‘“We’re unfortunately sold out on all single rooms. I can give you a dorm bed in a big room you share with other hikers”, said the receptionist of the hostel. I was at Interlaken, Switzerland to see the Jungfrau summit in the Swiss Alps. I picked up my bag pack and entered my assigned room. Inside I saw bunch of Asians and black people hanging out by bunk beds. I asked myself, “Doesn’t Switzerland have a taste of France, Germany and Italy? Where are they?” I put my back pack down and looked inside the next room. That gigantic room was filled with nobody but white people. I didn’t see a single soul of “diversity”. I came to realize that the receptionist assigned a room to each person based upon skin colors. If I’d brought President Obama, I wondered to which room she would assign him. Would he go to the “white” room or “colored” room? She may have a dilemma. While standing in that “segregated place”, I felt like bringing everybody out from both rooms and having a big fondue party. I’d melt three distinctly flavored cheeses from Switzerland – pungent, nutty and herbaceous Appenzeller, mild and sweet Emmental and earthy and complex Gruyere cheese. Then, I’d share with the melting pot of the room, the delicious melted pot of cheeses, wine and seasoning. My visit to Switzerland made me appreciate all the more our colorful diversity in Northern California. With that, I am making a fondue to celebrate the beauty of our California melting pot in my kitchen.
First, I shred 7 oz Gruyere, 6 oz Emmental and 5 oz Appenzeller. Then I coat them with 2 Tablespoons corn starch, some freshly ground black pepper and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper in a bowl. Separately, I rub inside the fondue pot with a garlic clove (crushed by the flat side of a big knife). Then, I heat 1 1/3 cup Riesling over medium heat and add juice from a half lemon and 1 Tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy) until hot. Then, I reduce the heat to low and gradually stir in the cheese mixture as the cheese melts. Finally, I slice tart, moist and hearty sourdough breads into 1 inch cubes and then dip them into the fondue pot using a long-stemmed fork. The ritual at the dining table is that whoever loses a piece of bread in the pot kisses the neighbor to the right or left. Fondue is a delicious, warm dish that a whole family and friends can enjoy this winter. I think it would be especially great for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Be sure to sit in between the most attractive guests.
I am pairing this Swiss fondue with a 2009 Rancho Sisquoc Winery Riesling from Santa Barbara, California. Crisp and fruity, this wine is loaded with delicious flavors of stone fruits, yellow apple and pear with a balanced acidity. The wine’s apple and pear flavors beautifully complements the nuttiness of this fondue, while its sweet tone counterbalances the rich, mildly salty cheese. Also, the fruitiness of the wine tones down the tanginess of the fondue and sourdough. Smooth and silky, this savory fondue showcases its sweet, earthy and nutty tone with each sip of Riesling. Yum.
In case you haven’t decided what to make for the New Year or New Years Eve, consider this fun communal dish. Dropping a piece of bread in the fondue pot may turn into a lucky kiss that makes a great new friend in the new year. I wish you, your family and friends very happy new year!