Rich flavours with a warm, creamy, texture. Fondue is an iconic piece of European après ski culture with worldwide appeal. To me, it embodies eating as a fun social activity to perfection.
Whether part of an intimate meal for two or with a group of friends and family, a warm bubbling pot of molten cheese brings people closer together, figuratively and literally.
Preparation is part of the fondue experience and is easy to do after a day on the mountain. A simple recipe consists of dry white wine, cornstarch, and of course, cheese. The cheese selection is paramount in formulating the overall texture and flavour of your creation.
Nancy Veyrie, cheesemonger at Le Grand Fromage equates cheese to music - everyone has their own personal taste developed from flavours they enjoy. An analogy which can be read further as, ‘some can be funky and some can absolutely stink!’ – all valid interpretations supporting that ‘the perfect cheese for one is not going to be for everybody.’ Plan on at least 100g cheese per person.
Emmental and Gruyere are names you may already be familiar with. Both originate from Switzerland and are the traditional cheese choice for those aiming for an authentic Swiss fondue. The former creates a thick creamy texture, while Gruyere imparts sweet nutty flavours to the concoction.
Alternatives choices to consider include Appenzeller, Vacherin Fribourgeois, Comte, Marechal, Mont Vully, and Beaufort. You may be surprised to learn that within this petite boutique there are over two hundred cheeses to tempt you, each with its own story. Fortunately, cheesemongers like Pierre, Nancy, and Debra are on hand to guide you through the maze of flavours, aromas, textures, and colours to help you find the perfect fromage for your fondue.
The addition of white wine to the fondue builds flavour and helps maintain a smooth, uniform texture. A dry wine with a slight acid edge, like a Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc, works best. Lemon juice is often also squeezed in to aid smoothness. Remember that preparation is part of the fondue experience, so don't forget to pour yourself and everyone a glass as you prep!
Serving wine with cheese is an age-honoured tradition; beer with cheese is a fantastic alternative - just be careful how you present it to fondue purists! I reached out to the brewmasters at the Fernie Brewing Company for their recommendations of the perfect beer to serve with fondue.
Both Gruyere and Emmental pair best with Bock Beer, Lagers, or Oktoberfest Beer. The maltiness plays well against the meaty nut-like character.
From Fernie Brewing Company's wide selection of beers, we'd suggest our Project 9 Pilsner. Brewed right in the Canadian Rockies, Project 9 is a true Bavarian Pilsner with exceptional continental hop flavour that can only be achieved by selection of fine noble hops including the Saaz variety. The use of Munich, Pilsner, and Pale western Canadian malts, and time-honoured brewing methods produces a clean, crisp Bavarian Pilsner that is truly transcendent. A great fondue accompaniment. IBU – 35 and 5% alc./vol.
Alternatively, our year-round Lone Wolf IPA or one of our Bucket List Limited Release IPA's would pair well, particularly for hop heads. Lone Wolf IPA has four select malts in combination with four classic hop varieties & time-honoured traditional brewing methods including dry hopping, resulting in a golden ale with exceptional flavour & complexity. A true IPA in every sense. A well balanced N.W. IPA with Cascade/Centennial Final and Dry Hopping for that citral finish. IBU – 70 and 6.5% alc./vol. Our Bucket List IPA's rotate throughout the year, with a new one launching every two months - slightly hoppier, with distinctive flavours and creative styles.
If malts are more favourable to hops, Fernie's First Trax Brown Ale nutty maltiness is generally a great accompaniment to sharper cheeses, but would also pair well with fondues. Brewed with seven speciality malts this deep brown ale has a surprisingly smooth mouth-feel. Roasted malts result in a wonderful chocolatey & nutty brew. Refreshing, fulfilling & award winning! If you dare, enjoy at only slightly chilled 10-15C (the English know best!) IBU – 14 and 5% alc./vol.
Fernie Brewing Company’s assorted ale selection is available in cans and bottles direct from the brewery or from stores around town including The Loaf, Spirits Cold Beer & Wine store at Park Place Lodge, and all local liquor stores.
Fresh crusty bread is the classic choice, though you add to the colour and flavour palette with minimal extra effort. Peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cured meats are quick to prepare and require no cooking. Carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower benefit from a little blanching, but be careful not to over boil. Soft veggies don’t spear on the fork well, and you may find yourself fishing in the cheesy pot for lost morsels. Tradition says that if a lady drops her bread in the pot she must kiss her neighbour, if a man loses his bread he must buy a round of drinks.
The fun is in experimentation, and experimentation is part of the meal. Those feeling more adventurous could try apples, pears, and grapes. These are best prepared right before serving to avoid browning.
Fondue sets can be reserved and leased for $10 per night from Le Grande Fromage, who can also supply most of the main ingredients and even shred the cheese for you if given enough notice. Try this simple recipe for four people.
Feeling a little more experimental, how about mixing the dark sweet flavours of Fernie Brewing Company's Sap Sucker Maple Porter with a smoked cheddar.