I ventured across the river and state lines into New Jersey two Sundays ago. Matt just bought a gorgeous new seven-footer Mason and Hamlin piano. He kindly invited Danielle and me to go over and help him break it in. Before we got down to some serious singing and some more serious goofing, we went to dinner at the Magic Pot, a fondue resto.
It sounded like a good idea. I couldn’t have the cheese course but would indulge in the meat, cooked tableside in broth. After we stepped into the zone of steam, picture 10-12 silver pots of boiling broth in a small space, it became apparent that the fondue concept was more complicated in reality than in my mind.
I asked the waiter about wheat, nuts, fish or soy in the broth and what they made themselves. I had a small hunch that it was not fine dining fondue, if there is such a thing outside of the Swiss Alps. After going into the kitchen for a discussion, our waiter returned with the news that, no, they don’t make their own broths [which was already an issue], there was soy in all of the broths except for vegetable and there was flour in the cheese to help thicken it when melted. Hmmm. Not a good start. But what to do?
Dani and Matt are dear friends, accommodating and flexible concerning my allergies. That aside, I knew that Dani was chomping at the bit to try the coq au vin broth and to have fish to dip into it, two things I couldn’t have or share. We decided to do the vegetarian broth for my sake with just plain meats. Sigh.
Truly, once I knew nothing in the Magic Pot was made from scratch but rather more assembly line, pre-fab I simply couldn’t trust it. Add to that that I knew my hungry friends were making concessions so I could eat something but I was already feeling that this was a bad idea for my needs.
So should I try eating something that I knew had a high probability of giving me a tummy ache for the rest of the night [soy-wise]? Or tell them what I truly wanted which was not fondue? I didn’t want to deny Dani and Matt a full dining experience. And yes, I know, dinner was about being together and having a good time but the food was part of that and I felt a little awkward that my needs potentially denied someone else their preference/enjoyment.
Of course, after the cheese course and in enough time to change the order I told them how I really felt. No fondue for me. Order what you want. I will eat later. Which is what we did: they changed their order and ate what they wanted [coq au vin with meats and fish]; I went to Whole Foods across the street, bought some food I wanted and ate back at Matt’s place.
But it was sucky to feel that conflict: between my desire to try something new and push my culinary boundaries versus knowing I didn’t feel safe with the presented options. And of course not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings or be too demanding. And it felt kinda like a punk out but now I know, only home-made meat/broth fondue for me and no Magic Pot!