I was recently invited by my friends at the Melting Pot of Metro New York to sample their brand new French-inspired Big Night Out menu they launched earlier this month. Now while the Melting Pot is indeed a now international chain (with locations in Canada), the Metro New York restaurants consist of locations in Darien, Connecticut; White Plains, New York; and Westwood, New Jersey – so if you are in the New York Metro area – they have you covered. White Plains is a quick hop from the City so I chose this location for my review.
We were warmly greeted at the reception desk and quickly ushered to a delightful private dining area for two. This Lover’s Lane set-up allows for dining in complete privacy in a candle lit alcove complete with fiber optic stars adorning the ceiling. I know, I know, you are thinking kitschy but the booth was wonderfully tailored in masculine tones with a lovely granite table top. The other thing I immediately noticed was free WiFi as the location is actually below street level – nice touch which made my real-time Tweeting possible.
Our server Alec was there in a flash and walked us through the whole experience and menus like a true professional – I would later learn that he’s been at this location since it opened and it is very clear why. The menu (gluten-free version of course) is well laid out and you essentially choose from a salad, a cheese fondue course, your main fondue course, and your…wait for it…dessert fondue. While the Melting Pot has is standard repertoire of delectable fondues always on the menu, they offer a special regional Big Night Out menu that changes two times per year. The previous region was the Pacific Rim but October brought the new French-inspired menu which I was eager to try.
Now I have had fondue in Switzerland and I have also done the Shabu Shabu-type fondue and even be party to home fondue parties thrown by friends but the choice of options at the Melting Pot impressed even this jaded fonduer.
For starters we had the Fondue à la France which consisted of a white wine base, baby Brie, Fontina, Gruyère and Raclette cheeses (yum) accented with Nueske’s bacon, onions, white truffle cream and fresh chives. It was expertly prepared by Alec and served with both fresh vegetables AND gluten-free bread from Three Dogs Bakery out of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, New York. When I saw a presentation of both white and dark breads cut into neat squares for dipping I nearly wept. I mean I was just expecting the vegetables but not at these Melting Pots – au contraire mes amis – these Melting Pots have a relationship with the bakery to source not only the gluten-free bread for this course but some other surprises that come a bit later in the meal. Though for my readers outside of the Tri-State area, this is not the case at all Melting Pots. Yes, they all do have gluten-free menus and options but the breads and soon to com surprises are unique to the Metro New York Melting Pots and I have to say most welcome!
In keeping with the French-inspired menu I opted for the Niçoise salad that included French and yellow beans, Niçoise olives imported from France, tomatoes and hard-boiled egg all topped with just the perfect amount of a robust shallot vinaigrette – simply delicious and it took me back to my days spent at the University of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. My other half had the Spinach and Mushrooms salad with fresh spinach, baby Portobello mushrooms, red onion, chopped bacon and Roma tomatoes accompanied by a warm Burgundy Shallot Vinaigrette. He simply raved about this salad.
For the main fondue we decided to have the Fondue Feast which contained Filet Mignon, Peppercorn-Crusted NY Strip, Chicken Provençal, Roasted Garlic Shrimp, Maple Leaf Farms Duck a l’Orange, Ratatouille & Goat Cheese Ravioli (automatically substituted on the GF menu) and Fresh Vegetables. Now all my readers know by now that I not only have celiac disease but also suffer from a hyper-shellfish allergy so the Alec simply swapped out the shrimp and added a bit more of the other items. No muss, no fuss, not a big deal. Again, this Melting Pot gets food allergies. When reviewing the sauces Alec also carefully noted that I was fine with four out of the five sauces. It is so nice to be out and not only have such a stellar server as Alec but to have someone who is versed in the menu they are serving their guest and make you feel immediately at ease – not having to worry if something in the meal will cause a problem. It was also handled so casually (from a delivery standpoint) so as not to make you feel like what you are asking is a big deal. Again, well done!
For the cooking method of our main fondue we opted for the Bourguignon which is essentially canola oil in which to cook your meats. The other cooking styles are: Coq au Vin with fresh herbs, garlic, and spices in a burgundy wine; Mojo with Caribbean-seasoned bouillon with a distinctive fresh-garlic flavor and a citrus twist; and Court Bouillon which is a homemade seasoned vegetable broth. The choice of meats we were presented with was impressive and enough to more than satisfy two hungry diners. We cooked away in the hot oil when about half-way through Alec asked if we’d like to try another style of cooking. I gladly accepted his offer deciding upon the Coq au Vin what was a wonderfully flavorful red wine-based broth to cook the meats in. Oh, and all of the meats from the filet to the sirloin to the duck were all top quality and wonderfully tender with just the right amount of seasoning.
