When my friends at the Melting Pots of White Plains (N.Y.), Darien (CT.), and Westwood (N.J.) invited me back for another visit to sample their new Big Night Out menu (which rotates every six months), I knew I was in for a great evening. You see, I was invited to the White Plains location in 2010 to try their gluten-free menu and quickly realized this was a stand-out among chains when it came to gluten-free and food allergic dining for that matter. You can read all about my first visit here. The Melting Pot of White Plains is also a member of The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) , the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and the American Vegetarian Association (AVA).
This time around the Big Night Out menu was Latin American-inspired and, as always, featured gluten-free options for all four courses. Now many of you have probably been to a Melting Pot in your area and know that they all have gluten-free menus and can provide options for all courses. Yet, where the three Melting Pots in the Tri-State area really stand out is that they go above and beyond just offering vegetables or fruit as dipping options. These locations actually have an arrangement with local gluten-free bakery Three Dogs to provide gluten-free bread and desserts so that gluten-free diners do not feel like they have to compromise.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, where the White Plains location shines is with their staff. From the moment you walk in you are warmly welcomed and made to feel at home. Managers actually walk around and talk to people and take an interest in their guests making sure everyone is having a great evening. Servers could not be more attentive and truly understand the needs of gluten-free and food allergic diners (remember, I am also allergic to shellfish and there was quite a bit on this menu) – they are also quick with recommendations and replacement suggestions if an item is on your do not have list. Our server for the evening, Brian, never once made me question that my dietary restrictions would be an issue. In fact, I had been informed by one of the managers who stopped by that there were two other gluten-free tables dining while I was there…nice!
So on to the food…
The Latin American Big Night out menu was inspired by the vibrant tastes of the region. The first course fondue was a Queso Fundido – a mix of Fontina, Gruyére, and Gran Queso cheese. Mix in fresh jalapenõs, Chorizo, lime, Redbridge beer and you have cheese Nirvana. Now, the gluten-free menu clearly states to request it be made with cornstarch and the Redbridge beer. Our server did not even miss a beat in repeating the gluten-free options for all courses as we ordered. It might seem like a small thing but it shows me that they are listening and understand my needs – this is something our server did when he brought each course as well and helped me to enjoy the evening without worry. The Queso Fundido was served with a mix of dark and light gluten-free bread cubes sourced from Three Dogs along with fresh vegetables. This spicy cheese fondue is prepared at your table by your server and you can control the level of spice. This fondue was incredibly rich and the cheeses paired perfectly with the ground Chorizo. The beer and lime helped balance out the flavors making for a truly delicious start to the meal.
Next up was the salad course. Now the Big Night Out salad was a Shrimp Ceviche salad which was clearly not an option for me given my shellfish allergy. So I opted for the Melting Pot House Salad and my other half had the Spinach Mushroom salad. Both were delicious and good-sized portions.
For the main course we had the Big Night Out Fondue Feast which included: Filet Mignon, Chimichurri Sirloin, Mole-Marinated Chicken Breast, Garlic Piri Piri Shrimp, Citrus Marinated Pork Tenderloin, and Fire-Roasted Corn Salsa Ravioli. I swapped out the shrimp and ravioli with duck breast and additional beef. Again, no problem swapping problem foods out. Of the four cooking styles, I thought the Mojo (a Caribbean seasoned bouillon with garlic and citrus) was the perfect match for this Latin American-inspired menu. The marinated meats cooked perfectly in the seasoned broth that infused even more flavor into them without taking away from or overpowering the flavor of the meats. The meats are served with fresh vegetables and a variety of dipping sauces – the special dipping sauce on offer with this menu was a mild salsa verde. Four additional sauces are offered providing a host of dipping options for diners. I remembered from my last visit and the gluten-free menu that one of the sauces (the Teriyaki Glaze) was not gluten-free and before I could mention it our server informed me he did not even bother to bring it. Again, the server continued his due diligence, as he did throughout the meal.
The final course is perhaps the most decadent – dessert. The Big Night Out dessert fondue was a Dark and Dulce Chocolate fondue which was a combination of bittersweet chocolate with a wonderfully decadent dulce de leche mixed in and, wait for it, topped with coarse sea salt. The gluten-free dessert plate at this location is again from Three Dogs with gluten-free brownie bites and cheesecake. These are paired with the traditional offerings of fruit and marshmallows. This fondue was a wonderfully complex mix of flavors with the bittersweet chocolate playing so well off the rich, creamy sweetness of the dulce de leche. When you add-in the sea salt to the equation it adds a perfect savory kick to help magnify the rich cocoa undertones and balance the sweetness of the dulce de leche.
So my gluten-free friends across the country, why not check out your local Melting Pot for a fun and delicious night out. If you happen to be in the New York Tri-State area head on over to one of three locations to taste for yourself how these locations go above and beyond when it comes to providing gluten-free options to their guests.