Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
This is my blogchalk:
United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Moms Night Out: Fondue at The Melting Pot

Last week, my friends and I had another Moms Night Out. As I've mentioned before, we try and get together one night per month without husbands and babies to hang out, talk and do dinner at a place where we normally wouldn't take our children. This month's pick was The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant. Cooktops on your table with sizzling pots of cooking oil and melted cheese? Not right for the toddlers. But absolutely fun and delicious for the moms.

The Melting Pot has restaurants around the country. Win and I went to one in Atlanta a few years ago and loved it. The Chicago location is new and has been open for about two months. It's downtown in an interesting location; it's in the basement of a building, right next to a tanning salon. Despite the odd location, the decor inside is lovely and full of warm tones that make you feel cozy as you dive in to your fondue.

There were four of us at dinner this time. The Melting Pot has an extensive wine list and we ordered a Shiraz-Cabernet from Australia to start. This was a very good wine and it complemented our meal well.

When it came to making our fondue choices, things got complicated. You know how when you go out with your spouse or partner you have a set rhythm and can kind of anticipate how you'd like to order as a couple? Well our little foursome didn't have its rhythm down so it took us a while to select from The Melting Pot's array of fondue dinner options. As you can see from their menu, there are a number of complete dinner packages you can order and these will include all courses from cheese fondue all the way to dessert fondue. There's a lot to pick from. Then once you have that decided, you have to select the cooking oil or broth in which you'd like to cook your entree. We all love to eat and were excited about the many options, so we deliberated for a while. After we made our decisions though, the fun could begin.

We opted to go with two of the Fondue for Two dinners. These included a cheese fondue, salad, and an entree fondue. For our cheese course, we selected the cheddar cheese fondue and the traditional swiss cheese fondue. Both were outrageously good, served with fresh fruit, a selection of breads, celery, carrots and cauliflower.

We had California salads for the salad course. These were field greens, tomatoes, walnuts and bleu cheese topped with raspberry walnut vinagrette. Fresh and delicious, but of course less fun than the other courses because there was no fondue involved and this night was all about the fondue.

Then we moved on to the entrees. We ordered the Signature Selection and the Surf and Turf. The Signature Selection included tenderloin, shrimp, teriyaki marinated sirloin, chicken and salmon. The Surf and Turf included twin lobster tails, filet mignon, and portobello mushrooms. Both were served with an array of delicious sauces and a large bowl of fresh vegetables to dip into our cooking broth. For our cooking style, we chose the Coq Au Vin broth, a French herb flavor, and the Mojo Fondue, a Caribbean, citrus flavor.

Once we had our majestic display of raw meats and vegetables in front of us, we went to town loading up our fondue forks and cooking our dinner. Fondue is always so much fun because of its novelty and this meal was no exception. We all commented how entertaining it was and we all loved every bite of the food.

When presented with the tempting dessert fondue menu, we couldn't say no. We ordered a pure dark chocolate fondue and the Flaming Turtle, which was milk chocolate, caramel, and chopped pecans, flambeed tableside. Both were served with heaping plates of fresh fruit, cheesecake, brownies, and marshmallows. Dipping those desserts into the rich, warm chocolate was beyond heavenly.

The one slightly odd part of our evening was that our service was a bit off. Our waitress was rather overenthusiastic and almost hyper when explaining the menu to us, but then repeatedly made jokes about wanting to quit her job throughout the evening. She was a capable server and very helpful, but her comments to us were a bit bizarre, as we all noted. In a real gaffe, the coffees that my friends ordered didn't arrive until after the whole dessert fondue was done. At that point no one wanted them (since dessert was totally over), so they just sent them back. Annoying slip-up on Melting Pot's part, but they more than made up for it by giving us our dessert for free (a $24.00 value). Our table didn't make a fuss over the coffee at all, so I was pleased to see that Melting Pot management took that extra step to make the mistake up to us.

The other famous fondue place in Chicago is Geja's Cafe. Geja's has been around for a long time and they also serve delicious fondue. When I got home and told Win about my night, he asked me which I thought was better---The Melting Pot or Geja's. Basically, I think the food is top quality at both. Similar fondue offerings and both were fresh and delicious. Geja's has a more intimate atmosphere with live music in the restaurant some nights. The Melting Pot feels a bit more like a "corporate restaurant" and has live music in its bar area, not the main section of the restaurant. So it's really a toss up for me...I guess if I had guests coming in to town I'd send them to Geja's because it's not a chain and it's more of a Chicago landmark. But the food is excellent at both and I'm sure I'll go back to Melting Pot in the future too.

So it was a great Moms Night Out. The one disappointment was that one of our friends had to miss the dinner. Why, you might ask? She was in the hospital having her second baby! Oddly enough, this woman was the one who organized the dinner and chose Melting Pot because she had never gone to a fondue restaurant before. She was eager to try it before her second child came along and she got even busier than she was with just one little one at home. Well, that little baby decided to come out a few weeks early and cancel her Mom's fondue plans. So my friend missed a wonderful dinner (that she planned for us!) but got a gorgeous, healthy baby girl instead. She's quite happy with the results and doesn't mind missing fondue after all.

The Melting Pot
609 N. Dearborn
Chicago, IL 60610
Telephone: (312) 573-0011

A note about the photo above: This Melting Pot logo was taken directly from The Melting Pot's web site and belongs to them. I get to take a break on Moms Night Out and that sometimes includes skipping the photo taking.