So, don’t hate…I have an aversion to most cheeses and because of that never tried fondue. So you could understand my apprehension, then, when we were invited to try out the seasonal menu called Big Night Out America at The Melting Pot. Melted cheese…in a pot…dipping stuff in it. I didn’t know how I’d deal, but part of being half of OmNomCT means pushing the boundaries of comfort and the usual. So, I went into the meal, brave, head held high, and ready to conquer the meal. Kristien tried to convince me that fondue wasn’t just about cheese, so imagine my relief when I found out she was actually telling the truth and wasn’t just trying to trick me so she could have all the cheese to herself.
We were seated in a nice and cozy booth with a hot plate mechanized robot thing installed right in the table. Our sever Josh told us all about the menu and how the meal works. As we waited, James Layfield, co-owner with his parents Will and Carol, came by and greeted us. We had seen James briefly at the Rodizio pre-opening (co-owner there also). It seemed that the second he left, we saw our server come by with dishes of cheese and mix-ins.
First Course: Cheese Fondue ala Boston
The first part of the tasting menu was fun, but obviously scared me. Although we could have gone with any cheese combination on their menu, we decided to stick with the Sam Adams Boston Lager cheddar cheese, emmenthaler cheese, and onions. It was a nice and mild fondue with the beer flavor really showing through. The dijon and bacon didn’t come through at first, but when you stirred things up the flavor rose up. We tossed in lots of Tabasco sauce to kick things up, too. That being said, I enjoyed it, actually. Kristien, though, thought it was okay…going back she’d go with some stronger cheese combos and decided she doesn’t like beer in her cheese. We dipped nearly anything that you could imagine: carrots, cauliflower, brocolli, apples, and bread. We liked most of the dip-ins, but the bread was a bit disappointing because it was dry. So, look, I survived and actually enjoyed the dipping. Chalk one up to me. Mommy, are you proud of your Danny?
Second Course: Salads
We have to say that we were really happy with the salads that came out for us. Kristien had a fresh salad that came with lots of pears, gorgonzola, and pecans. The dressing was light, not too sweet, and had just the right amount of raspberry taste to set off the ingredients. I had the Spinach Mushroom Salad with fresh spinach, wonderfully smoky and chunky bacon, nicely chopped tomatoes, and a dressing that you get to pour on yourself. That Burgundy Shallot Vinaigrette dressing is killer. It was a nice palate cleanser, getting you ready for the next portion of the meal.
Third Course: Coq au Vin and Meats
We were able to pick what variety of meat and accoutrements we wanted and what we wanted our meats cooked in–either Coq au Vin (wine), Court Bouillon (broth), Bourguignonne (canola oil), or Mojo (Carribbean bouillon). We decided to go with the Coq au Vin because it seemed like a heartier option. For the meats we went with the lobster, buffalo chicken, steak, pork, dumplings, and veggies package. We were told that you can’t really overcook the food in the broth, but we love our steak mediumish, so we took those out a bit earlier than the others. When you’ve cooked your meat, you then need to pick which incredibly flavorful and tasty sauces to dip them in! Here are some suggestions from us to you:
Green Goddess, sour cream and chives: buffalo chicken and potato
Gorgonzola and cream sauce: steak
Melted butter: lobster, mushroom, potato
Curry sauce: pork
Sweet and sour: dumpling
Plum sauce: steak
Cocktail sauce: shrimp
This course, too, was interactive because you’re able to pick your favorite kind of chocolate to dip a helluva lot of stuff in such as your choice of chocolate, Bananas Foster, Flaming Turtle, or Chocolate S’mores. We went with the Big Night Out special (Chocolate Wildberry Crunch Fondue) and began to salivate, thinking of what awaited us. Our arsenal for the final course? Oreo coated marshmallows, graham cracker coated marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, brownies, poundcake, cheesecake, and Rice Krispie treats. Staring off, we both loved the chocolate because it had such complex flavors. You first got the hit of smooth chocolate, then a tart berry burst, then finally the creamy, nutty peanut butter started to peak through. Some of our faves:
Banana: it was like a banana split in one dip!
Graham cracker marshmallow: s’mores on steroids.
Oreo marshmallow: great. Let it sit for about a minute in the chocolate, turning it. It’ll turn gooey and will invite you in.
Cheesecake: so creamy, so awesome, love it.
You can order beer or wine here at pretty affordable prices or you can do the pairing. When in doubt, always do the pairing. Someone thought long and hard about what beer and wine goes best with each course, so go with their advice. We were glad that we got the pairings because they did match up quite well and ended up bringing the flavors out from the cheese, the salad, and the Coq au Vin. James also told us later that they have had Magic Hat dinners in the past and will be having more. He also tries to add more beer variety to the menu pretty often, so you can always find some new choices when you return.
The Melting Pot in Darien is a great place to take a date, friends, have a party, and just chill out. You’ll have lots of fun with the interactive elements. Prices are similar to eating out at a semi-expensive restaurant, but you’ll get good food and you’ll know exactly how the meal is cooked. No surprises here, you do it yourself. Service here is also excellent. Josh was very knowledgeable and made the night fun. You can also see James Layfield, circulating table to table, asking how things are, and even helping deliver food. He’s one of the most hands-on owners (that’s a good thing) that we’ve seen at a restaurant. Another great thing to know is they are gluten-free friendly and are also sensitive about other food allergies. Just let them know when you sit down. So, food, price, selection, drinks, and service taken into account, we will definitely return to The Melting Pot.
The Melting Pot
Darien, CT 06820
- Phone: (203) 656-4774
- Monday-Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
- Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
- Friday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
- Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
- Saturday: 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.
- Sunday: 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/TheMeltingPotDarien
Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/MPMetroNYWWD