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

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

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 SAD: 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 heart-shaped pancakes? I’ve shared my trio of favorite chocolate recipes for Valentine’s Day here before.

But for romantic food, you can’t beat the communally fun fondue. Whether it’s chocolate or cheese fondue, it forces 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.

This recipe comes from friend Karen, who got it from one of her friends. This fondue coats the bread nicely, and doesn’t leave it feeling like a wet cheese bomb. I love 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.

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.

Note: This is a best-of Valentine’s Day column that was first published Feb. 5, 2014. 

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com 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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12 Responses

  1. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    I love fondue! All kinds, savory, sweet… yum! Sadly, we don’t have a fondue pot (and we are both too clumsy, probably, to risk getting one), but when I was growing up my mom had one (didn’t everyone, in the 70s?) and I was always the happiest kid when she brought it out. We usually just used it for steak… so good…

    One of my “last meals” in the US was at a restaurant called The Melting Pot – Sem and I went there with my sister and brother-in-law. Fondue pots at the table for everything from appetizers to desserts. SO GOOD.

    We almost had to spend Valentine’s Day apart, this year – Sem in the hospital, me in hospital accommodation. But plans changed, so we won’t have to do that until the week after. Even so, Valentine’s Day is on a dialysis evening this year, so, couple or not, there won’t be any fancy meals or bubbly or hearts and flowers. Health and energy levels mean that it’s normally a non-event, anyway… kind of a bummer, but instead I choose to be grateful simply for all the love in my life – from wherever and whomever it comes!

  2. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I haven’t had fondue since I was a kid, back when it was a hit in the 60s and early 70s. Yeah, we had a fondue pot. I was curious if it’s still big in France, so I did a Google Maps search of Paris. As a grade school friend would have put it: “Fondue restaurants in Paris everywhere you fart”.

    My wife and I have been working our way through the first two seasons of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Her black gay roommate, Titus, offers a caution that applies to fondue:

    Titus: Kimbecile, what do I always say?

    Kimmy: Don’t touch my dolls, they’re strictly look-upons?

    Titus: Not that.

    Kimmy: John Cusack got fat but I still would?

    Titus: No! Get the digits! The digits! Oh, look at us, both having man problems.

    Kimmy: Is that why you’ve been shouting so much in the bathroom?

    Titus: No, that’s because of cheese.

  3. Avatar Candace says:

    Steve, LOL. We used to go to the Wine Cellar on Park Marina (Beadman) quite often to have cheese fondue and listen to live music. Love cheese fondue (I mean who doesn’t like a Fondue fork?). Anyway, fun times. As far as Valentine’s Day goes it’s one of my least favorite holidays (except when I was a kid and when my kids were little) but that’s just me. To Doni and those that are feelin’ it in a good way, “Happy almost Valentine’s Day!”

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      I’m cursed with the undying belief that if I ignore Hallmark holidays, they’ll cease to be annoying. It only ends up making them even more annoying.

      • Hey, Steve, I have a fondue pot you can borrow. It’s not too late to salvage Valentine’s Day. 😉

      • Avatar Doug Cook says:

        As a restaurant manager, my least favorite holiday was Valentine’s day. Hated it. It is my theory that those that make a big deal out of Valentine’s day are those relationships that aren’t strong. My wife and I…if we remember, we will exchange cards. For me, is was just a hellish day at work.

        Fondue? Ah yes, growing up in the 70’s. Fondue was big in our circle of friends. I know we still have a fondue pot. I’m now motivated to break it out.

  4. Avatar Kerri says:

    My youngest son has chosen fondue for his birthday dinner for the past four or five years, and my cheese fondue is never good. I’m going to try this one – thanks, Doni! You always save the day when it comes to food.

  5. Avatar erin friedman says:

    I reminded my husband that 43 years ago on Valentine’s Day he gave me a little diamond promise ring and asked me to be his girlfriend. This year? I’m throwing a Valentine party for our three granddaughters – no boys allowed. 🙂

    • Wow. You and your sweetie don’t look old enough to have been together for 43 years. Impressive.

      And what an adorable idea to throw a Valentine’s Day party for your granddaughters. How could they NOT love it! Take photos!

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