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The Melting Pot

4014 Townsfair Way Columbus, OH 43219 (614) 476-5500
http://www.meltingpot.com
Valentine's day can be tricky. A fella wants to be original and creative on the same night and mostly at the same time as every other cat in the country. Even the most rudimentary statistical analysis of the situation will clearly show that the odds are"against originality, no matter how high the creativity coefficient. There is, however, plenty that the savvy valentine and potential significant other impresser can do to reduce his/her margin of error. Just a couple examples of things to avoid: 1.) Long-stem red roses-not unless you've fashioned them into a bust of your paramour 2.) Anything you saw on IV., even it it was on PAX-a bunch of other people saw it too.

Remember, as well, nothing gets you out of dinner not paintball, not drag-racing lessons, not even jewelry or elective surgeries. You're going to dinner. And those nice, quiet places that you've been meaning to go, because they look so romantic... aren't. Not on Valentine's Day. They're dragging every duce they have out of the attic and pushing the fire code beyond its reasonable limits. So save romance for later; go someplace fun and intimate for dinner. Have fondue. Thanks to the Melting Pot, by the time your evening is over, you and yours will be professors of valchemy - the science of making love out of ordinary dates. If you don't feel romantic after the good time, good food and good wine you'll have there, you might really need to turn to science for hope.

A modicum of privacy is inherent in the design of the Melting Pot's dining rooms. Large, wooden-backed booths create individual dining cubbies, each one with a stainless steel burner as its focal point. It's soft, comfortable and not at all cramped, which is essential, since the event that will be dinner requires freedom of movement. The wine list has a lot of familiar selections to choose from in price ranges from KJ to Caymus, but you'll be starting with some champagne (this is almost as hard to get out of as dinner). Sparkling wine is a good bet anyway, because it goes great with cheese fondue, which is the first course of Melting Pot's four course meal. (Everything is available alia carte, but who wants to cheap-out on Valentine's Day. Lucky enough, any way you cut it, the combo meals really are an amazing deal.)

The traditional Swiss fondue packs the implied bitterness of Kirchwasser· only after a substantially lingering aged-cheese funk. It's great on the apples or the slightly sourdough bread nuggets that accompany it. Mexican cheddar is more robust and less "aged" tasting. It's great on the fresh vegetables. Don't rush through the cheese course, though. Finish your bubbly and have the first glass of whatever red you've chosen before you run out of whichever of the four cheese fondues you eventually settled on. The flavors will interact so differently, it'll be like having a secret, hidden fifth course. Besides, playing with hot, stringy, drippy cheese is a blast, especially with someone you love (or would like to love).

The salad course is the least labor intensive. Whichever of the small palate cleansers you choose will arrive, fully prepared and ready-to-eat. This may be a good time for sweet nothing whispering or the old stretch trick. Finish this glass of wine while you tell an amusing anecdote or listen intently to a story of childhood embarrassment or accomplishment. Then get ready to work again, because the main course is on its way.

Depending on which combo you've chosen, your plate could be covered with lobster, shrimp, chicken, duck, pork, beef, ravioli, pot stickers, salmon and mushrooms. Most places really don't want you to see the product raw (it tends to give away a lot of secrets), but the Melting Pot has nothing to hide. The food is a fresh as it gets (with the exception of the marinated stuff, that's been sitting in marinade for a little while). There are three broth styles and an oil cooking style from which to choose. The Fondue Bourguignon is the traditional oil cooking method that comes with dipping batters. Everything that it touches turns to edible gold (probably even shoe leather). The broth methods do not impart nearly as much flavor to whatever is dunked in them, but they do augment the natural deliciousness of really fresh meats and seafood with hints of garlic, wine or even Caribbean spice. Cook the chicken all the way, but experiment with the shrimp, beef and duck at different temperatures. Finish your wine and choose a port, because here comes the chocolate fondue.

There are nine different combinations available in chocolate fondue. Some taste like s'mores, while others taste like cookies and cream. Some are white and some are dark; some are even both. But all are chocolate, and everyone knows what chocolate can lead to...more chocolate!...I mean, Romance!