Fraser: Say cheese to picture-perfect fondue
September 19, 2008
Fondue continues to be a fun way to serve food and gather friends.Fondue is really a great social thing, said Gasthaus Eichler Chef Rene Weder, who is conducting a free class about fondue at the Fraser Valley Library next Thursday. Theres a lot of laughter … a lot of interaction going on … and the host gets to sit down and eat with their guests.The pot of melting cheese originated in Switzerland back in the 18th century (when cheese and wine were vital industries), although some argue it has a reference in Homers Iliad. It is a communal-style meal, combining at least two varieties of cheese. Fondue hit its American heyday in the early 1950s and continued steadily through the 1970s.Theres cheese fondue, meat fondue, even dessert fondue. There are many ways to serve this dish, and Weder is going to show Fraser Valley Library patrons what they need to know to get started on their own classic twists of the party favorite.Rene is a native of the Rhein Valley in Switzerland and excelled in the traditional European culinary apprenticeship. He came to the United States in 1984 and served more than 30 years as an executive chef and food and beverage director for places like the Boca Raton Hotel & Resort, the Beaver Creek Hyatt, the Brown Palace Hotel and Chateau Elan & Resorts.He and his wife Joan have owned the Gasthaus Eichler in Winter Park since 2003, opening a fine dining room called Dezeleys and another dining area called Fondue Stube (open 5 to 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Oct. 4 and Wednesday through Sunday this winter, starting Nov. 19).Youth Adult Services Librarian Stephanie Miller contacted Weder about conducting the class.Weder said he was open to hosting the class because he and Joan are big supporters of the community.So the library is obviously very important, he said. Traditional Swiss fondue uses a combination of gruyere and emmenthaler, two cheeses when combined create a mixture that is not too sharp or bland as they would be if melted alone. Most commonly, they are melted in a dry white wine to add flavor and keep the cheese from the direct heat. A clear, cherry brandy called Kirsch was added to the recipe later to take its place to produce a subtle tartness or if the cheeses were too young.Its really easy to make if you know how to do it, he said. Theres no secrets, just as long as you use the right cheeses.Most people suggest using a baguette for dipping, but agree that most any crusty French or Italian-style bread will work just as well. When choosing a fondue pot, called a caquelon, make sure to find one made of a heavy earthenware, glazed ceramic or enameled iron. The key is to find variations that are heavy so that the heat is retained and distributed evenly.The word fondue is derived from the French verb “fondre” which means “melt and Weder said in order to make the class work and allow participants to just really have fun with it, hell start off with traditional cheese fondue making. Then, he said, he might take on the varieties of meat and dessert fondues in future classes.