Eating is complicated

I am back from a whirlwind weekend of jetting off to the Rockies, wrestling with Kira‘s boys, attempting to snoogle a baby who is now a toddler whose favorite word is “NO!” (thankyouverymuch, now please hush up and get her some crackers), and talking Kira’s ear off.

It was lovely. Well, for ME, anyway. Kira’s husband always seems a little shell-shocked when I’m around, as it does throw off the testosterone/estrogen balance in their household pretty significantly.

As both Kira and I were long overdue for some decadence (not to mention a girl’s night out), we elected to go out for a Dinner Adventure one night, just the two of us. The only logical course of action was to go to a fondue restaurant. For one thing, where else can you justify eating your body weight in cheese? And for another, the very idea of allowing any of our children loose in a dining establishment where they encourage you to eat with little spears reduced us both to hysterical giggles. Adults-only fondue it would be!

It didn’t help that our waiter was young and adorable and unfazed by our confession that we were fondue virgins. We were supposed to be picking out cheeses and stuff, and he was assuring us that he’d started working at this restaurant six years ago, at which time we exchanged glances that meant “So, then, he started working here when he was 12…?” He was very earnest in his recommendations, though, like maybe even on his off days he wears a shirt that says FONDUE 4EVER! or something, so we mostly took his suggestions and then settled back for the most ridiculous meal I’ve ever had.

Now, don’t get me wrong—it was awesome. Totally incredible. And Kira and I are maybe a tad bit prone to laughter when together (ya think?), so it’s possible that the experience wasn’t QUITE as hilarious as we found it, but still.

I was okay on the first course; that one is—of course—cheese. And the super-exciting thing for me was that I was all prepared to just eat veggies and stuff, as I normally do, because I know that the main complement to cheese fondue is usually bread, but being gluten-free, I can’t have that. Kira noticed that the menu said “We have a gluten-free menu,” though, so when Adorable (the waiter) was discussing recommendations with us, I said, “I can’t have any gluten, so do you just bring extra veggies with the cheese?”

And Adorable, man, he practically vibrated with the excitement of what he then told me: They have gluten-free BREAD. THREE KINDS. And then I was all excited, too! (Okay, to be fair, my first response to this was, “Okay, but does the gluten-free bread suck?” because, let’s face it, a lot of gluten-free bread exists merely to make you realize you’d rather just not eat bread at all. But Adorable assured me that “a lot of people really seem to like it,” and I reasoned that IT’S GOING TO BE COVERED IN CHEESE and many things I might not eat on their own are a decent Cheese Conveyance Method, so we ordered the gluten-free bread and crossed our fingers.)

So first, Adorable returned and gave us a running commentary of what he was doing while he mixed the fondue right there on our table. Then he left us with a heaping bowlful of (three different kinds of) gluten-free bread, and smaller bowls of veggie bits and green apple slices. The cheese mixture was sublime. It would’ve tasted good on slices of cardboard, I’m pretty sure. But the breads were actually really good, and included a reasonable pumpernickel facsimile (the bread I miss the most), too, so I was probably humming with happiness as I stuffed my face.

The truth of the matter is that we probably could’ve done a pot of cheese and then a dessert pot and it would’ve been plenty of food. But we were having the TOTAL EXPERIENCE. So after I finished licking the cheese out of the bowl (Kira didn’t seem to mind), Adorable came and took away the dishes and brought us our next course, which was some sort of lettuce wrap thing that was impossible to eat.

I mean, I’m sure they tasted great. The little bits I managed to cram into my mouth were delicious. Basically, picture a giant hairball sitting on a lettuce leaf. Now imagine the hairball is actually made of wiry shreds of carrots and cucumbers. THAT was our salad course. Basically you could pick one up and try to stuff it into your mouth before the whole thing fell apart onto your plate (or—if you’re me—your lap), but it was a pretty fruitless endeavor.

No matter, though, because that was clearly meant as a palate cleanser (or maybe to enhance your dexterity?) before the Main Event. Now, being a fondue virgin, I assumed all fondue had to do with either cheese or chocolate. I mean, those are really the only foods that MATTER, anyway, am I right? But no, the main course in fondue is actually a pot of cooking liquid and then they bring you a big platter of raw meat and about fifteen little pots of different sauces to go with them.

I’m not COMPLAINING, you understand. But for what they charge for this sort of thing, I do think it’s a little weird that you have to cook your own food.

Kira and I were not to be deterred by this prospect, of course, and I only asked Adorable once how, exactly, we should make sure not to poison ourselves with undercooked meat. He laughed and gave us a few pointers, including the reminder that we should never put anything raw onto our plates. “Spear what you want over here on the platter,” he said, “and then when it’s all cooked, put it onto your plate.” Simple. Obvious. Right? Right!

We were about halfway through this course when I somehow speared a chunk of raw chicken and set it down on my plate. We then proceeded to laugh until we cried about how it’s all fun and games until someone gets salmonella.

