I have always loved the idea of fondue. After all, cheese is one of my favorite foods, and chocolate fondue at a party is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. In my pre-gluten-free days, my best friend Doris was living in Paris. I went to visit, ate crepes by day and at night she took me out for a fondue dinner. While fondue is officially a Swiss creation, Paris seemed like the perfect place to dip crusty French bread into swirls of melting cheese.
When I first heard of the American fondue chain, The Melting Pot, I was already gluten-free. Seemed like a great idea – fondue as a three-course meal - but I knew better than to try to get them to accommodate my gluten-free needs.
During my “culinary tour” of Denver [read: eating a lot while visiting friends], I discovered that The Melting Pot in Littleton has a gluten-free menu. Wah??? How could this be possible? Why had I not heard about this?
For our Saturday night “dinner without the kids,” our original plan was to go to Beau Jo’s for some Colorado-style pizza (they use gf pizza crusts from Deby’s). But during my gluttonous gluten-free brunch, I was told that I HAD to make it to The Melting Pot. – too bad they said, “it’s a Saturday, you’ll never get in.” I knew I had to find a way, even if it meant going by myself the following day and begging for a seat.
Well the universe clearly wanted me to feast on fondue – The Melting Pot had a reservation available for 5 people at 7:30 that night. The timing, the location, it was all perfect.
I started with the seasonal cheese fondue – Mediterranean with fontina and gruyere blended with roasted garlic, dates, shallots and white truffle oil. (For the gf folks they use milk as a base instead of beer.) I was served toasted gluten-free bread that looked so good, I had to check first and make sure it was slightly different from the “regular” bread my friends were eating.
For my second course I went with the Fondue Fusion - Lobster tail, filet mignon, sirloin, garlic and herb chicken, citrus pork tenderloin, and white shrimp. In lieu of the wild mushroom ravioli and roasted red pepper rigatoni I was given extra chicken and filet. An extra piece of filet mignon instead of pasta? Clearly being gf can have its perks.
My second course was cooked a la Bourguignonne – European style fondue in cholesterol free canola oil. The other lighter broth options had gluten ingredients. But on the plus side, I was given two different batters to make tempura. Yes, gluten-free tempura. Along the lines of gluten-free croissants and gluten-free ravioli, tempura is one of those things I had mourned when going gluten-free. I certainly never thought I would be eating gluten-free tempura in a mainstream restaurant.
For dessert, I chose the flaming turtle – milk Chocolate, caramel, and chopped pecans – flambéed tableside. Served with strawberries, pineapple, bananas, along with gluten-free angel food cake and chocolate brownies.
While The Melting Pot hadn’t worked out all of the kinks during my visit - no printed gf menu, a couple questions about what was or wasn’t gf. Overall it was an incredible dining experience. I was served every course along with my gluten-glutton friends and, if anything, I was given TOO MUCH gluten-free food.
You might be wondering, as I did, how this gluten-free menu came about. I asked the host that evening and he told me it was a corporate-wide initiative. I wondered how in the world this hadn't made waves in the gluten-free community already? So once I got back to NY I set about to do some investigating of my own. I started by calling The Melting Pot near my Mom’s house in Pasadena to see if they indeed had a gluten-free menu. Nope! I tried a few more: no, no, and finally no.
Well, since that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, I emailed Monica, the owner of Deby’s Gluten-Free Cafe and Bakery, who supplies the bread, tempura batter, angel food cake and brownies to the Littleton Melting Pot. She informed me that the manager of the Melting Pot in Littleton and Louisville, CO had worked with her to develop the menu. Currently they are the only two outposts offering a full gluten-free menu. Monica is hoping to set up a meeting with corporate about how to offer options for gluten-free customers across all of their locations. Keep your fingers crossed – or even better you can help the efforts - call/email/write corporate and ask them to expand their menu.
Monica is doing a great job of making it ever easier for people on a gluten-free diet to eat out safely in Colorado. And now a few of Deby’s products are available through a national restaurant supplier – SYSCO foods. But one woman and one gluten-free bakery can’t do it all. You need to make your voices heard.
In the meantime, pack your bags and make a trip to Colorado, the gluten-free food can't be beat and the scenery isn't half bad either.
The Melting Pot Littleton - Address: 2707 W. Main Street Littleton, CO 80210 Phone: (303) 794-5666
The Melting Pot Louisville - Address: 732 Main Street Louisville, CO 80120 Phone: (303) 666-7777