Valentine’s Day is Coming: Wine? Check. Flowers? Check. Fondue? Check it Out

Oh, Valentine’s Day. You look so innocent – all hearts and flowers, sweetness and lace.

It’s unfortunate that such a seemingly simple day of love, friendship and affection has grown into a Godzilla-sized emotional super-power day of extremes. It can bring joy and elation. It can wreak sorrow and heartbreak. The same office where one woman cries tears of happiness as she walks a delivery of a dozen roses to her desk can also contain a woman weeping silently in a bathroom stall over the unfairness of it all.

Regarding the latter, a friend jokes that Valentine’s Day is best described as Singles Awareness Day. 

In some ways, we singles have it made. No performance pressure. No expectations. Especially on Valentine’s Day I concur with William Shakespeare, who said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

True, it did take me a few post-divorce years to get over my desire for a self-administered Daktari tranquilizer to knock me out from February 13 through February 15. So painful.

That’s behind me. Now I’m in a better place where I can appreciate February 14 as a day to feel gratitude for all the love in my life. My heart is full.

And like many of you, for me, love equals cooking.

What better time than Valentine’s Day to prepare something special for those you love, I mean, other than making heart-shaped pancakes?

I hope I’ve not needlessly freaked you out about all this Valentine’s Day talk, because you do realize you still have an entire week and a couple of days left, right? You didn’t seriously think I’d wait to write about Valentine’s Day just two days before the event, did you? Come on, do I look like a man?

Happily, we have plenty of time to peruse the this week’s Tops Markets ads for inspiration, which features its Truckload Meat sale, and the meat package deals. Yes, you could go to the Redding or Weaverville stores and place your orders in person, or you can also consult your order sheet and make your selections from among the various packages and call in your order to pick up when you wish. But you’re reading this online, so for customers, the online order option was made for us, for both the Redding and Weaverville Tops Markets. (For sandwiches, give them at least 20 minutes to have your order ready for pick-up.)

Tops also features many varieties of Alpen Cellars Wines this week, at just $7.99 a bottle. (And, speaking of wine, the Redding and Weaverville stores hold their wine and beer tastings. Click here for the tasting schedule and other details.)

Also, you’ll want to check out Tops Markets next week for its fresh flowers and sweets for your sweet.

I noticed Tops Markets offers domestic Swiss cheese on sale for $5.99 a pound, perfect for Swiss Cheese Fondue.

I tasted a particularly wonderful Swiss Fondue a few weeks ago, made by friend Karen, who got the recipe from her friend Joanne’s 1973 edition of  “The New McCall’s Cookbook”. I raved so much about the recipe that Karen let me borrow the book, a wonder of classic recipes.

Fondue is a romantic food, because it requires people to share as they dip and bump fondue forks. But fondue can be tricky. I’ve had bad cheese fondue, haven’t you?  Too gloppy or way too rich or too much booze or so heavy it pulls the little bread cubes into the vat where they drown and sink and are hopelessly lost until it’s time to wash the fondue pot.

One part of this recipe that did throw me, and that was when it discussed the fondue container. It said to absolutely NOT use a metal pan. What? Most of the fondue pots I’ve seen are metal. And Karen used a metal fondue pot. So, I don’t know what to tell you. I did a little checking online and many, many recipes mentioned stainless fondue pots, which is what I’ve got. I shouldn’t have even mentioned it.

This recipe coated the bread nicely, and didn’t feel like a wet cheese bomb. And I loved the taste, with the option of the classic addition of kirsh – a cherry-flavored liqueur, which is fairly pricey for the good stuff, or light rum. Rum was Karen’s choice, and it was fine, and, btw, nearly undetectable.

So, here you go. A little fondue for two. Or just you. Either way, it’s simply lovely.

Swiss Cheese Fondue

1 clove garlic, split in half
1 lb. natural Swiss cheese, grated
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons light rum or kirsh

For making the fondue, use a rather deep baking dish with a glazed interior, a flame-proof glass saucepan or a crockery utensil. (Note, see my comments about the pot, above.)

Rub the bottom and side of baking dish with garlic. Put cheese, salt and pepper into dish, and add enough wine to almost cover.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese melts – no longer. Cheese and wine will not be blended yet.

Now make a smooth paste of cornstarch, rum (or kirsh), and about 2 tablespoons water. Using a wire whip, stir cornstarch mixture into melted cheese and wine.

Cook over medium heat, stirring 2 to 3 minutes, or until fondue is as creamy and thick as medium white sauce (think gravy).

To serve: Set fondue over a chafing-dish flame or candle warmer. Each bread cube should be speared with a fork and dipped into warm fondue. Makes about 3 cups.

This recipe sponsored by Tops Market in Weaverville and Redding.

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Click here to order a sandwich online from the Weaverville Tops Market.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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6 Responses

  1. Wow, that sounds so good, it may be worth breaking my no gluten-and-dairy diet!

  2. Our one and only fondue party turned into a food fight. What was I thinking? Sharp sticks. Projectiles. Crazy friends: A Food Fight Trifecta. I believe you can still find potato remnants on our dining room wall. Messy – but oh-so-fun.

  3. Avatar do23ug says:

    The best Valentines give a smile and a hug…personal interpretation can be stirred in at no added cost…add relationship(s) to taste.

    Fondue…don't quite get it.

    Doni, don't ignore Feb 14… make it your best day of the year by giving and accepting as many smiles and hugs as is possible. I'm sending you mine a little early.

    Doug Mudford

  4. Grandkids are the best Valentines in the world. We are so blessed!

  5. Great suggestion Doni! I've been trying to come up with a simple, but romantic treat for Valentines Day. This will be perfect. Now that our kitchen is …"almost complete," I can take this challenge on. =) Again, Thanks. Kevin

  6. Avatar tea4katie says:

    Love your delightful thoughts on being grateful for ALL THE LOVE in your life!! We should all be so thankful!! Fondue…one of our fav's!! So retro! LOL Recipe looks fabulous…Thanks for sharing!