At The 9th Floor we’ve put fondue on the menu because it is fun, sociable, and of course we make it in the most delicious way. We must be one of the best places to eat in Patong for fondue.
Today a fondue quickly conjures up images of beef, pork or chicken ready to be dipped into a tasty broth, or a range of melted cheeses with garlic, white wine and maybe some chili, but originally fondue wasn’t a dining experience it was a way to use up leftover food. It is believed that back in the 17th century farmers working in the forests in Switzerland would take leftover hard cheese and put it in a pot, called a caquelon, with some white wine, garlic and herbs and then once melted over a fire dip their bread into the pot. This idea of melting cheese in a shared pot was quickly copied in towns and so the popularity of fondue commenced. The word “fondue” comes from the french word “fondre” which means to melt.
From the start Gruyere cheese was popular, but other cheeses and ingredients were also experimented with. Around 1875, the classic cheese fondue recipe was formally recorded in the French Rhone-Alpes, near the Swiss border. The precise history of fondue is a little sketchy until the 1930s when the Swiss Cheese Union promoted fondue as a national dish to increase the consumption of cheese. The Swiss Cheese Union did a great marketing job with fondue sets being sent out to the military and many promotions at large events. The Swiss Cheese Union was a cartel of cheese makers and set the price of milk, restricted the types of cheese and limited production and unsurprisingly the union collapsed at the end of the 1990s. Their work though has meant that fondue truly became a Swiss national dish.
In 1964 fondue was featured at the New York World Fair. This fair started a new fad across America for fondue and then someone, somewhere had the idea of replacing the cheese with chocolate. A whole new era of fondue commenced with bread being replaced by marshmallows.
The classic Swiss fondue isn’t just one cheese, it is usually a Gruyere cheese which has a nutty, strong taste and Emmental a much softer flavored cheese. Other cheeses are often used such as Tilsiter and Appenzeller. The cheese is then cooked with garlic and a robust dry white wine. Sometimes people like to also add cherry brandy. Traditional food for dipping is the freshest, crusty white bread but if you’re living in a cold climate you may find a fondue is served with potatoes as well.
The tools for fondue have gone way beyond a simple pot over a fire. Today we have the choice of ceramic pots with tea lights as the heat source to titanium infused ceramic pots with sophisticated adjustable temperature controls. Whatever you prefer the joy of fondue is sitting together with friends and sharing food.
The only downside to fondue is if you drop your bread or meat in the pot then there a is a penalty. If you’re in a restaurant you may end up paying the bill or if you’re at home you may end up clearing all the dishes. If everyone is feeling kind you may just have to complete a forfeit. This is the fun of sharing a fondue.