Fondue Night

Jack and I hosted our first real dinner party last night. Dun dun dunnnnn. We feel like adults now.

Jeannette, Matt, and Dave, friends of mine from school, all came over with their significant others for Fondue Night yesterday evening. It was going to be Fondue and Game Night, but fondue turned out to be a more time-intensive dinner than we thought, and we didn't finish eating until almost 10 o'clock. I got a great chocolate fondue pot from Lauren for Christmas along with an excellent recipe book, and Jeannette coincidentally got a fondue pot too--hers is the kind that uses super-hot oil to cook bits of meat. (We can all guess why Lauren, the vegetarian, wouldn't have gotten that kind for us!) Though my pot says explicitly that it's for chocolate fondue ONLY, we used it for different cheese fondues twice last week just to be sure it would work, and of course it did, except that the cheese has a tendency to stick to the very bottom.

Last night, we ended up having bits of chicken and pot roast for the oil, and Jeannette whipped up several different amazing sauces to dip the meat in after cooking it, including a balsamic vinegar mint sauce and some sort of excellent tarragon mayonnaise. The meat took a while to cook, especially since the fuel underneath kept running out and poor Chris (Jeannette's husband) had to replenish it two or three times, but it was a great party food because there was lots of time for talking during the wait. I made some really yummy cheese fondue for veggies and bread that used Monterey Jack, red peppers, garlic, artichokes, and white wine, and that disappeared rather quickly since there was no wait time in between bites. Everybody seemed to enjoy experimenting with different combinations of food and sauces, and Jack, the lone vegetarian among us, found plenty to eat as well. (The most interesting combination I didn't try was the attempt by Stephanie, Dave's girlfriend, to dip zucchini in barbeque sauce. She reported that it tasted like zucchini and barbeque sauce.)

We took a little break after dinner to prepare the fruit for dessert, and then I threw together the chocolate fondue. It only involved melting chocolate in a saucepan with warmed cream, and I threw in some orange zest and a bit of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored liqueur, for some extra pizazz. (Note to Mimi: unfortunately, the Mariner was nowhere to be seen.) Jeannette had brought some homemade cookies to dip in the chocolate, and Matt and Steph (yes, there are two Stephanies), who were assigned the task of bringing the fruit, brought bananas, tangelos, and croissants. Steph was inspired by pain au chocolat, a croissant-like pastry filled with chocolate, which I thought was a great idea! The croissant bread was nice and spongy, and it was great for sopping up extra chocolate. Luckily, I had doubled the chocolate recipe, so since people got full on dessert fairly quickly, Jack and I have some left over in the fridge for later.

I find it very rewarding to be at this age and surrounded by a group of people for whom it's normal to have a dinner party. I love cooking for others, and even though this was a high-maintenance project I won't soon repeat--three kinds of fondue were almost too much for our tiny kitchen to handle--it was definitely worth the effort. Having a group of people to drink a glass of wine with is a new thing for me, and I like it.

Jeannette and Chris left around ten since they still had to make the drive back to New Orleans, but everyone else stuck around for about another hour talking, playing with the cats, and watching Patti's aquarium DVD from two Christmases ago that she has never gotten very interested in watching. I forget why the existence of this aquarium DVD came up, but Matt especially got really into it and started telling us what he knew about all the different kinds of fish. It's funny what you learn about people when you're in a setting outside the normal one, like just how much they might surprisingly know about aquarium fish. I also learned that Dave must have been a cat in a former life, because his interest in the cat toys, especially the ball in the round track, was certainly high for a human.

The mess we were left with after everyone went home was not quite as massive as what I had anticipated; this was due largely to Jack's effort to do some of the dishes right after we ate instead of leaving them in the sink. There were still renegade crumbs everywhere (the bread was very crumby), and there were many leftover things to put away. It took us only about fifteen minutes to restore our kitchen to its former condition. And then we went to a happy sleep, having hosted our first, very successful Fondue Night.

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It was way fun! Thanks again. We kept saying all evening on our way home how fun it was. (Though I was totally pooped the next day.)

Re. your "plug of hte week", my friend recently made an interesting post of the top 10 myths of disaster relief. I found it helpful, because when disaster strikes, I always feel lost and wonder what I could possibly do to help. Seems that giving money is one of the best things we can do... :)
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