Food — Competition flows like chocolate


A coveted party guest, the chocolate fountain is dessert’s Stanley Cup
 

By Richie Victorino    rvictorino@hippopress.com

Like the Stanley Cup that it looks so similar to, the chocolate fountain is a coveted trophy.

People want it as a centerpiece for their functions. Party-goers approach the fountain and its cascading chocolate with awe, asking themselves “What do I do with this thing?” (Friendly tip: dip fruit, marshmallows, etc. into the fountain using a skewer, eat and repeat.)  And chocolatiers are more than willing to accommodate this trend by renting these fountains for all types of functions and parties. But is there such a thing as chocolate fountain envy?

The chocolate fountain craze seemed to hit the area about two years ago. Theresa Anderson of Swan Chocolates in Merrimack said her store (which is opening a new shop on Main Street in Nashua) had the first one in the area. But her two-footer was not enough to meet the high demand. She quickly upgraded, twice. She now boasts three sizes, the two-footer, the 29-inch-tall Indulgence and the 40-inch-tall Signature.

Though Swan may have had the first, Patisserie Bleu of Nashua boasts the largest fountain in the state. A picture of the massive fountain (42 inches) is the first thing you’ll see on Patisserie Bleu’s website. Jacqui Pressinger, owner of Patisserie Bleu, loves her big fountain and doesn’t hesitate to show it in use in her shop on holidays like Mother’s Day.

The folks at Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester have had their 34-incher for more than a year. It’ll appear, under the moniker “The Van Otis Chocolate Volcano,” at their second annual Chocolate Luau on June 24 and June 25.

All these chocolatiers say people are lining up to rent these fountains, for weddings, corporate events, parties and trade shows. Southern New Hampshire has caught chocolate fountain fever.

“It’s a big hit at any party,” said Dave Quinn, co-owner of Van Otis Chocolates. “Adults act like little kids near this thing.”

But does size really matter?

“Some people like to buy the largest [fountain] so they can advertise that they have the largest one in the area,” said Glen Muir, a sales representative from the Idaho-based Chocolate Fountain Sales.

But none of these chocolatiers are willing to say a chocolate fountain war is afoot. Rather, Pressinger said different size fountains have different purposes, depending on the size of the party or event. Anderson said it works out best if more shops have these fountains.

“Thank God other people got them because we couldn’t do all the parties,” Anderson said.

If size doesn’t matter, what does? These chocolatiers all say the proof is in the chocolate. But deciding who has the best is a decision the consumer has to make—different fountains offer different variations, from dark to milk to Swiss fudge chocolate.

The experts say chocolate fountains are following the same trend as any new invention in our lives. First we want big, big and bigger. But eventually we want something that’ll fit in the palm of our hand.

Fountains haven’t gotten that compact yet, but the latest fad to hit the chocolate fountain world is the tabletop fountain. Van Otis and Swan are getting in on that action.

They both have tabletop fountains now (a smaller home version) that can be purchased. Van Otis will also let you rent the smaller fountain and Swan has the fountain as a menu item in their café; think pu-pu platter, with chocolate.

This new compact version of the mighty fountain isn’t swaying Patisserie Bleu.

“We’re sticking with the big guns,” Pressinger said.

 

Fountain rules

When you rent a large chocolate fountain for a party, an attendant usually comes with it.

This attendant is there to set up the table with class, refill the fountain when it gets low, fix any problems that may occur, guide those who are intimidated by the fountain, clean up afterwards and let you know if you’ve dripped a little chocolate on yourself.

They’re also there to make sure everyone follows one important rule: No double dipping.

While you’re at it, keep your hands off the dipping. Use the skewer to pick up the fruits, cookies, marshmallows and so on. Or, if the attendant has gloves on, ask him/her to put the dipping on the skewer for you. The attendant will also make sure no one spikes the fountain with alcohol. 

If you rent/buy your own fountain, follow these sanitary rules. Also, if you’re cleaning up your own fountain, don’t worry. The fountains are made to break into separate pieces and should all be dishwasher-safe.  If you’re thinking about renting or buying a fountain, consider the types of dips and chocolate you want to use and how many people you’ll be serving.

Costs vary depending on where you go, what size fountain you want, how much chocolate you’ll need and other variables.

 

FOOD - RECIPES

Less fountain, more well

You’re probably not going to install a chocolate fountain into your home.

No, wait, don’t cry — there is a way to get similar results (delicious chocolate coating your strawberries, pretzels and pieces of sponge cake) without having to construct a three-foot tower. Remember fondue?

Personally, my earliest memories of fondue are of seeing seldom-used fondue sets at garage sales. But now, fondue is the hot “new” thing and has made it to New Hampshire menus in the form of the two cheese and one chocolate fondue pots on the menu at UnWined, 865 Second St., Manchester, 625-WINE. The small pots of melted cheese or chocolate enhance the cozy atmosphere of a meal, with diners dipping forks (no double dipping, please) into a communal pot of creamy cheese or chocolate.

Perhaps what’s most surprising about this favorite of the 1970s is that it has reemerged at a time when it can actually be viewed as sort of healthy again. Because you can pick the items to be dipped — for cheese, meats and veggies; for chocolate, fruits and light cookies or pretzels — fondue is a surprisingly lower (well, lower than, say, pizza) carb item.

Rachael Ray, she of Food Network’s 30-Minute Meals, points this out in her latest book 30-Minute Get Real Meals. This carb-sensible cookbook features seven cheese fondue recipes. As with everything Ray makes, fondue is surprisingly simple to put together and surprisingly inexpensive. (Target.com features chocolate fondue sets for as little as about $20.)

So, not on the list for any chocolate fountain-appearing-at functions? Get your own pot.

 

Chocolate fondue

Adapted from GourmetSleuth.com

1 cups premium cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/4 cups spring water

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons heavy cream

5 ounces premium semi-sweet chocolate, chopped Pound cake and fruit (such as bananas, apples, strawberries, blood oranges and plums), cut into bite sized pieces

Sift the cocoa into mixing bowl and set aside. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup into a pot and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until sugar solution has reduced by about 30%. Pour the cocoa powder into the solution and blend with a whisk until smooth. Return the chocolate mixture to the stove and continue cooking over medium heat. Add heavy cream, bring to boil and allow to simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into fondue pot and keep warm.

 

— Amy Diaz

 
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