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.