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If it's Anthony Dike of Bistro Le Relais we're talking about, he cooks, of course. You might think someone who spends the majority of their time working in a restaurant would want a break from food, but on his day off, he loves nothing more than to whip up an elaborate meal with his girlfriend, Le Relais manager Amy Zinner.
In the latest installment of my "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dana" series of lessons from local chefs and restaurateurs, this time I took a field trip. My husband Brian and I joined Anthony at his home, along with Zinner, who's one of my earliest friends in Louisville and the owner of Potted Plantscapes in addition to working at Le Relais. The occasion? An amazing fondue dinner to celebrate spring's arrival.
No, no. The 70s didn't call and ask for their specialty back. Dike is originally from Switzerland, where fondue wasn't some passing fad like it was here. It's a part of the culture.
And what a wonderful part it is! Dining together is so much about being among friends or family, talking and laughing, and enjoying the food together, and it's hard to imagine a better way to do that than with the immersive (literally) experience of fondue.
Though Anthony's home features a beautiful dining room and table, for this meal he insisted we gather more intimately around the kitchen island where he deftly organized the fondue station while simultaneously pan roasting tiny golden potatoes and baking gougères (savory cheese puffs).
He never missed a beat, even while explaining the new cocktail we were taste-testing for the restaurant, 2817 Taylorsville Road. "The Paper Plane" was an extremely drinkable cocktail made up of equal parts bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice and Nonino Amaro (an Italian herbal digestif). It got an enthusiastic thumbs up from all of us, so look for it at Le Relais soon.
For dinner we each got clever little plates with sections you could use to keep your foods separate, but once we started with the fondue we got too excited to bother about that, piling pell-mell the blanched, tender green veggies along with the variety of proteins and sauces.
Here's how it worked. Anthony prepared a fondue Bourguignonne instead of the traditional fondue, which would typically be a pot full of hot oil that diners basically sear their bite-sized ingredients in. For his healthier (and to me, tastier) version, he made a delicate, but complex red wine broth.
We each got a color-coded fondue fork to spear our proteins with, choosing from sweet scallops, peeled shrimp, chicken, pork and beef. The idea is you stab the food, drop it in the bubbling broth, and let it cook until done.
The tricky part is not forgetting about what you have cooking in the midst of sipping wine and laughing.
I tried a few times to set a timer on my phone but got too distracted and would find I'd been simmering my bite for several minutes. No worries, I slathered it in one of the three sauces and dips Anthony made — a trifecta of curry-orange marmalade, herbed butter-Roquefort and remoulade — and it was still perfectly delicious.
The other skill needed is securing your morsels on the fork: if one slides off it's lost, a fondue faux pas Anthony laughingly called a Swiss felony.
Maneuvering around each other's forks and swapping stories about food and travel, the evening passed far too quickly. The best was their tale was about the time they inadvertently and unknowingly ended up on a train ferrying automobiles through a mountain in the Alps.
He'd taken her on a two week trip to his home but assigned her to make the plans for one night. She chose a town called Saas-Fee, and after arriving via the unexpected tunnel, they stumbled upon a restaurant near their hotel serving a fondue just like this one.
My husband and I vowed to plan our own fondue night and break out the 70s relic fondue pot we found in the basement of our Old Louisville home when we bought it. And when we do, we'll follow Dike's instructions below. If you, too, are ready to bring fondue back and need some supplies, his special fondue plates were a gift, and his fondue pot was from Norway, but I found similar plates on Amazon, and think a porcelain fondue pot (the kind that uses a flame, not the electric kind) also available online will work just fine.
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @danamac on Twitter.
Bring all ingredients to a simmer and let it go for about half an hour until the wine has cooked down some.
Fondue is a very choose-your-own-adventure sort of meal, so experiment here. But basically, blanche some vegetables, whatever you like, and cut your favorite proteins into bite-sized pieces (plan on several ounces total of protein per person).
Prepare (or buy) your favorite dipping sauces. Anthony's remoulade, herbed butter and blue cheese dip, and a curry sauce with orange marmalade were delicious, but I also love a Green Goddess dip for fondue.
Round it all out with some Blue Dog bread or savory pastries, and if you're feeling ambitious and craving carbs, some roasted potatoes.
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When the broth is ready, (carefully!) transfer it to the fondue pot, and let the games begin! Spear your bites and let them simmer till done. Just watch out you don't commit a Swiss felony!
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