Community, camaraderie, and cheese is the motto at Bimi’s Canteen in Chatham, NY
Photograph by Christian Harder
Nothing brings people together like hot, melty cheese. The mere mention of fondue often elicits a symphony of “oohs” and “yums”—let alone the actual joy that eating it sparks.
But, as any cheese expert will tell you, fondue is more than melted cheese. Fondue—which gets its name from the French word “fondre”, meaning “to melt”—first rose to popularity in the 1800s in the French and Swiss Alps region as a way to stretch resources during the winter. Fondue made a splash in the United States in the 1970s as a social activity designed to bring people together—there are some shady aspects to its meteoric rise, but that’s a story for another day.
The key ingredients for a traditional fondue are: Kirsch, a clear spirit made from the distillation of morello cherries, dry white wine, cornstarch, and of course, lots of alpine cheese. But which Alpine is best? Some people swear by Gruyère, but at the cheese-shop-turned-restaurant Bimi’s Canteen in Chatham, NY, they prefer to use a house blend of several cheeses, including Gruyère, Raclette, Challerhocker, and Ur Eiche.
This winter, Bimi’s Canteen is offering fondue service made using cheeses from its sister shop next door, Bimi’s Cheese Shop. Ellen Waggett, co-owner of Bimi’s Canteen, couldn’t be more excited about their fondue offerings. “Fondue is the literal embodiment of our motto ‘Community. Camaraderie. Cheese.’ We have so many wonderful fondue memories from our own home and want to share that joy and deliciousness at Canteen,” she shared.
As a cheese shop owner and fondue lover, Waggett has tried a plethora of different combinations to create the perfect fondue experience. I recently had the opportunity to try the restaurant’s new fondue offerings and can attest that they have mastered the art of melted cheese. Below are a few of Waggett’s tips on how to craft the ultimate fondue:
Choosing the Right Pot
Picking the right fondue pot can be intimidating. You want something that will hold the heat, but not burn on the bottom. Waggett swears by Boska’s ceramic pots, which only need a tea light to keep the fondue warm. “We have tried many over the years and found the ceramic pots from Boska are the best for a perfect even heat, prevent burning, and are easy to clean.”
TIP: Make sure to stir frequently to prevent clumping and burning!
Dipping Outside the Lines
Traditional fondue is served with crusty bread for dipping, and while cheese and bread are a match made in heaven, there’s no harm in getting creative with your dippers. “While we personally love the simplicity of the baguette and apple—Bimi’s Grand Fondue is full of wonderful dippers that include delicious bites of apples, figs, raw vegetables such as broccoli and purple cauliflower, meatballs, merguez sausage, flank steak, smashed potato, and cornichons.”
Bimi’s Canteen offers its seasonal fondue through March 14th. Can’t make it to Chatham before then? Don’t worry, we got the recipe. Happy dipping!
- 1/2 lb Gruyère cheese (2 cups grated)
- 1/2 lb Other alpine cheese Like Chällerhocker, Alpenzeller, Emmentaler, Comté
- 1 clove Garlic cut in half
- 1 ½ cups Dry white wine
- 1 tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 tsp Kirsch
- Put on your favorite cheese-grating music, and grate all the cheese coarsely – all the cheese can be mixed together at this point.
- Slice open a clove of garlic, and rub the raw cut side all over the inside of a heavy 4 qt saucepan. Throw the remaining garlic clove into your compost.
- Add the white wine to the pot, and slowly bring it to a simmer.
- Gradually add cheese to the heated wine, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern until cheese is just melted. Be patient and take caution not to let the cheese mixture boil.
- Mix the cornstarch with the kirsch in a small dish to form a thin paste (lemon juice can be substituted here…. but the kirsch is really worth it!!) This keeps the fondue velvety smooth…. Add the kirsch-cornstarch mix to the melted cheese.
- Continue to stir over low heat for 5-8 minutes until fondue thickens.
- Carefully pour into your fondue pot, adjust heat source under pot, and serve.
- Use long fondue forks to dip chunks of food into the cheese – it is a communal pot of food.
- DIPPING SUGGESTIONS:
- Chunks of baguette or ciabatta
- Roasted potato chunks
- Apple or pear slices
- PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
- Dry white wine such as dry Riesling or Sancerre
- German lager or Saison-style ale
- Farmhouse cider
- Fino Sherry
- Hot Apple Cider