I matriculated to the 9th grade at Bloomington High School South, located (logically) in Bloomington, Indiana.
Bloomington was a cool little college town, home of Indiana University, which influenced our high school in a few key ways, not the least of which was foreign courses.
My memory is hazy. But I recall that our high school offered four-year courses in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Latin.
Those who wished could study Russian or at least one of the dialects of Chinese through a program at the university.
I latched on to the idea of speaking French at an early age for reasons I don’t remember. And so, that was the only foreign language option for me.
I sat there, during my freshman year in Bloomington, listening to an earnest little bearded man point at his ear and then at his mouth and tell us to “ecoutez et repetez.”
And so I did.
I spent one hour a day, five days a week of my freshman year ecoutez-ing and repetez-ing my little Hoosier butt off.
That summer is when we moved to Tennessee.
Certainly, there were a lot of nerve-wracking things about changing schools. Things like fitting in on the football team and having to abandon playing in the school band. In addition, the school only offered two foreign language courses – Spanish and French – for three years each.
I took French 2 & 3 – in Brenda Clemens’s class – with students a year ahead of me. And then my senior year I repeated French 3 with students my own age.
Mrs. Clemens taught French in a way that went well beyond ecoutez et repetez. She taught mini-courses in art and music and French history and life.
Sure, we learned about the bibliothèque and the iscothèque but we also learned – at least as much as you could in the foothills of East Tennessee – about what it was to be French.
And we also learned the art of fondue.
What country does fondue come from?
Fondue was a worldwide phenomenon that I entirely missed out on when I was a kid. By the 90s, fondue was almost strictly in the realm of the corduroy jacket crowd.
Fondue is “to melt” or fondre in French. But the origin of the food is Swedish.
But Mrs. Clemens loved us and so, she taught us the way of fondue.
The Melting Pot was already a thing by then. They even had one in Cincinnati. And while doing fondue at home was on the outs, date night at The Melting Pot was smooth.
And so for many reasons, all these years later, I have a fondness for the Melting Pot that would border on irrational if it wasn’t so dang good.
What is fondue?
Honestly, I hope there’s no one out there that needs this question answered but if you do, no shame.
We’re going to celebrate that you’re coming to the party and – frankly we’re a little jealous that you’re going to get to try fondue for the first time.
Forget what you’ve learned from the Americans – neither nacho cheese nor chocolate waterfalls are fondue. They are hedonistic usurpers to a proud culinary tradition.
Fondue is a style of cooking where small pieces of food are dipped into a warm sauce or a hot cooking base like oil or broth.
At the Melting Pot, for instance, the four-course meal includes three traditional types of fondue.
In addition to your salad – which is not fondue – you have a cheese fondue to begin, followed by your main course with either oil or broth to cook a variety of meats or vegetables and finally a chocolate fondue for dessert.
What should you order at the Melting Pot? How much is the Melting Pot for two?
My friend, have it all. There are two versions of the four-course dinner for two. One runs $99 and the other $115.
The second one comes with fancier proteins but the experience is chiefly the same.
You can also add a lobster tail to any entrée for $16.
The cheese fondues
You begin with the cheese course.
I’m a traditionalist. I either have the Wisconsin Cheddar (with aged cheddar and Emmenthaler) or the Classic Alpine. Both are delicious.
You’re given a variety of breads, fresh fruits (like fresh strawberries) and veggies to dip into your delicious, melty cheese.
You may be given something that you think should not be dipped in cheese. You will be wrong. Dip it. DIP IT!
There are other cheese options available like Fiesta (with homemade salsa and jalapenos), Spinach Artichoke (with butterkäse, fontina, parmesan spinach and artichoke hearts) and Loaded Baked Potato Cheddar. I’d like to tell you I won’t judge you if you order these, but my right eyebrow involuntarily arched when I typed the sentence about loaded baked potato cheddar.
We live in modern times and I support your right to choose what makes you happy. If my eyebrows disagree, we’ll all just have to live with it.
Second, you choose a pair of salads – well – one each. They used to have one that was made almost entirely of mushrooms. It is gone. The world is a cold, cruel place.
Salad options include Melting Pot House, California, Caesar and Wisconsin Wedge.
