Valentine’s Day is upon us and you are probably searching for the perfect gift or busy planning a romantic get-a-way with your special someone. I have been thinking about how I would like to spend this lovely holiday with my husband and came across some wonderful ideas such as: re-enacting our first date, taking dance lessons together, spending a quiet evening at home in front of the fireplace with a fine bottle of wine and some delicious specialty foods, experiencing a couples massage or escaping to a romantic Country Inn for the weekend.
But this Valentine’s Day we decided to entertain by hosting some of our dear friends for dinner. I love to have a theme when I entertain; however, at the same time I wanted to keep it easy and relaxed. A festive fondue party came to mind, so we decided to embrace it. In addition, my husband’s family is from Switzerland, so I have lots of resources!
Our Friday night, Valentine’s dinner party will consist of six people- three couples including ourselves, the perfect size in my opinion. The first course, my personal favorite, will be cheese fondue. I have prepared home-made cheese fondue several times before and our Swiss family agrees that the pre-packaged cheese fondue that you purchase from the deli/produce section of your grocery store is just as delicious and much less work. We plan on serving the cheese fondue with crusty French bread cut into cubes, individual plumb green grapes, and apple slices: all can be dipped into the delicious hot cheese and savored. It’s best to utilize a glazed ceramic fondue pot for cheese since the heat is more evenly conveyed than in a metal fondue bowl. (Our ceramic fondue dish hails from Switzerland and was a gift from my husband’s godmother.) Additionally, I plan on serving side dishes of gherkin pickles as well as olives and pickled pearl onions. These bite-size briny items go nicely with the richness of the cheese fondue. For our Valentine celebration, we will consider pouring a bottle of an exceptional white wine to pair with the cheese fondue. Next, we will serve a light green salad mixed with a few strawberries and some dragon fruit and tossed with a delicate champagne vinaigrette dressing.
As the evening progresses, the dishes will be cleared, and the entrées presented. It will consist of tender, beef filet as well as fresh shrimp. It’s important to purchase the best beef that you can, and I have good luck at Wholefoods for their wonderful selection as well as service. I plan on ordering two pounds of beef and they will even cube it for you while you wait! Additionally, I recommend 5-6 pieces each of fresh (not previously frozen) shrimp (about 30 pieces total). You can purchase these at either Wholefoods or the Atlanta Fish Market. If asked, the market will devein and deshell the shrimp and I ask for the tails to be cut off as well. The beef and shrimp can be prepped ahead of time which is great for entertaining and gives me more time to enjoy my guests! About an hour before my guests arrive, I rinse the beef and shrimp separately and pat dry with a paper towel. I then plate the uncooked beef on a large platter and garnish it with lemon slices and rosemary sprigs. Next, I plate the raw shrimp on a long-serving dish and decorate with a few lemon slices. The beef and the shrimp will be cooked communal style at the table in stainless steel fondue pots that contain hot vegetable oil. The light-weight metal transfers the heat quickly but make sure the oil has had a chance to heat up before gathering around the table. It is best to utilize wooden fondue spears for the meat and shrimp. The guests will delight as they cook their own selections and we plan on having lively dinner conversation. Nevertheless, it’s all about the dipping sauces and I plan on having them spooned out separately in individual small ramekins and placed in front of each table setting. For the delicious beef filet, we will serve both Dijon mustard and horseradish and they are available from the grocery store. As for the shrimp, we will offer three exquisite sauces all prepared and available for purchase at Benihana’s (a Japanese Sushi and Steak House). They offer several but our favorite sauces to pair with the shrimp are yum-yum, ginger, and soy sauce.
Once the wine has been consumed and the fondue forks are empty, dessert will be served. I wrestled with serving delicious chocolate fondue with strawberry chunks for dipping as well as banana slices, marshmallows, and pineapple chunks; however, I wanted to make it easy on the host and hostess and not have to wash and repurpose the fondue pots while our guests are awaiting. Instead, I will opt for making scrumptious, home-made banana pudding bars (Paula Deen’s recipe). These bars are deliciously light and will be a perfect complement to the fondue dinner. Of course, coffee and tea will be served and perhaps some Champagne as well!
Valentine’s Day for many is a time to celebrate your love with your special one. But I guess I am one of the lucky ones because, for me, every day is Valentine’s Day. Cheers to thirty years of wonderful marriage with one special Swiss man!
For the artist who took this photo please go to this site: www.cfflowerprints.com