Melting Pot's Birthday Celebration

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - 
I love the Melting Pot.  From the cheese (leave it to the Wisconsin girl) to the chocolate and all the flavors in between, I just love it.  Hubs and I frequent at least 6 times a year with two of our besties, the M's, with no excuse to celebrate besides everyday.  So when there is a reason to celebrate, well, it just seems obvious to dine at the MP.  This year's birthday month is upon us (yes, I celebrate the whole month, I'm that girl) and we of course made our reservations.  Props to the hubby, he originally wanted to surprise me, and made mid week reservations.  Always good to go mid week - it isn't really busy, and they have great specials like half priced bottles of wine, martini specials, etc.

 Sneak preview of dessert, but all of us getting ready to enjoy!

A quick tutorial on the MP for all the first timers: It's a fondue restaurant, but don't limit your imagination to just cheese and chocolate.  There are salads and a collection of foods to cook as well.  No kitchens at MPs, only prep stations, because you as the guest get to cook your own food (don't worry, they tell you how long to cook the items.)  You get all kinds of dippers for whatever you are dipping in, and you eat yourself happy.  MP is not only about the food, but the experience.  Whether it is a romantic night out (MP in Indy is usually voted 'most romantic' each year) or a girl's night out, there is always a reason to go.  

Once seated, our server came over and welcomed us while wishing me a happy birthday.  MP is good about celebrations, you get a card and everything.  Plus, if you are part of the Club Fondue, you get a coupon for a free dessert.  And free chocolate is a good things.  But let's focus on Susan, our server.  The service is usually pretty good at MP.  But Susan was top notch.  I will forever request Susan, cause she "got" us and was attentive to our requests.  And you should if you frequent the Castelton location in Indy, request Susan.  Hopefully she'll be there to serve you and your party!

Another great thing about MP - the wine.  Their wine menu is quite extensive, especially bottles.  They normally have a wine flight to compliment their Big Night Out (BNO - more to come on this) and this time was no different.  I always order it, because it is the perfect opportunity to explore new wines that were selected especially for the food I'm about to devour.  This wine flight with Pacific Island flavors and included two whites, neither overly sweet, and one red (which was my favorite.)  I know, vague explanations, but I wouldn't have normally ordered the wines on their own.  Their flavors were good, especially with the cheese, but not something I would normally indulge in (but isn't that why I said I order flights, to try new things?!)

 Poor attempt on my part to capture descriptions, but worth the $9!

Hubs and I always order the Big Night Out (BNO) as it is the complete MP experience.  Each couple (whatever you make for 2 people) receive a cheese to share, salad, a plate full of delicious protein, and dessert for two.  BNO gives you all the staple food that we happen to love for the main course, but with flair. By flair, I mean marinades mostly.  Plus, you can always substitute the cheese, salad and dessert if you don't like the offered courses.  Normally, we will get whatever is offered to try something new, but just once in a while, we'll stick with our "norms" on the main menu.  First timers tip: if there is something you really don't like on the BNO, like you don't eat shrimp, you can usually substitute it for something else on the platter, like more chicken.

We both decided to stick with the cheese that was offered.  Unfortunately, we were so hungry that I have no photos, but let me explain all that was offered.  Going with the Pacific Islands theme, the cheese was called Feng Shui.  We began with a base of white wine, rice wine and sake.  Havarti and gruyere were then melted into the liquid mixture.  But Susan (once again being wonderful) invited us to try their version as well.  This mixed in a bit more horseradish than the original, and some other goodies.  The difference between the two?  In the original, you could taste more sake flavor with a dominant havarti flavor.  The MP's style (also delish) was more about horseradish, just a little more kick with not as much of a creamy taste.  We scraped those two bowls clean (we always get two pots on our table) with the apples, cauliflower, carrots, celery and three kinds of bread.  Trust me, all go perfectly in their own little way with the gooey cheese.  I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Next up, salad.  To go along with Pacific theme, they offered lettuce wraps.  Now, I just had PF Chang's lettuce wraps earlier that week, and they are very hard to compete with.  So, both hubs and I opted out (as did the M's) and selected one of the usual suspects.  

My usual suspect for salad - Spinach Mushroom
I love their mushroom salad, but with a note.  This salad has changed - their "old" mushroom salad was pretty much ALL mushrooms.  I'm not kidding, fungi heaven (it is rumored some MP restaurants will still let you order it if you ask - I've confirmed this at Castleton, as I have ordered it.)  The current salad is a spinach salad with warm burgundy vinaigrette.  Some crispy bacon and red onions on top, you are good to go.  And please do not forget to add the wine & garlic seasoning the MP offers you.  Shake that on, and buy yourself a jar on the way out.  First timers tip: you'll shake it on everything once you get it home.

Hubby got his staple, the California Salad. Mixed greens topped with gorgonzola and tomatoes.  But his love comes in with the dressing - a raspberry walnut vinaigrette.  He could drink it, I'm not kidding (and if you like it, we've found Ken's dressing to be the closest in flavor, it is always in our fridge.)  In addition, you can see how much he loves the wine & garlic seasoning.  Note - it does not come seasoned like that, he is literally just obsessed. 

