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 $25, you get $50 worth of fondue at Simply Fondue's Greenville Avenue location.
At Simply Fondue, guests pore over a menu of cheese and chocolate for communal dunking in tabletop pots. An edible totem pole of fresh bread, veggies, and fruits tumbles into a stew of Wisconsin sharp cheddar and emmenthaler, tinged with a splash of beer and garlic ($18). The Swiss Chalet melds gruyere cheese and kirshwasser brandy ($18), which patrons can enrich with morsels of beef tenderloin ($26), seafood ($29), or ice cubes. For dessert, chefs blend 15 varieties of chocolate fondue and then flambé them tableside. Skewers of marshmallows and cheesecake plunge into the Bailey’s Irish chocolate vat ($9/person), and strawberries and bananas submerge themselves in pecan caramel fondue ($9/person) to disguise themselves from clowns seeking juggling props. Pendant lamps and bright abstract paintings cast a cozy glow on rows of booths, and ornate planters and pressed-tin paneling add an air of vintage romance.
With fondue, as with many things, there is an etiquette to be followed. Let the long, slender fork linger over the pot so that drops of blended gourmet cheese fall gently back in the fondue, rather than dotting the top of an intimate, two-person booth. Dip each piece of fresh, local produce only once, covering it fully in gruyére, beer-tinged cheddar, or dark chocolate laced with cabernet. Place the sumptuous cuts of meat and seafood on a plate after dipping using a traditional fork to then cover them with accompanying sauces, made fresh daily in the kitchen. While generosity never begs enforcement, it is traditional for the person who first loses a morsel in the pot to buy the next round, and basic courtesy dictates that you not finger-paint on the pressed-tin paneling with your cheese.
The masterminds behind Simply Fondue don't make the rules, they just provide them to customers, along with five blends of cheese and 15 chocolate creations, with gourmet ingredients that are imported weekly. They engage minds with tradition and taste buds with sweet and savory pots, but they don't neglect the eye, lining the walls with sculptures from artist Barrett DeBusk and vibrantly colored abstract paintings that brighten the room.