Simply Fondue

fon·due/fänˈd(y)Photograph by Dawn Garciao͞o/

Noun: A dish in which small pieces of food are dipped into a hot sauce or a hot cooking medium such as oil or broth: “a Swiss cheese fondue“.

Fondue is something I have a real passion for. The first time I tasted REAL fondue was in Geneva, Switzerland. I then enjoyed it in Montreaux, Paris, Lyon, and anywhere I knew I was going to taste something truly exquisite. Little did I know nestled in the corners of Mission Viejo was a Fondue restaurant that would transport me back to the places I love most: Simply Fondue (and don’t let the outside fool you, the inside is amazing!).  I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the Hill Family Estate Wine dinner; a dinner that provided the phenomenal food at Simply Fondue paired with the delicious wine of the Hill Family Estate in Napa Valley.

Having never had been there, I didn’t know what to expect. From the moment I stepped inside the restaurant however, every single corner was oozing in simple sophistication and the warmth of something familiar. The decor is understated elegance. Even the bathroom is meticulous with a black chandelier that sets the tone for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (And I don’t say that lightly). The bar is open and just across from it is a glass encasement of wine displayed like bottled art. While waiting for the rest of the guests, suddenly a group of people enter the bar area. The 1st face I see is Ryan Christopher Hill of Hill Family Estate Wines. The 2nd is Kristen Clark, the daughter and part-owner of Simply Fondue. Moments later I am introduced to Kristen’s Mother and partner, Marilyn Neiger and her husband, Jim Neiger. The night was ready to begin.

We are ushered to a back room set up for the Dinner. The booths, the art, the air of this restaurant is certainly worth seeing. The final count ended up being about 10, but what an extraordinary group! The evening began with a brief introduction to the Hill Family Winery and their impressive lineup of wines. Soon after, our server came by to take our orders. First Course is the Salad. I order the Gorgonzola Field Greens which was bursting with flavor and freshness. The First Course was paired with a crisp 2010 Savignon Blanc. Now onto the Second Course – the Cheese Fondue: Jennifer of Ajenda PR and I are sharing the Fondue pot and we order the Mediterranean blend. One thing everyone should know is Fondue is much more fun when you eat with friends – and that’s it’s intention. Moments later, the server returns and places pesto and various herbs and cheeses in the Fondue pot and within moments, voila! Cheese Fondue. We dip in our breads, our veggies, and apples and a little cheesy heaven begins. Every bite is more full of flavor as the mix blends deeper into the cheese. This is simple joy. The Second Course was paired with a soft, easy 2009 Chardonnay.

As the conversation evolves and the entire room is laughing and enjoying talking to one another, it is now time for the Third Course. Each of us choose which meats to order and I go with the Beef Tenderloin, Six Pepper Beef, and the Mahi Mahi. The key factor in Fondue is choosing the base in which to cook it. We went straight for fatty goodness and taste with the original oil. THAT was the best choice! In fact those who went with lighter options, were gladly “borrowing” our mix. The plates come adorned with generous portions of fresh and organic vegetables, jalapeno poppers (yes, really), and a plethora of sauces including my favorite, the Tempura batter. Once I dig in, it is phenomenal. (My only lesson to share is be careful, it gets REALLY hot and if you’re not paying attention you can splash yourself when submersing your food into the fondue pot). But back to the incredible meal, this was by far my favorite part. Not only was the food fun and delicious, but it was paired with a beautiful red by Hill Family Estate Winery. It is their signature Red: 2007 Origin. The wine is worth mentioning with traces of berry and oak; a wonderful blend.

Fourth Course: Dessert. Dessert is a fondue pot filled with rich dark chocolate and an accompanying plate of fresh fruit, peanut butter balls (oh, these are YUMMY!), rice krispy treats, brownies, and a few surprises. This finish was paired with a 2008 Merlot. Though we thought we were done, we had the pleasure of tasting another delicious red. A dessert red with a flawless finish (I just can’t remember the name because it was a surprise). In essence, fondue should always be an adventure and it is always better done with others. Simply Fondue is a restaurant with the heart and grace of eating at a family friend’s but the sophistication and charm of restaurateurs that bring “Fundue” to a whole new level of style and class. When you want something different and fun, I’d give them a try.

Here is the Menu for this particular night:

HILL FAMILY ESTATE WINE DINNER

June 23rd @ 7pm – $49

First Course
GORGONZOLA FIELD GREENS
Mixed field greens, juicy tomatoes, diced cucumber, California chopped walnuts and herbal croutons tossed in our house raspberry vinaigrette dressing and topped with crumbled gorgonzola cheese

THE GREEK Romaine, kalamata olives, sweet red onion, diced cucumber, juicy tomato halves, crumpled feta cheese, and herbal croutons tossed in our homemade vinaigrette dressing

CLASSIC CAESAR Crisp romaine, scraped parmesan cheese, and herbal croutons tossed in a creamy Caesar dressing

SPINACH & STRAWBERRY Baby spinach, strawberry slices, and almonds tossed in a sweet cider dressing
Wine: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc

Second Course
CHEESE FONDUE
Choose from Traditional Swiss Chalet, SPICY PEPPER JACK, WISCONSIN SHARP CHEDDAR, Mediterranean or Italian Fontina (one style per table) Served with an assortment of fresh breads, crisp vegetables & granny smith apples
Wine: 2009 Chardonnay

Entrée
Choose 3 selections (per person) & a cooking style (one per table) Selections Beef tenderloin, black tiger shrimp, six pepper beef, teriyaki sirloin, smoked beef sausage, herb crusted pork tenderloin, bacon wrapped tenderloin, pecan crusted mahi-mahi, sea scallops, breast of chicken, roasted garlic chicken, Jamaican jerk chicken, teriyaki chicken, lemon pepper chicken, Swiss chicken Wine: 2007 Origin

Dessert
CHOCOLATE FONDUE

Flambéed tableside & served with pound cake, marshmallows, triple chunk brownies, maraschino cherries, strawberry halves, bananas, fresh pineapple, rice crispy squares, rolled cookies & cinnamon sugar balls Choose from original milk chocolate, Bailey’s Irish chocolate, white chocolate amaretto, raspberry Cabernet, pecan caramel swirl, rocky road or any of our 16 unique chocolate fondues (one style per table)
2008 Merlot


Simply Fondue – Mission Viejo
28719 Los Alisos Blvd.
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
P: 949-707-5200