February 5 – Chocolate Fondue Day

Fondue–that kitschy communal snack popularized in the United States back in the 70s, along with other communal suburban activities like swinging and quaaludes–comes from Sweden, and originally only comprised of bread dipped into hot molten cheese. Nowadays “fondue” means any food that is dipped into a hot liquid, from cheese to chocolate and even hot oil. I’ve only ever had the chocolate version: pieces of fruit are dipped into molten chocolate and eaten as it cools. Of course, “fruit” soon turned into “anything we could get our hands on,” and once the sugar rush started huming through our veins, we contemplated simply tipping the liquid chocolate into our mouths from the pot. You don’t think about doing that with a bowl of cheese.

It may seem a bit cliche and touristy to suggest a chain restaurant for the “best” chocolate fondue in New York, but sometimes, the chains do get it right. Max Brenner is a series of high-end chocolate shops and restaurants around New York City and the world, serving both sweet and savory dishes and highlighting high quality chocolates in such dishes as Belgian waffles, hot chocolate “hugs”, and, of course, chocolate fondue. (FYI: Max Brenner is not an actual person, but a combination of the two creators of the restaurant, Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner. So don’t try to give your compliments to the namesake!) While the store at Union Square is by far the most popular in the city, I miss their St. Mark’s Place location–tucked away on a corner of East 9th Street, warm and inviting, never crowded. It felt like a real chocolatier cafe rather than a tourist institution.

That being said, the ambience of a romantic fondue dinner might be lost in the bustling Union Square location, but the taste of the fondue is definitely not. The milk chocolate fondue is served alongside a vanilla or toffee caramel sauce, for wherever your tastes may lean. And along with fresh fruit for the dipping, you can order vanilla profiteroles, churros, banana bread, or marshmallows to make a glamorous s’more. The menu provides drink pairing suggestions and so many lip-smacking choices you may need to purchase more than one. Just going over the list of items available made me hungry (and made me reconsider my selection for a Valentine’s Day dinner!)

Max Brenner
841 Broadway (between 13th St & 14th St)

www.maxbrenner.com

Some reviews from Yelp.com:

“For dessert, my favorite is their Classic European Chocolate Fondue (for two). It’s such a fun and interactive experience. The items can be very sweet so I like choosing the dark chocolate to offset the sweetness.”–Grace C.

“Best dessert place ever. Got the tastings for two (around $30 after tax and tip) and did not regret it. The dark chocolate fondue was rich and creamy, thick and delicious. It came with marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, brownies, waffles, blueberries, these amazing candy bars and crunch balls to dip foods in after fondue, and a mini-fire so you can roast the marshmallow. This is the perfect place to go on a date or enjoy with a friend.”–Lucy C.

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