Certain kinds of dining necessitate the invention of new utensils: Asian cooking begat chopsticks, clam chowder brought about the crazy straw, and now there are forks long enough to keep scalding cheese away from hands. Skinny dip with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of gourmet fondue and drinks at The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant in Manitou Springs.
Recently named one of the best area wine bars by the Colorado Springs Independent, The Mona Lisa houses expert chefs skillfully simmering appetizer, entree, and chocolate fondues. The New World cheese fondue blends sharp cheddar and emmental with a crave-inducing beer base ($17), while gruyere and blue cheeses buoy a topping of feta, pine nuts, kalamata olives, and tiny models of the temple of Zeus ($20). Expertly cooked ocean dwellers comprise the seafood entree platter ($30), which allows patrons to skewer Rockport lobster tail, scallops, tiger shrimp, and yellowfin tuna before submerging them in one of three gourmet dipping sauces. A tasty sauce trio also accompanies the wild-game entree platter, stampeding across with Rocky Mountain buffalo, marinated high-plains quail, and wild-boar sausage ($30). Entree platters are served with fresh bread, imported cheese, rosemary-garlic potatoes, and a leafy salad. Steaming cauldrons of dark, milk, or white chocolate concoct sugary spells for delighted diners ($11/person), and frangelico, Bailey's, or other sweet liqueurs may be laced into dessert kettles on request ($12/person).
A wine list holding over 80 varietals prevents diners from resorting to incorrect food pairings or smuggling grapes in under their coats. Reservations, like using one's napkin effectively, are recommended but not required.
The Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant
Situated at the foothills of Pikes Peak, in a 19th-century hotel, the Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant is primed for romance. The restaurant's past life as a hotel means that tables scatter throughout various rooms and levels, giving diners the space to entertain private conversations and practice lighting candles with their mind. Meals might unfold in The Veranda, for instance, where mottled walls, green ivy, and a decorative streetlamp recall a Venetian street. The Wine Cellar, meanwhile, lines its walls with hundreds of bottles that encompass more than 80 varietals stretching back to the early 1900s. With such ambiance, it's no wonder Mona Lisa was selected as one of Colorado Springs Independent's Best Fine Dining restaurants in 2012 and 2016. Also awarded the best place to celebrate special occasions in the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2016.
Of course, the centerpiece of the Mona Lisa's romance is the food. The signature four-course fondue meal for two brings couples together with shareable pots of melted "Old World," "New World" or "South of the Border" cheeses before breaking into heartier offerings. Duos can dip tiger shrimp, flatiron filet, chicken breast, or even game meats such as mallard duck or Rocky Mountain Elk into six gourmet sauces. And like the best dreams, the interactive dinners end in a pot of warm chocolate fondue, ready to coat cakes and fruit.