The main entrees
For your main entree course, you can cook your proteins in hot oil – referred to as Bourguignonne (European style with canola oil, panko and sesame tempura batter) which is incredibly fun to say – a bouillon vegetable broth, Coq Au Vin – a Burgundy wine broth – or Mojo, a Caribbean-inspired deal with a mix of spices, garlic cilantro and citrus.
There is also a cast-iron grill option, apparently, but even thinking about that sets my eyebrows a-dancing.
If it’s your first time, I’d recommend the broth. It’s less likely for mistakes. It would be a shame to mess up a nice cut of meat or seafood by burning it in the oil.
However, the oil does bring on a series of batters in which you can deep fry things. The battered mushroom cap stuffed with green goddess dip is the stuff of legends.
There are quite a few protein combinations you can order including Herb-Crusted Chicken Breast, Premium Filet Mignon, Teriyaki Sirloin, Garlic Pepper Steak, Shrimp and Atlantic Salmon.
And if you’re not sure, ask your server and they can steer you in the right direction. But if your server recommends the Baked Potato Cheese and the cast iron grill, get up, go outside and double-check that you’re in the right place. You may have accidentally wandered into a Golden Corral.
Your final course of the evening is dessert.
Some people skip the other three courses altogether and just go to the Melting Pot for the chocolate. My eyebrows are fine with that.
Again, the Melting Pot will offer a variety of sweet treats. You’re going to get miscellaneous fruit and cake items to dip into the chocolate. I don’t think you can make the wrong choice.
Chocolate choices include The Original (milk chocolate and crunchy peanut butter), Pure Chocolate, Yin & Yang (white chocolate fondue with dark chocolate swirled together) and Wild Berry Crunch.
Two of the chocolates – Flaming Turtle (with caramel and candied pecans) and Bananas Foster (with bananas and dulce de leche) – are flambéed, which is fun.
You can also add one of multiple “sweet additions” to your order including cream puffs, macarons and cheesecake.
Best drinks at The Melting Pot
The Yin & Yang is arguably the best drink on the menu at The Melting Pot. It features Godiva White Chocolate, vanilla ice cream and chocolate fondue shavings.
If you like fruity drinks, we also recommend Love (with peach schnapps and cranberry juice), Lemon Berry (with wildberry purée, mint leaves and lime), Mangolicious (with mango syrup and pineapple juice) and Paradise Punch (with a playful punch of orange and pineapple juices).
And of course, they also have standard fair including more traditional spirits as well as less spirated mocktails like The Bee’s Tea (orange juice, honey, lemon, lavender syrup and tea), Lava Flow, Blackberry Sage Lemonade and Very Berry Lemonade.
Does The Melting Pot have gluten-free options?
Yes! The Melting Pot also has several gluten-free options and gluten-free dippers available at the time of this writing.
Most of their cheeses are gluten-free if you request to leave out the Redbridge.
The charcuterie board is gluten-free if you leave off the artisan crackers.
All of their salads are gluten-free without the croutons.
Many of the proteins are also gluten-free. Be sure to request substitutes for the Teriyaki Steak, Chicken Potstickers and Herb Chicken.
Many of their cooking styles are also gluten-free sans the Bourguignonne.
As always, be sure to make your dietary restrictions known when ordering, just to be on the safe side.
Do you need a reservation at the Melting Pot in Gatlinburg?
Yes. Yes, you should. Have you not been reading all this stuff? They want to give you melty cheese and lit chocolate on fire. Yes. Get a reservation.
Oh, wait. Did you mean are reservations necessary? Reservations may not be necessary, but they’re a very good idea.
I’m not going to tell you that you’ll never be able to walk up and get a table, but for any special event (especially if that event is an anniversary, birthday or a long overdue date night), you’ll need a reservation to be on the safe side.
If you want reservations for Valentine’s Day, you may have to travel in time. Good luck with that.
Pro-tip: The Melting Pot also offers private rooms that can accommodate up to 52 guests which are great for rehearsal dinners and receptions.
Where is The Melting Pot in Gatlinburg?
The Melting Pot is located along the main strip in downtown Gatlinburg at 959 Parkway #2, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
Have you visited the Melting Pot? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!