Ready to fondue? You will need at least two people, some equipment and some basic knowledge.
Fondue pots come in many price ranges and materials. An earthenware or a ceramic-coated pot is the best bet for a sticky cheese or a chocolate fondue. Meat fondues, which are cooked at higher temperatures than the cheese, should be done in metal pots. Select an enamel-cast iron pot and you can use it for cheese, chocolate or meat.
Those plastic fondue plates we used the first time around looked more like picnic in the park than entertaining at home. These days there is a better selection of divided plates such as the porcelain white plates at Williams-Sonoma.
Cringe at the thought of those cheapie fondue forks with the color-coded tips? You will pay about $30 for a set of six, but gourmet cookware shops have stainless steel versions with varying numbers of rings so diners don't get their forks mixed up. Allow one per person for cheese fondue and two each for meat fondue.
Grapeseed oil is still the best bet for smokeless cooking in oil fondues. It's available at gourmet and specialty shops.
Remember all those problems with the fuel sources we used to use for fondue? Now there is a product called Burner Paste from Chantal that burns hotter, longer and cleaner than traditional methods, according to Robin McKenzie, a buyer for Williams-Sonoma. The cost is $5 for a set of three. A candle may give enough heat for chocolate fondues because you don't want the chocolate to get too hot.
One of the reasons some people stopped serving cheese fondue was the problem of the cheese sticking to the pot. If you want to have a pot of bubbling cheese as an hors d'oeuvre option, use this trick: Cook the cheese, then add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of kirsch. It will bubble up and keep the cheese texture from being too thick.
For cheese fondue, use an acidic wine such as Soave, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
When making chocolate fondue, add a small amount of cooking oil, butter or solid vegetable shortening to thin the chocolate somewhat. You will need about one teaspoon per ounce of chocolate.
If a broth fondue calls for a mixture of fresh and dried herbs, mix the dried herbs in the liquid and add the fresh herbs at the table.
Garnishes can help the presentation. Cut pieces of truffle or lemon slices can float on top of the fondue liquid.