Back when fondue parties first were a fad, you may have been wearing bell bottoms and play-ing Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (on vinyl) on the stereo. Or maybe you were wearing rompers and playing on the swing set.
Fondue made a comeback in the early 2000s and has been growing in popularity ever since.
What dinner party could be simpler? Your guests do the cooking, so you can relax and enjoy your own party. If you limit the menu to cheese and chocolate fondue, you can skip the expensive entree. Just add a fresh green salad, a few bottles of wine and coffee and you're set.
Cyndee Blank, 40, of St. Louis says throwing a fondue party rather than a traditional sit-down dinner party was a no-brainer. She invited her beau and three couples who didn't know each other very well.
"You can get everyone involved in the cooking, so they feel like they are a part of something," she says. "It was a great way to break the ice."
After work, Blank finished the prep she'd started the night before. She cut up bread, vegetables, chorizo and steak for a traditional Swiss and a Spanish cheese fondue. She used strawberries and brownies for dipping in the chocolate fondue.
Jorj Morgan, a Floridian who has written five books on entertaining and runs the Web site jorj.com, also is a big fondue fan.
"What I like is that you can do them both ways," she says. "They can be intimate, like on a date or with a few couples coming over. The food lingers, the experience lingers. Or you can just do one course of fondue to make a big party easier and more fun."
Preparing the cheese: Shred the cheese and toss it with flour to thicken it and improve its viscosity. Cheese fondue should be the consistency of warm honey.
Selecting the dippers: Choose sturdy vegetables such as broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower, pepper strips or baked potato wedges. Torn bread pieces such as French, pumpernickel and rye work well. Meats can include bite-size pieces of chicken, shrimp, scallops, beef or sausage. Marshmallows, cheesecake squares, banana slices, brownie chunks, angel food cake and strawberries all are excellent for dipping in melted chocolate.
Cooking the fondue: The easiest way to cook fondue at home is to start it on the stove using a double boiler and then serve it in the fondue pot. Once your fondue has been transferred to the pot, never let it boil. Keep the cheese and dessert fondues at a low temperature, about 120 degrees. When heating oil or broth for cooking meat or seafood fondues, keep the pot at about 375 degrees.
Spearing: Cheeses and desserts can be lifted immediately from the pot, but bite-sized hunks of meat or fish should be cooked about two minutes. Lift the food out, twirling the skewer slowly. Move your plate beneath the skewer and continue twirling until the dripping stops and the food has cooled. When cooking entree items, remove the food from the fondue fork with a dinner fork as the fondue fork can become quite hot.
Four per pot: Usually you have four people per fondue pot, but you could do six. In a pinch, you can also use a slow cooker or chafing dish as a second fondue pot.
Obey the rules: When your guests arrive, explain to them the rules of fondue: no double-dipping.