Decades after fondue pots were all the rage as wedding gifts, fondue is making a big comeback. From local winter festivals to an entire national chain, restaurants are promoting fondue as a social event. The choices for fondue pots and what's served in them have multiplied, too. Whether you are looking for a business casual party that allows people the freedom to play with their food, or setting up a catering business or restaurant, here are the terms you'll need to know to select the right fondue pots.
Derived from the French word for "melted," fondue actually originated as a Swiss specialty. The classic fondue is a pot of melted cheese thinned with wine around which diners gather, each holding a fork and dipping cubes of bread into the bubbling mixture. But there are many other kinds of fondues, from meats cooked in broth to fruit dipped in chocolate.
The traditional cast iron fondue pot is known as a caquelon, and that name is still applied to all fondue pots by some European manufacturers. Today's fondue pots are available in a wide variety of materials, with certain types more suited to certain ingredients.
The traditional fondue pot sits on a stand known as a rechaud (from the French for "reheat") that holds a container of liquid fuel or a gel pack. Electric fondue pots have heating elements built in, but may be designed to look as though they are sitting on a rechaud for aesthetic purposes.
Cheese for fondue needs to be of a particular consistency suitable for melting without separating. The classic Swiss cheeses Emmenthaler and Gruyere are the traditional choices, often combined with local favorites. The melted cheese is thinned with cider, dry wine or liqueur, never water, which would make the mixture indigestible.
Coup de milieu
A traditional Swiss fondue custom is the coup de milieu, or "cup in the middle"--a glass of kirsch, a cherry-flavored brandy, set at each guest's place. Diners either dip their bread cubes in the coup de milieu before dunking them in the cheese, or drink the coup de milieu halfway through the evening. According to custom, the kirsch makes the heavy cheese meal more digestible.
The fondue revival may have had its roots in the continuing popularity of another kind of fondue pot, the chocolate fountain, a staple of wedding receptions and other catered events. Fondue fountains can also be used for serving more traditional fondue entrées as well as salad dressings and sauces.