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Fondue, Fondly Remembered: The Melting Pot, US

In the 1970s, fondue parties were the rage. You’d invite people over to dip bread or ham chunks into bubbling hot cheddar cheese. Or you’d put chicken, shrimp or steak on a fork and place it in boiling oil. Dessert was fruit dipped into melted chocolate.

It was fun then and it’s even more fun now at The Melting Pot, where their most attentive staff actually encourages you to play with your food.

Last night, our friends Bart and Paula joined my wife Ellen and me at one of this chain’s 100 restaurants. We had a blast, stuffing our faces during a marathon dip-a-thon. We thoroughly enjoyed our four-course meals, had a relaxing three-hour European dining experience without our kids, and perused their Wine Spectator award-winning wine list that’s pages and pages long.

The Larkspur location, 15 minutes north of San Francisco, is in the Old Brick Kiln, an unusual building over 100 years old that once was the largest brickmaker on the West Coast and helped rebuild SF after the 1906 quake. Its unusual architecture of curved brick-covered rooms is reminiscent of a wineries in the south of Francce. It once housed a French, then a Spanish restaurant. Now, each booth features a marble countertop with an electric heating unit in the center of the table, similar to Korean BBQ restaurants.

We spent some time looking over the mouth-watering menu. We ordered two dinners for two and it was more than enough food — a choice of cheese fondue with four kinds of bread chunks and fresh vegetables, plus two tempura batters and a variety of dipping sauces, three salads, a handful of entrees and desserts. You can even choose one of four oils for the entrees, including a low-fat canola oil. We had the Surf & Turf ($80 for two but well worth it for two huge Aussie Lobster Tails and Filet Mignon) and a platter with Tiger Shrimp, Mahi Mahi, Chicken and Steak.

For dessert, you have to have one of the choices of chocolate and fruit — we chose the Dark Chocolate with ripe fruit chunks, pieces of cake, brownies, cheesecake, and marshmallows, plus the ‘Smores, which also included graham crackers. Wow — both were extremely rich and delectable.

The Melting Pot is a great value for a business dinner, a family outing, birthday or anniversary. We had a terrific time, dipping, eating and drinking. The chain started in Florida in 1975 and is expanding quickly now. Check it out in a town near you. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is to play with your food. Warning: You’ll be tempted to lick the bowl but you may get burned!

The Melting Pot.
A: 125 E. Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Larkspur, CA 94939.
T: 415.461.6358.

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