rick mcginnis/metro toronto
Address 58 The Esplanade
M-W 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.
T-F 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m.
Sat 4 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.
Sun 4 p.m. - Midnight
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip $70
*** 1/2 (out of five)
Fondue is one of those words — like fern bar — that evokes dining experiences past, especially for anyone who grew up in the ’70s, when every swinging young couple owned a fondue set, preferably in burnt orange, with teak-handled fondue forks and a little tray for a tea candle underneath the pot.
Like those other ’70s gems, fondue has undergone a resurgence in the last few years, with fondues returning to menus in the U.S., albeit updated for a post-polyester era. With this in mind, Bier Markt — the Belgian bistro on the Esplanade with one of the city’s most impressive beer selections — has been featuring fondue on its menu for a special event ending this weekend.
Based around six fondue dishes designed by Bier Markt chef Michael Cipollo to feature a range of ingredients, it’s a nice way to fortify yourself against the chill of our bitter winter weather.
“We’ve always offered a fondue at the Bier Markt because it’s always been a very unique thing to go out and order,” Cipollo says. “It’s a lot of work for people to prepare at home — you have to get a set, you have to know what you’re doing, set it up, and get people who want to do it. There was an opportunity to offer a unique program — things that are intriguing and innovative. We wanted to offer guests a new experience, and that’s what we’re all about — the experience.”
On the top of Bier Markt’s fondue menu is the steak and chips of fondue — a cheesy mix of appenzeller, emmental and raclette, mixed with Stella Artois lager and served with the standard mix of veggies — cornichon pickles, grape tomatoes and asparagus — and bread.
A slightly fancier brie, lobster and pastis fondue fills out the appetizer part of the menu, featuring tiny, perfect crab cakes to gild the seafood lily.
The main fondue dishes are built around a pair of hot broths, and demonstrate fondue cuisine at its healthiest. “Fondue is a very healthy thing to have,” says Cipollo, “because there’s no additional cooking oil. So we’re not adding any additional fats to these dishes. Obviously there are the chocolates and the cheeses, but with the entrees it’s a very healthy way to eat.
“We’re finding that a lot of men and women are enjoying this type of dining,” he explains, “because it offers something for everybody and with the beer pairings and everything else — our staff is so knowledgeable with the pairings — the healthy side is just a bonus.”
There are only three days left to Bier Markt’s fondue festival, but no end in sight to this winter’s cold snap, so the time to fortify yourself is now.