Warm, indulgent, comforting, cheesy, boozy, it’s hard to think of anything that comes close to the magnificence of fondue and in honour of Fondue Week at La Terrasse, I want to share with you 4 reasons I am (and you should be) so fond of fondue and why it’s a favourite on those cold winter nights after a day on the mountain.
It’s got history
The first modern recipe for fondue dates back to 1699, when it was known as “Käss mit Wein zu kochen” which translates to “to cook cheese with wine”. Some believe fondue was originally conceived by Alpine farmers as a solution to using up old cheese ends and bread that had gone stale, turning it into a rich, warming meal during winter months when fresh food wasn’t available. They would rub a pot called a caquelon with garlic, plop in some hard cheese, add a dash of herbs, splash in some wine and melt it down. Very little has changed since.
Who actually claims the glory of inventing the dish is up for debate, with its roots blurring somewhere along the Swiss-French border. The dish’s association with the Swiss however was cemented back in the 1930s by the Schweizer Käseunion, aka the Swiss Cheese Union. Yes, they have a cheese union, which sometimes is even referred to as the ‘cheese mafia’.These guys don’t mess about and their primary mission was to boost cheese consumption in Switzerland.
Their aggressive marketing campaign was set to make cheese fondue a Swiss way of life, with the adoption of the slogan, ‘La fondue crée la bonne humeur’, or ‘fondue creates a good mood’ and fondue sets being sent to Swiss military after the second world war. Unsurprisingly, their mission was a success and the Swiss have even named Cheese Fondue as their national dish!
It’s the perfect sharer
Fondue brings a lot of atmosphere to a table. Whether it’s a dinner party or a romantic date, a friend’s birthday or a family get together, fondue is THE ultimate sharer. Think about it, everyone sitting round dipping into the same bubbling pot of cheesy goodness really slows things down, giving loads of time for people to share stories of their day on the slopes. The whole party can experience the same joy in unison, down to the very last bite.
The brainiacs at Oxford Uni even did some research which showed that fondue’s potential as a sharing dish and a conversation piece is one of it’s main attractions, as well of course as the comforting, enveloping nature of all that melted cheese.
Beaucoup de fromage!
The reason you’ve bypassed the steaks, not even glanced at the salad dishes and skipped straight to the fondue options on the menu. Cheese.
The success of a fondue ultimately comes down to the choice of cheese. Depending on where you are enjoying your fondue, the combo of cheese will vary but it will usually be a mix of a nutty meltable cheese such as comté, emmental, gruyere or beaufort with a creamier one such as fontina, reblochon or port salut.
I think it’s safe to call the Swiss experts in the field of molten fromage and included in the variety of Swiss fondues are the Moitié-moitié (half-half), the Fribourgeoise, the Neuchâteloise and the Valais fondue.
Here in the Savoie, the recipe has adopted its own style. Our own recipe at La Terrasse is top secret, but traditionally, Savoyard fondue is made with 40% beaufort, 40% abondance or comté and 20% emmental de Savoie.
So as not to waste any, some fondue fanatic came up with a genius way to use up every last bit of cheese. An egg. Crack one of those in, give it a good stir and you have yourself cheesy scrambled eggs, equally delicious and glutinous, sure to tip you into the realm of being button poppingly full but oh so worth it.
As well as cheese, fondue is usually served with some or all of the following, depending on the size of your feast; bread (2-3 days old is actually best), a selection of meats, cornichons, green salad, boiled potatoes, white wine, genepi, more genepi (which takes me nicely onto the next point). At La Terrasse, we serve ours with all of the above.
The perfect accompaniment with fondue is wine. Traditionally, a Savoyard fondue will be accompanied by a Savoy wine such as Apremont, Abymes or Chignin. And this wine isn’t just for drinking, a good glug (yes, an official unit of measurement) is added during preparation to help with the melting process. 1 for you, 1 for the pot is usually how it goes. Some variations also include the addition of Kirsch, a cherry liquor, for an added touch of je ne sais quoi.
Then of course there’s the genepi. Genepi is an herbal liquor, named after the flower from which it is made and a favourite in the Savoyard region. It’s traditionally served as a digestif, but there’s nothing stopping you having a bottle or two on the table during your fondue feast. Then of course there’s the unwritten rule of cheese fondue; if you drop your bread in the fondue, your forfeit is a shot a genepi.
So there you have it. 4 reasons fondue is the dish of all Alpine dishes. Historic, social, cheesy, boozy. How could you not be fond of this heart melting dish? The real question is, when will you be getting your fondue fix? Why not join us at La Terrasse for a fondue this season!