Fortunately, at The Melting Pot, the only flame in operation is the one kindled in your partner’s eyes. Talk about romantic! In the shadowy setting, booths are configured for utmost privacy. (The only indication that we were not the restaurant’s sole occupants was a distant chorus of “Happy Birthday.”) And the pot simmers away on the electrified tabletop — no Sterno in sight.
Nowadays that cooking liquid often isn’t oil, either. Most guests choose a flavored broth, and a vegetarian one, at that. The Mojo, for instance, wafts a hint of citrus juices melded with Caribbean spices. But first, an uber-Alpine starter: a cheese fondue plump with bits of sausage, livened by modest hints of chipotle and black peppers and a splash of the Sam Adams Noble Pilsner that we’d sip as we dipped. In mere seconds, the cheese is ready to envelop whatever you’ve impaled on your fork: bread cubes, chunks of sweet-tart Granny Smiths, husky florets of broccoli and cauliflower.
When you’re ready to proceed, voila: a generous salad composed of strawberries, a shower of mild feta and baby spinach leaves infused with Blackberry Witbier dressing, calling on the accompanying sweet-crisp Sam Adams beer.
Then, the show-stopper, the Big Night Out. And “big” is the operative description for the wherewithal to dip in the Mojo broth — an inventory of the entire kitchen’s edibles, from the looks of it, starting with potatoes and mushrooms. Fling these in to cook while you’re dithering over what next to put on your fork: shrimp marinated in the Sam Adams Coastal Wheat that’s now at your side; chicken lightly touched with garlic; ruddy beef tenderloin; robust hunks of andouille sausage and milder ones of Hawaiian pork. Plus, a quartet of veggie-stuffed potstickers in case (fat chance) you’re still famished.
After mere seconds, these morsels are ready to dip in the Melting Pot’s sauces: teriyaki, mild yellow curry and ginger, plus the hands-down winners: a rich and creamy Gorgonzola and a similarly decadent Green Goddess number. And an Imperial White in a second glass for cross-pairing.
The meal ends, as all romantic dinners must, with chocolate. Pierce a strawberry or banana, or sink further into decadence with bits of cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake or even Rice Krispie Treats, for god’s sake. And if there’s an agnostic at the table who isn’t ready to accept beer as his personal savior when chocolate is involved, just force a sip of Sam Adams Cream Stout between his lips and listen for the Halleluia.