There was a brief discussion of whether I could, in fact, dunk my entire plate into the cooking liquid to sanitize it. That seemed ill-advised. Fortunately, the plates are sort of sectioned like toddler plates, so I merely stopped using the tainted section. When I reported this indiscretion to Adorable the next time he stopped by the table, he was understandably alarmed, and wanted to get me a new plate. But by then we were almost finished, so I told him not to bother.

Finally we had to admit defeat, or at least utter fullness. We tossed the remainder of the meat into the pot and fished it out with a slotted spoon once it was cooked, and then put it into a box for Kira’s boys, who will in fact eat almost anything provided that they are first allowed to stand in front of the open fridge and say, “We don’t have any fooooooood!”

And that would’ve been plenty, really. BUT NO. There was still dessert. We chose the “Yin and Yang” chocolate, which was a mix of dark and white chocolates presented in a yin and yang symbol in the pot, which was really pretty until we ruined it by, you know, eating it.

There was some slight confusion as I realized I had somehow put ALL of my fondue forks into either cheese or meat, and Kira and I discussed the relative merits of contaminating the chocolate with one or the other, but then Adorable brought us clean forks. And then because he realized as he set down this impressive platter of fruit and pound cakes and stuff that he’d forgotten I can’t have gluten, he told us to wait just one minute and he took off for the kitchen, returning with a GIANT platter of fruit.

We were mostly full. I mean, come on, we’d had an enormous amount of food. But the chocolate was soooo gooooooood. One and then the other of us would put down the fondue spear and say, “Oh, that’s it. I can’t eat any more.” And we’d be talking and laughing and then the forks would be up in our hands again. “Oh, I can’t let that strawberry go to waste, right?” or “Hey, it’s just one lone piece of banana….”

Eventually we staggered back to Kira’s car and realized we’d been eating for something over three hours. If they’d added just one more course, we probably could’ve stayed for breakfast.

We spent the drive home marveling over the sheer quantity of food we’d consumed and taking turns assuring one another that we had TOTALLY EARNED this decadence because we’d gone to the gym earlier in the day. “I heard that half an hour on the treadmill is good for a pot of cheese!” “You know, there’s hardly any OXYGEN here in the mountains and so I’m sure my metabolism is working overtime just trying to breathe, so I NEED extra calories!” Etc.

When we got home the boys wanted to know how it was, so we told them it was okay, but they made us cook our own food. I think they thought we were kidding.

I went to sleep that night thinking about how I totally needed to repent and eat only healthy food the next day, so naturally we spent the following day at Taste of Colorado, where I consumed chocolate-covered bacon and an alarming quantity of frozen dairy confection. But no one made me cook it myself so I figured it was okay.

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31 Responses to “Eating is complicated”

  1. 1
    carmie September 7, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Aw man, I almost went to Taste of Colorado, if only to laugh at my 4 year old eating a turkey leg (“It’s as big as he is!”). Did you go to the Melting Pot? That place is yum yum.

  2. 2
    Megan September 7, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    I spent the weekend building a patio (total time: 2 hours) and thus justifying lolling on the couch the rest of the time watching cooking shows (note: Nigella? Totally puts the porn in food porn. Also Luke makes me want to go to Vietnam which, given my opinion of heat is kinda a miracle, but he has yet to convince me about eating prawns with the shell on. Sorry Luke). I’m pretty sure one decadent evening of CHEESE and other things and CHOCOLATE is trumped by three days of utter sloth!

  3. 3
    navhelowife September 7, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    I laugh, because my first experience with restaurant fondue was with a couple of my good friends as well. We have a small chocolate fondue pot for home. I think I need to haul it out soon.
    Of course, we somehow did manage to end up with food poisoning, so I am AWFULLY glad yours went so well.
    If you ever go again? Always choose the oil, never broth if they offer it. Just sayin.

  4. 4
    JennyM September 7, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    I just emailed some friends and told them we need a night out at The Melting Pot, STAT! Sure, it’s totally cheesy (har!), but some of the best, most hilarious nights out at dinner have been at that place. And seriously, what’s not to like?

  5. 5
    elz September 7, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    All that lifting of the fondue spear/fork is hard. You totally earned it! Did the Taste of Colorado have deep fried beer or margaritas? B/c the State Fair of Texas does. I’m not saying we’re better (I mean, we are), just that we have it….and a team of cardiac surgeons waiting nearby, I assume.

  6. 6
    Angela September 7, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    YUM!!!!!!

  7. 7
    Jenn September 7, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    My best birthday as a grown-up was 2 years ago at The Melting Pot. Four kids, 4 adults, sharp pointy sticks and boiling hot liquids. It was a grand time! Spent with my dearest friends whom I don’t live near anymore and miss terribly.

  8. 8
    Chelle September 7, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Sounds like you visited my favorite Denver restaurant, La Fondue? So, soooo yummy. And, I mean the food although, in my limited experience with the restaurant, the waiters also fit that description quite well.

  9. 9
    Brigitte September 7, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Drooooool!

  10. 10
    Tracy September 7, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    Chocolate covered bacon is awesome! What a great idea…Fondue place! I’ve never heard of that! How come? I’m from Louisiana..we are known for our food…but no one has thought of that. I’m Googling now.

