Fondue seems to be everywhere at the moment. The darling of the 1970s dinner party scene is trendy once again. A divine photo of fondue, thick cheese decadently dripping down the side of a copper saucepan, was on the front cover of the June Delicious magazine, and fondue featured in last week's special cheese issue of Epicure.
Back in May, just before fondue started being appearing everywhere, we had an authentic Swiss fondue at the home of Swiss-Australian cousins of my friend Fi. Having grown up with chocolate fondue as a special dessert (is there anything more delicious than dipping soft marshmallows or strawberries into a pot of bubbling melted chocolate), it was a great treat to sample a proper cheese fondue. Evi and Laurent were bemused to hear about chocolate fondue, never having come across it before. Their cheese version, however, was a more than adequate compensation. Made from a blend of melted gruyere and emmenthal cheese, cornflour, kirsch and garlic, the aroma from the two fondue pots at each end of the table was enticing. Evi had huge baskets of sourdough bread chunks, sturdy enough to stand up to the strong cheese, which she passed around the table. Laurent also had small bowls filled with kirsch; for those who liked an extra kick, the bread was first dipped into the kirsch and then into the fondue.
While the thought of so much melted cheese might sound overwhelming, its richness is cut by the kirsch and garlic, leaving a pleasant aftertaste. Fondue is basically an elaborate meal of bread and cheese but lifted to another level, and the communal pots (it's an unwritten rule of etiquette that you never double-dip) gives the table a convivial atmosphere that encourages a more open conversation between everyone, rather than restricting it to your near neighbours. The warmth of the dish conjures up images of cold, snowy nights in Switzerland, where a bowl of bubbling fondue would warm you inside and out.
Adam and I were given a fondue set for our engagement a few years ago but have yet to use it. Armed with Evi and Laurent's recipe, though (there's no exact measurements, as it really depends on how many you're making the fondue for), and with memories of a good night out, we're keen to host our own fondue night this winter. Chocolate fondue may never get a look in again!