As I mentioned earlier four out of the five dipping sauces are in fact gluten-free: the Curry (A mild, yogurt-based curry); Green Goddess (a blend of cream cheese, sour cream, onions, chives, and parsley); Gorgonzola Port (rich and cheesy); and Ginger Plum (MPs own unique recipe with red and green bell peppers, ginger, and just a hint of plum). All were very good but I was partial to the green goddess and ginger plum. The green goddess does indeed make a fabulous stuffed mushroom as both the menu and Alec pointed out and yes, I had three or four of those. The ginger plum worked so well across all the meat types with just the right balance of sweet and savory.
I have to admit I found myself saving room for dessert because, well, quite frankly I have rarely met a dessert I haven’t liked but the Melting Pot version of dessert comes in the form of rich, liquid, molten chocolate. Or in our case the Yin and Yang which was a decadent (and beautiful) combination of dark and white chocolate that arrives at the table looking almost too good to eat – I said almost. When presented with a place containing gluten-free brownie, gluten-free cheesecake, and a sampling of fruit and marshmallows that bowl of Yin and Yang chocolate did not stand a chance.
I could not believe that we were at the restaurant for over two hours as the meal just seamless flowed from course to course with an attentive but unobtrusive staff that made us feel so very welcome. From the moment we arrived we were so well taken care of (as was everyone else around us) that it made for a truly memorable dining experience. General Manager Kathy was so friendly and took such great pride in her restaurant that I just knew we were in for a great evening from her first “hello”. Owner Will Layfield popped in several time to chat and tell me and my other half about the Melting Pot and we had a great conversation about a new vodka brand, Van Gogh, that the Metro New York Melting Pots would be carrying (along with what look to be fantastic Friday Happy Hours). Again, Will lit up when he talked about his restaurants and there was a pride there you just cannot fake. Oh, and if you think that I was being doted on because I was there to review the restaurant – think again. Several times throughout the evening I popped around to various parts of the restaurant and saw the owner chatting up his customers and making sure everyone was having a wonderful time. I also saw attentive staff that took a genuine interest in their guests.
So how do these Melting Pots take care of their food allergic guests? In a word, exceptionally. I asked General Manager Kathy how they handle doing their best to keep food allergic diners safe from any items that may cause a reaction. Here was her response:
In the kitchen we have very few items that are actually allergenic so it’s not very hard for us to keep cross-contamination to a minimum. Our kitchen is set up to keep allergenic foods stored and prepped away from the rest of the menu. Gluten containing items are stored underneath other items or in a separate area on our line. We change aprons, gloves, cutting boards before handling gluten-free items. Our training is extensive. Every member of my team goes through a training program to understand the special handling needs of a gluten-free diner as well as all other allergies.
All I can say is wow. Clearly this company not only understands food allergies but goes above and beyond to ensure that their guests are well taken care of on the food allergy front.
I also asked about why the large selection of gluten-free breads and dessert items?
I wanted to be able to serve as similar a plate as I could and found an excellent quality product with Three Dogs Bakery. While providing an excellent experience to my guests, I was also concerned about quality. Karen provides us with a high-quality product. We connected with Three Dogs Bakery a year ago when I was looking for a local contact to spread the word about our gluten-free menu options. We also work with the local FAAN group (we’re a sponsor of their first annual walk next weekend). Karen at Three Dogs Bakery provides an excellent product for us and is fantastic to work for.
So to all my fellow Celiacs or food allergy suffers, do yourself a favor and head on over to one of the Metro New York Melting Pots. You will not be disappointed. Oh, and if you don’t happen to have a Meting Pot nearby or just want to give fondue a go at home – Melting Pot’s Shane Schaibly, Director of Food and Beverage passed along this delicious cheese fondue recipe. I highly recommend giving it a go. Thanks again to all of my friends over at the White Plains Melting Pot for a truly memorable evening but most importantly getting the needs of food allergic guests right. I am already planning my next visit and still dream about that chocolate fondue.