Why Fondue Makes for the Most Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner
You could say I'm a romantic. I love love. There is nothing more magical and wonderful in this world so I celebrate it whenever and however I can. For Valentine's Day my partner Ben and I celebrate with fondue, it's the ultimate romantic date night meal. Ben and I adore cooking together—it's what we do for a living and something we enjoy outside of work. He loves the savory side of things, while I have a passion for sweets and baking. I also love making a big mess and he is a pro at cleaning up and dishes! If both of us are working on the same course, one of us will be chef, in charge of cooking, and the other sous chef, in charge of prepping ingredients, washing, trimming, and chopping. That way things are efficient, we both "own" part of the meal, and we are not stepping on each other's toes. (There is a relationship lesson somewhere in this too, I think!)
Fondue is also one of the simplest meals to plan and prep for and is always one of my go-to dinner party meals for a large group or a romantic date night. Not only is it a delicious interactive crowd-pleaser (who doesn't like melted cheese and wine?), but it is super easy to prep and execute—90 percent of the work can be done in advance, leaving just 10 minutes or less to pre-dinner prep.
Cut brioche into cubes, boil potatoes, cut up vegetables (or roast them if you prefer roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts for dipping)… this can all be done the day prior, then any cooked vegetables can be reheated in the oven. The bread is actually best when a little firmer, more on the 'crouton' side, to add some texture. Even the cheese can be grated in advance and stored in an airtight container to be added to the pot and heated up about five minutes before the meal.
My fondue favorites are the classics; cheese and chocolate. You can never go wrong with them. Ben is French, so cheese fondue is traditional for him and close to his heart. Comté is one of my favorite cheeses so I use mostly that for cheese fondue. I also like to mix in Tomme de Savoie for extra kick and Emmental for a creamy rich texture. For dipping, we often stick with the classics: cubes of brioche and boiled potatoes. Sometimes I also use vegetables, meats, and pasta and have fun with creative ways to present them.
Fondue is rich and can feel heavy, especially if followed by a decadent dessert, so I like to keep the rest of the Valentine's Day dinner simple. Typically I just serve a mixed green salad in a simple dressing to round out the menu.
For dessert, I'm serving Chocolate Fondue. Homemade shortbreads and macaroons are among my go-to choices for sweet fondue dipping and I always cut up any and all kinds of fruits to dip. I add a generous tablespoon of sour cream to chocolate fondue to maintain a smooth texture and make sure the sweetness of the chocolate is not overwhelming, that's especially important when dipping already sweet cookies and fruits.
For special dinners, we pop open 'reserve' bottles we've saved for special occasions. We start with bubbly, enjoying it as we prep in the kitchen, then moving to wine for the meal. Then there's a delicious hot drink at the end of the meal. Like many chocolate lovers, I enjoy experiencing chocolate with all my senses and a homemade hot chocolate—seeing that you have chocolate on hand—for me—is the perfect way to end the meal.
My go-to fondue pot is from Boska ($139, food52.com) and it's a perfect size for a dinner for two (or four) and for sweet or savory. With its sleek copper pot and concrete base, it is also a stunning showpiece for the table. I also have some vintage fondue pots that I pull out for bigger groups. In fact, I have enough now that you could say I collect fondue pots!
Setting the Scene
While we are prepping together in the kitchen, I love to set the scene. We choose a fun playlist. (My current favorite is Spotify's Billie Holiday radio). And of course, we crack open a nice bottle of wine to enjoy as we cook. For an extra special, romantic Valentine table, I use gift cards as little love notes that I incorporate into the setting. Also, I make sure we have some photos of the wonderful memories we have shared nearby. I collect and keep them in glass photo boxes. Having them around makes for rich conversation during the meal.
Valentine's Day Entertaining Tips
For our romantic nights, we typically do meals in bed, in a pillow fort on the floor in front of a movie or I choose an undiscovered place in the home (anywhere but the dining table!). Switching up the location can make the evening feel more 'special.' For this fondue dinner, I used a small side table with two small stools in front of the window in our living room where there is a gorgeous view. It's a cozy dining nook that's the perfect size for two.
For placemats, I layered wrapping paper and tissue paper. It's a fun and cost-effective way to create texture and color without investing in numerous different table settings and linens—and makes for easy clean up too! Then to add some whimsy and romance to the table I add flowers (these are from Gem Fleuriste) and mix modern staples with vintage plates and lace pieces. Heart-shaped picks are my Valentine's update on classic fondue picks.
Music is definitely a great way to set the mood and playing low in the background as ambiance is always nice. A romantic dinner doesn't have to be clichéd. No need to go with slow tunes and candlelight if that's not your thing. You know yourselves and what will make your evening most enjoyable.