There’s nothing sweeter than celebrating
Valentine’s Day, a day devoted to love and keeping the home fires
burning. But when it’s me in the kitchen cooking up a romantic
dinner for two, it seems that everything’s aflame - my apron,
the drapes, the roast.
So listen up fellow culinarily compromised romantics - men and women alike - because I have discovered the secret to a memorable, fun and sexy dinner: fondue for two.
Need more convincing? This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday. So if you’d rather entertain in the warmth of your home, Hugh Hefner-style in your PJs, rather than braving the cold, Fresh Direct has created several fondue-for-two packages that are ready to be delivered to your door. (Provided, that is, that you are in one of their delivery areas, which you can determine on their Web site.)
Fresh Direct chef Michael Stark, formerly of Tribeca Grill, has created four sumptuous fondue-for-two menus that considerably decrease the amount of time you spend in the kitchen and increase the amount of fun you’ll have playing with your food. (And I promise, you’ll enjoy tipping the intrepid delivery personnel less than the 15 percent you’ll fork over at a restaurant!)
Best of all, you get to take credit for the feast, without having to go to the grocery store or doing hours of food prep. (To be able to really take all the credit, remember to hide the cardboard boxes with "Fresh Direct" emblazoned on them in your closet.)
My husband and I sampled Fresh Direct’s classic cheese fondue-for-two and their meat fondue-for-two with positive results. With this promotion, Fresh Direct customers have the choice of ordering the fondues-for-two with or without the fondue pot. Despite two bridal showers and a wedding, we had remained fondue pot-less, so we merrily chose the more expensive with-pot option.
We felt that the fondues-for-two that we sampled were a great value, because they came with a Caesar salad, the fondue entree, the chocolate fondue dessert and breakfast in bed for the following day.
To begin, the fondues-for-two are as fancy or as casual as you want to make them. Use china and crystal or disposable plates.
You also provide the bottle of wine, champagne or beer that will help both of you ease out of work mode and into your evening together. The delivery comes with clear, step-by-step instructions to help you do the minimal preparation that remains to be done.
First, we cracked open the salad. The crispy Caesar salad - it is included with all of the fondues-for-two - came with little packages of Parmesan cheese, hearty croutons and dressing. All that was needed was a bowl to toss it in.
With the cheese fondue, a container full of Gruyere and Swiss cheeses, white wine and garlic is melted in the microwave and poured into the fondue pot. Cubed ham, pre-cooked fingerling and creamer potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower florets, a ripe green apple and a picture-perfect cluster of green grapes are provided for dipping with long skewers along with French bread. We enjoyed the different flavor combinations. Our only complaint was that the majority of the vegetables - potatoes and cauliflower - was noticeably monochromatic.
With the meat fondue-for-two, perfect cubes of raw filet mignon, prime rib and loin of lamb arrive in a container already garnished with greenery, so it’s easy to make an inviting display when transferred to a serving platter. (We recommend pre-seasoning them with a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper while you heat the oil for the fondue pot.)
The elaborate fondue pot set came with little dishes to serve the sauces, as well as safflower oil (to fry the meat) and Sterno to keep the oil warm in the pot.
While the meat fondue also comes with the Caesar salad, vegetables and two loaves of bread, instead of cheese, the oil is preheated on the stove and poured into the fondue pot. For novice cooks, this seemed the most potentially dangerous task, as the directions instructed me to heat the oil to 370 degrees - which can be difficult to gauge for someone who doesn’t have an appropriate thermometer - or until a piece of bread thrown into the oil browns quickly.
Because I was overcautious (two fire trucks came to my rescue the last time I heated oil), the oil seemed to take forever to warm. For those who identify with my cooking-with-oil anxiety, I say, just keep a fire extinguisher handy.
After the oil is heated on the stove and then transferred to the fondue pot, the fun begins. We were supplied five sauces to dip the cooked meat cubes: a mild, buttery pesto mayo; a nasal passage-clearing mustard black pepper; a mild Asian peanut dip; (too) sweet teriyaki glaze; and a frothy, creamy wasabi dip. We enjoyed sampling the different sauces on the meat and even on the assorted pre-cooked vegetables. (With the meat fondue, the crimini mushrooms and sunchokes promised on the label were missing.)
But there was more to come.
Rather than having to wash out the fondue pot for reuse, we poured the chocolate dipping sauce (after it was heated in the microwave) into the pre-hollowed mini chocolate boule (bread bowl).
When I was younger, I thought only a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses could set my heart aflutter. Now, I find that the sight of long-stemmed, lusciously ripe strawberries has the same effect.
Imagine dipping the gargantuan berries as well as fresh, juicy chunks of pineapple and slices of moist, weighty pound cake into quality melted chocolate.
This was our downfall. There was hardly any energy left for a goodnight smooch with chocolate-smudged lips after we greedily chowed down all of that fruit and cake. (We did summon the strength to store the leftover chocolate-filled boule in the fridge for another day.)
Yet somehow, despite the gluttony, one can still awake hungry for breakfast the next morning. The last Fresh Direct box yielded coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice from Lambeth Groves, fruit salad and four buttery croissants that were positively perfect after five minutes in the oven. It gave us the fortitude to wipe off the safflower oil splatters from the stovetop and wash the dinner dishes.
The whole experience left us wishing that Valentine’s Day would arrive more than once a year. Perhaps now that we have our fondue pot, it will.
"Fondue for Two" can be ordered - depending on where you live - from www.freshdirect.com now for delivery on Feb. 12, Feb. 13 and Feb. 14. Classic cheese fondue for two is $89.99 with fondue pot included ($59.99 without fondue pot); seafood fondue for two is $99.99 with fondue pot ($69.99 without); meat fondue for two is $129.99 with fondue pot ($99.99 without); and surf ’n’ turf fondue for two is $139.99 with fondue pot ($109.99 without).