by Alicia Lieu
Fondue is one of those dishes that bring you closer to your dinner companions. Not only is there warmth emanating from the candle burning beneath the pot of melted chocolate or cheese, but as a communal meal, fondue magnifies the chemistry between people, whether friends or lovers, acquaintances or family.
One of the most creative and memorable fondue experiences I had was at Max Brenner (Chocolate by the Bald Man). The fondue was gently warmed by a tea light candle and accompanied by a blue flame in a tiny black stove for toasting marshmallows. That experience would make the weariest of New Yorkers light up instantly.
I recently went for tea at Tache, a chocolatier on the Lower East Side. Anyone who passed by the window stopped when the trays of goodies caught their eye. The triple tier of sweets and savories were accompanied by a medium sized ramekin of melted chocolate, 58% cacao, in fact. It was more than enough sustenance to keep us nibbling and chatting for a couple of hours. In a harried place like New York, intimate times with friends are precious. Life is too short to eat mediocre food and keep lukewarm acquaintances.
Coming up on Singles Awareness Day, I am thankful for the blessings of trusted friends and supportive family to help me through what is commonly referred to as “chasing the dream” by most transplants that move to New York. Someday I might find someone that I’d go out of my way to spend time with and would want to keep around forever.
Recipes from Lea Ringler of Cookin’ With Whatcha Got
This year marks 10 years that my husband and I have been together. For our first Valentine’s Day in 2006, he was living in Santa Monica, CA, and I was in Pasadena, which is about 25 miles apart across busy freeways. Instead of making a reservation at a restaurant, he invited me over for dinner at his apartment because he knew that restaurants are always booked, crowded, and more expensive on V-Day than any other day.
When I showed up to his place (which, by the way, took over an hour because of Valentine’s Day traffic – the other reason why we choose to stay in), he had a makeshift table for two set up in his room (he had two other roommates at the time), with candles, cheese fondue, bread, and wine. Let’s just say I was impressed and decided to keep him forever.
And so our first tradition was born – we’ve shared fondue for two every Valentine’s Day for the past nine years, and this year will be no different. He makes the fondue and I make dessert. Since having a child, this makes life much easier too – we just wait to eat until after our son is in bed. No need for a babysitter!
Here are two of our favorite V-Day recipes:
Leek & Gruyere Fondue 1 cup finely chopped leeks (be sure to clean all the sand out from each layer) 2T butter 2T flour 1 cup beer 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese black ground pepper to taste In a small pot or a fondue pot, melt butter, and add leeks. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until leeks are transparent but not browned. Sprinkle in flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add beer and stir until thickened. Add cheese and continue to stir until completely melted. Top with cracked black pepper. Possible dippers: crusty French bread, parboiled broccoli or cauliflower florets, sliced bratwurst, boiled fingerling potatoes, sliced green apples.
Chocolate Chip Kahlua Cupcakes (makes about 16 cupcakes) 1 cup flour 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1 cup sugar (or Splenda) 1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek style yogurt) 3/4 cup egg substitute (or 3 large eggs) 1/2 cup applesauce 3 T Kahlua liqueur 3/4 cup chocolate chips Icing: 1.5 cups powdered sugar 4 T Kahlua liqueur
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a medium-large mixing bowl to get out any lumps. Add salt and sugar. Then add in all the wet ingredients: yogurt, eggs, applesauce, and Kahlua. Stir until well-blended. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill the paper liners with the batter 3/4 full. It should fill about 16 liners. Bake 30-34 minutes or until you can stick a toothpick in and it comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely – at least 30-45 minutes. Mix the powdered sugar with the Kahlua to make the icing in a small bowl. Hold the cooled cupcake by the liner and dip the top into the icing. Let them set on a wire rack.