are spending together.  Indeed, a fondue may be “old-fashioned” in some opinions, but I want to host my own, and soon!

What about you, do you fondue?



English Rose

Last weekend, Audley & I had the opportunity to slip away for an afternoon of some relaxing, kid-free activities.  This particular afternoon we found ourselves in downtown Chattanooga where we checked out a local antiques mall and then enjoyed a late lunch at a local tea room.
Yes, I am fully aware that this is not the most ideal afternoon for a man, but I am one lucky wife!


Chattanooga is not known for as a shopping destination, but over the last 15-20 years it has become known as being a city of revitalization.   On both sides of the Tennessee River, old warehouses and empty buildings have been restored and now lovely shops and galleries fill many of the spaces.  Other buildings have been converted into loft apartments, restaurants, a perfectly calming spa, and a gym.  Chattanooga is known for the beautiful Tennessee Aquarium, a fabulous children’s museum, and the first environmentally friendly “green” movie theater.  
Southside Antiques fills one of those old warehouses and is filled with beautiful pieces from the 18th, 19th & early 20th Century.  Oh the delights we found while shopping!
ivory handled cocktail set I purchased
  
While the antiques store is located in an updated warehouse, the English Rose tea room can be found in the lobby of the old Grand Hotel (which was converted into apartments), just across the street from the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo.
The English Rose is a unique place to visit.  While most tea rooms follow the traditions of Victorian tea, The English Rose allows you to enjoy tea in a traditional English way.  The staff and the menu all reflect this.
Lovely china tea cups and tea pots fill shelves as you enter the tea room.
We visited later in the afternoon, so the crowds from lunch were leaving as we arrived.  I just love the old “royal guard”  at the base of the old grand staircase.  
And nothing is more English than a picture of the Queen herself hanging over the fireplace.
The lace covered tables with the mismatched chairs just add to the charm of the tea room.

We started off our meal with a wonderfully fresh scone served up with lemon curd and Devon cream.  Delicious English tea with milk was the perfect accompaniment.

Audley ordered Cottage pie for his lunch which is a “casserole” type dish of ground sirloin, mixed veggies and gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked together.  He also had a large bowl of creamy leek & potato soup.

I enjoyed the Ploughman’s lunch which consisted of a yummy green salad topped with a rich “salad cream”,  a selection of British cheeses, pickled onions, crusty rolls and a small cup of leek & potato soup.

Everything was so flavorful and quite satisfying, and even though we were full, Audley and I just had to have dessert.  We shared Profiteroles which are small cream puffs topped with fresh whipped cream and drizzled with melted chocolate.

Simple and absolutely fabulous!

Audley really enjoyed his lunch at the tearoom and was quite relived to see a few other men dining as well.  The English Rose would make the ideal place for a bridal tea, bridesmaids luncheon, baby shower, or just a casual girl’s day out.  It is well worth checking out if you are ever in Chattanooga.

After such an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon, I am really looking forward to our next afternoon out!