California Salad, hubs fave.

Salads finished, we were ready for the main course.  For all you newbies, you select a cooking style for the plate of protein love you are about to receive.  When it is just the two of us, he always lets me get the Coq au Vin, which is a bunch of mushrooms, garlic, herbs & spices in a lovely bath of burgundy wine.  He on the other hand loves the Mojo Style, which is citrusy caribbean style bouillon. - a little too citrus for my taste buds.  So when we dine with the M's, it works out perfectly, because they like the same cooking styles as hubs & I.  Thus, the two pot table.  CAV for the girls, Mojo for the guys.  A perfect balance for our main entrees.  First timers tip: these two cooking styles cost more if you get individual entrees, but this is never a problem for us as they are complimentary with BNO's.

Once again, the M's are just like us as the always get the BNO too.  There are three options for BNO, and the both of us always get the Fusion, because it includes a little bit of everything.  From lobster to pork, chicken to beef, shrimp and dumplings, the Fusion has everything to offer.

Do you see all this delicious protein!?

As you will see, there is quite a variety.  What we have at the top are ahi tuna chunks sandwiched between dumplings stuffed with spring veggies.  Moving counter clockwise, you then have some chicken (with chili garlic marinade) and citrus pork tenderloin.  Lobster, sesame teriyaki sirloin and then kiwi lime shrimp.  You cook these bite sized portions in whatever cooking liquid you choose (times vary by product of course) and then gobble them up.  First timers tip: before slathering them with the abundance of condiments (more to come,) I encourage you to taste them in all their glory.

The shrimp, though looking awfully green, had a perfectly balanced lime taste.  The teriyaki steak is always good, especially when cooked to medium rare, as is the chicken, always plump with perfection (though the seasoning wasn't too apparent once cooked.)  Hubs and I normally substitute the pasta option, but in this situation, we decided, eh, why not?! And I was glad we didn't!  They cook fast, but they were light and great addition to the platter.  The tuna was fantastic, as was the lobster.  But the star of this BNO for me was the pork!  It was so delicious with the light citrus marinade.  So once again, try before indulging in the sauces...and I know it is hard when you have them staring at you...

I love condiments as previously mentioned....

Sauces.  I love dipping sauces.  MP gives you SO many to choose from, and once in a while, they even offer a special sauce just for that BNO.  This was one of those cases as we were given the sriracha aioli as well.  Think of a buffalo sauce, but for tuna.  It was perfect for the tuna.  There is also their cocktail sauce (nice and spicy, but not like St. Elmo's in downtown Indy, but still spicy!) and the lovely green goddess.  Go right ahead and order more green goddess (and maybe mushrooms too, see below) cause that stuff is perfect on all the veggies.  My personal fave (which is way in the back, far right of the photo) is the gorgonzola.  It is PERFECT on the steaks...that is, if you aren't putting the teriyaki on them.  And of course, my other fave, the curry.  Perfect for chicken...and pork...and whatever else you want.  There is also a plum sauce, which is new to the MP world about, mmm, maybe 2 years ago?  None of us eat it, but some people really enjoy it on their pork.  Give it gander, you may be one of those who like it.

First timers tip: you also get broccoli, mushrooms and potatoes.  Put those in immediately, especially the potatoes.  They never seem "done" to me, but you may as well give them all the time in the world to cook.  So put potatoes in first, then eat those last (if you still want more food.)  Stuff the mushrooms with the green goddess, and same thing with the broccoli too.  You won't regret it.  But remember, you still have chocolate...yes, there is more, the finale of the event.

Pretty huh?

We decided to try the featured chocolate fondue, the passion fruit yin & yang.  It is a mixture of white chocolate infused with passion fruit, then swirled with dark chocolate.  I was slightly concerned about the passion fruit being overly sweet, but I didn't taste it after the first bite.  We had stirred the two together (using a marshmallow of course) and the only flavor that really remained was dark chocolate (I'm not complaining.)  First timers note: if you have never been, and you like peanut butter, get the original.  SO good.

And of course, the dippers!  A variety of options to choose from: buttery pound cake, creamy cheesecake, soft graham cracker and cookie covered marshmallows, sweet rice crispy treats, and to balance the sweet intake, so bananas and strawberries.  The fruit is my favorite (and the first bite of the cheesecake smothered in chocolate goodness,) so I was sad to see pineapple taken off back in the day.  BUT, if you your stomach allows, dip to your hearts content.  And if you still need more, just ask.  Servers are happy to bring out more so you can gobble all that chocolate (and don't forget to dip your after dinner mint too!)

Yippee for birthday's!

Will I go back?  Well, it should be obvious that I already do on a semi regular basis.  I always look forward to dining at the MP, whether it is a special celebration or just one of great friends (and that my friends, is special in itself.)  I'm sure the hubs would recommend their Chairman of the Board martini as well.  If you like dirty martinis and bleu cheese mushrooms, you are in for a treat.

And remember, ask for Susan.