Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My attempt at the California Salad from The Melting Pot

One night fairly recently, my daughter and I stopped in at The Melting Pot, a restaurant that serves nothing but fondue in various forms. I knew nothing at all about the place, only that the idea of fondue for dinner sounded fun and delicious. I also had some vague recollection of some tv chef like Rachel Ray stopping at a similar place (for all I know it may very well have been another branch of the same chain) and chatting it up with a family who was having a blast dipping their meal. A hasty glance at the menu reassured me that if we shared our meal, it was going to be somewhat affordable, so we took the plunge and gave it a try.

I have to say the prices are a bit steep. Ok, perhaps more than just a bit. Out of touch with reality steep, so much so that there was no question we would not be ordering a fondue that included any form of meat. Just the cheese fondue starter alone was $15 and that was only cheese and some veggie dippers! Our waiter was very nice and said that many people share the orders and recommended we start small. We could always order more things if we found our tummies still grumbling. We ordered their famous Swiss fondue, which was a mix of Swiss cheese, flavored with some garlic, wine, and Kirschwasser. Then the waiter proceeded to make the fondue right at the table (each table is equipped with a hot plate). Me being me, I watched carefully and took notes on how this was made, so that I could make my own version at home. You will have to wait for that recipe, but it is definitely on my menu - it seemed very easy to prepare and I am certain I can make it for less money at home.

Since a meal of melted cheese didn't sound terribly filling, and it was not, we also ordered two of their salads. Unlike most restaurants that only have a small selection of side salad choices, The Melting Pot had quite a few different and tasty sounding options. My daughter stuck to the familiar, a Caesar Salad, while I chose the California Salad, which was described as a mixture of greens with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette. It was served with a shaker of their own brand of Garlic & Wine seasoning that you can sprinkle over the top if you like. It was really good and I was happy to discover that they sell their seasoning at the restaurant.

With the taste of the salad fresh on my mind, I wrote down what I could remember about it and on my next trip to the grocery store, bought the ingredients. I originally planned to make my own dressing, but the cost of the ingredients I had been planning to use were a bit steep, so I decided instead to buy a bottle of Paul Newman's Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette, which sounded exactly like what I had been served at the restaurant anyway. The rest of the ingredients were very basic, fresh ripe plum tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, a mixture of salad greens, and chopped walnuts.

Melting Pot's California Side Salad
(serves 1)

1-2 handfuls of mixed salad greens (red oak lettuce, romaine, Bibb, endive, etc), torn
1-2 plum tomatoes, diced into cubes or sliced
1 Tbsp chopped black walnuts
1-2 Tbsp Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (I went a bit too heavy on mine)
1-2 tsp red onion, finely chopped (I am not sure if they actually included this, but I thought it added a nice burst of color and flavor), optional
2 tsp Paul Newman's raspberry walnut vinaigrette, to taste
1/4 tsp Melting Pot's Garlic & Wine Seasoning, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, optional

Place tossed salad greens on a serving plate, and then sprinkle on the tomatoes, cheese, and nuts. Drizzle with a bit of salad dressing to taste, and a sprinkle of salad seasoning and some freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

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