Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Pod's Fondue Tower

Last summer a group of us had dinner at an interesting restaurant in Philadelphia with the simple name, Pod. The cuisine is contemporary Pan-Asian and the decor is kind of retro space age, with lighted walls that change colors, bright plastic furniture, and a conveyor belt sushi bar. The bathrooms, oversized versions of airplane lavatories, line a long hallway with red or green lights outside each door to indicate occupied or not. The cocktail menu offers a selection of brightly colored signature drinks that one orders by color (purple, red, blue, etc.).

Despite the gimmicky decor the food was delicious and served very intriguingly. For example, the Peking duck arrived as a tall column of bamboo steamers, each steamer holding different components of the dish. All dishes are served family style in beautiful bowls, on lacquered platters, or in three-dimensional layers. A popular dish, which seemed to appear at every table in the dining room, was a dessert called The Fondue Tower.

The moment I spied it coming from the kitchen in a flurry of fanfare and set on a neighboring table to appreciative “ooh”s, I knew it would be a fun dessert to serve at home for a group of guests. We ordered one for our party of five.

A tall three tiered plate holder was placed in the center of the table. Each plate held a small dish of sauce and various goodies for dipping in the sauce. The top tier had a dish of blackberry coulis surrounded by tiny freshly fried beignets, miniature macaroons, meringue cookies, squares of pate de fruit, and small rice crispy treats. The middle tier’s sauce was chocolate, served with fresh fruit skewers, glazed banana slices, and a scattering of fresh berries. The bottom tier held a dish of caramel sauce flanked by mini-cheesecakes, bite-sized brownies, and tiny biscotti.

I saw how simple this dessert would be to prepare at home with any combination of favorite sauces (purchased or homemade) and dipping goodies. I loved the concept so I decided to make my own Fondue Tower for the dessert course of a special birthday dinner party I was planning.

For the sauces I made caramel sauce, raspberry coulis and a very easy dark chocolate sauce. For the dipping goodies I basically used the same things that Pod's dessert contained, mostly purchased. It was a great dessert; very impressive looking and fun to eat. The presentation in the tiered tower is what really made this simple dessert so special.

Here are two of the sauce recipes I made. I had never made my own caramel sauce before but the flavor is so amazing that I will never buy commercial caramel sauce again. The microwave chocolate sauce is so incredibly easy and quick; it’s a miracle.

Caramel Sauce
From Cook's Illustrated Jan/Feb 2003

My notes: The flavor of homemade caramel sauce is just wonderful. Commercial sauce does not compare. A candy thermometer insures success. This sauce is still somewhat soft even refrigerated.

If you make the caramel sauce ahead, reheat it in the microwave or a small saucepan over low heat until warm and fluid. When the hot cream mixture is added in step 3, the hot sugar syrup will bubble vigorously (and dangerously), so don't use a smaller saucepan

1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Place water in heavy-bottomed 2 qt saucepan; pour sugar in center of pan, taking care not to let sugar crystals adhere to sides of pan. Cover and bring mixture to boil over high heat; once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until syrup is thick and straw colored (syrup should register 300 degrees on candy thermometer), about 7 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until syrup is deep amber (syrup should register 350 degrees on candy thermometer), about 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring cream and salt to simmer in small saucepan over high heat (if cream boils before sugar reaches deep amber color, remove cream from heat and cover to keep warm).

Remove sugar syrup from heat; very carefully pour about one quarter of hot cream into it (mixture will bubble vigorously), and let bubbling subside. Add remaining cream, vanilla, and lemon juice; whisk until sauce is smooth.

(Sauce can be cooled and refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 weeks).

Easiest Ever Microwave Chocolate Sauce
From The 5 in 10 Dessert Cookbook (Five Ingredients in 10 Minutes or Less)
By Natalie Haughton

My Notes: I used a good quality Belgian dark chocolate and heavy cream. It was amazing how it turned into a smooth dark chocolate sauce in just 45 seconds! The refrigerated leftovers got hard but softened back into a sauce in just 10 seconds in the microwave.

1 cup (6 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (I used a good Belgian dark chocolate, chopped)
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream (I used cream, of course)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 2 cup glass measure, combine the chocolate chips and the milk or cream. Microwave on high for 45 to 60 seconds; stir until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. If necessary, return to microwave for15 to 20 seconds. Stir in vanilla.

Serve immediately. Keep any leftovers refrigerated and reheat in the microwave before serving.

Tags: , , ,
Blogger kitchenmage said...
Oh my, that tower of fondue does look yummy. Make me wonder how many components of such a thing might be made ahead and pulled out of the fridge/freezer/shelf at the last minute.