  11. 11
    BethRD September 7, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    We just went and did that as a girl’s night out and it was soooo great. Although the one thing I hate about it is that you get home and your hair and clothes smell like you’ve been, well, cooking. I think next time I *will* skip the meat and just do the cheese and chocolate because I think the meat is the stinky part.

  12. 12
    Brian B. September 7, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    Ah, the Melting Pot. To me, the meat courses are just OK. I’ve been several times and frankly, I can’t tell a difference between the different cooking liquids. I say cheese and chocolate and skip the rest.

  13. 13
    The Other Leanne September 7, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Ahhh, I should tell you that I own FIVE fondue pots and love nothing more than creating the endless fondue feast–cheese, cheese, cheese and the sizzling vats of hot oil and/or seasoned broth. Mild Italian sausage cooked then dipped in cheese is unbelievable. It’s all even better with a variety of dipping sauces and chutneys. It’s the most fun you can have eating with tiny forks.

  14. 14
    Kayt September 7, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    I sure hope you ladies went to the Melting Pot. It’s an amazing place! The building itself is worth the fun. I went there for my ‘bachelorette’ party. I just wanted fondue.

  15. 15
    Chuck September 7, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I took my Mom to a fondue restaurant (The Melting Pot, actually) some time back, and we had a good time there…I think I took her for Mother’s Day. Cooking your own meat was a little bit strange but it was all tasty.

  16. 16
    ellbee September 7, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Mmmm… my husband and I go to the Melting Pot every year on a day that’s close to but not quite Valentine’s Day (so we don’t have to deal with the crowds of teenagers confessing their deep “love” for one another, which looks and sounds suspiciously like “hey, I ponied up for a ludicriously expensive meal, did your pants happen to spontaneously blow off yet?”) I always wonder how they can call it a kitchen when no one back there is actually cooking anything, but I still love the place!
    Also, I wish I wasn’t agoraphobic, because I would have totally gone downtown yesterday in hopes of “accidentally” bumping into the two of you. Not that I’m a stalker!

  17. 17
    diane September 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    A year or so ago our area vice president took a bunch of us for Chinese “hot pot” – think a version similar to your main course, but on steroids, with the boiling liquids on a massive turntable in the middle of the table. Holy mackerel (literally, as a matter of fact – it was on the menu) can you eat a lot when it is essentially all bite size!

    But yeah, the whole lingering cooking smell does bring down the experience.

  18. 18
    Colleen September 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    The only fondue place I’ve ever been to was Dante’s Down the Hatch in Buckhead many years ago. I think it was yummy, but the only thing I really remember was a stern warning that we NOT try and cook the cherry tomatoes because they explode and how that really made us all want to try and cook the cherry tomatoes except we were afraid of being scarred by burning hot oil. Good times.

  19. 19
    Virginia September 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Once, when my cousin and I were about 10, our mothers took us in to New York City to see Cats. We went to a fondue restaurant before the show, and after we ate all of the dessert fruit, our mothers let us finish the choclate with a spoon. To this day, my cousin and I still talk about the time our moms took us to that restaurant that served “chocolate soup.” Fondue rocks!

  20. 20
    Annette September 7, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Visited one of those places for the first time about a month ago with my two best friends fr high school. We hadn’t seen each other for years. It was great fun and great food but I hated having to think when we were so busy talking and laughing!

  21. 21
    Katie in MA September 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    Am I the only one who laughed out loud when you said the lettuce wrap was a FRUITLESS endeavor? (Get it?!!) Yes? Um…okay. :)

  22. 22
    karen September 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Ooooooh Maaaaaaaannnn where can I find me one of those fondue restaurants????….

    And we need more visuals with your posts, Mir. You could have started with Adorable.

  23. 23
    Anna September 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    I’ll back up your high altitude theory. Yep, burned a whole bunch of calories just breathing. Plus, there was lots of laughter, right? No problem. ;)

  24. 24
    liz September 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    You have totally put me in the mood for fondue now. I shouldn’t have read this entire post when I was hungry.

  25. 25
    Kira September 7, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    The only thing better than the fondue was the company. Love you, dear.

  26. 26
    Lady M September 7, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    This sounds heavenly, in a cheesey/chocolatey way.

    I’m picking out Norwegian chocolates to take home and feed everyone. I don’t think I’m going to attempt to bring cheese across the border though.

  27. 27
    addy September 7, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    Hmmmm – may have to add it to my list….

  28. 28
    Jen September 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN THE MELTING POT HAS GLUTEN FREE BREAD??? I…I know where I want to go for my birthday in a couple of weeks. And I will weep cheese-loving tears.
    And I’m totally jealous that you got the chocolate covered bacon. Didn’t make it down to Taste this year.

  29. 29
    Heidi Ferrer September 9, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Cheese and chocolate covered bacon= my kind of food porn!!!

  30. 30
    Kate September 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Well, crap. Your story makes my We just went to a restaurant where they make the guacamole at the table! story sound really sad. To get back at you, I’m totally going to eat all of the chocolate-covered bacon left in the world.

  31. 31
    Cele September 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    Oh mi gosh I so want to do this. It sounds like heaven. I’m in total envy-ness

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