Chow, Baby: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
That Ol’ Cheese Magic

No need to get into who’s been too busy and hardly ever home, and who’s been a boring dud just sitting on the couch watching TV all the time. Point is, Chow, Baby and the beloved needed a romantic evening out to rekindle that old magic. Luckily for us, and for temporarily shaky couples everywhere, Simply Fondue has just opened a Sundance Square location (111 W. 4th St.). Yes, fondue is your stereotypic Sexy Romance 101, and it can be spectacularly unsubtle in its gooeyness. But it still works. Fondue’s aphrodisia comes from two things: the food, which is all bite-sized and begs to be skewer-fed to your sweetie (infantilism is an important component of romance); and the forced teamwork, which begins with finding the restaurant. Simply Fondue is actually below street-level, so first you have to find the street entrance, and then you have to hold hands as you descend into the unknown. Surprise, downstairs is actually quite lovely, with a nice contemporary-modern décor that never crosses the line into enough-already ultra-hip. In for three minutes, and still nothing has gotten on Chow, Baby’s nerves: That’s good mood-setting.
The main collaboration is choosing items on the Fondue Dinner for Two ($42 each; the final collaboration is chipping in for the bill). You can get separate fancy salads but must agree on one of the five starter cheese fondues (with bread and veggies for dipping); then pick six meat/chicken/seafood items (four pieces in each) out of 18 possibilities; then agree on a cooking method (traditional oil, grill, or broth); then finally harmonize on one of a dozen chocolate fondue desserts (served with dippable fresh fruit and a lot of sugar bombs — marshmallows, cheesecake bites, and the like). All the agreement made Chow, Baby feel warm and tender; all the great food, ditto. Yeah, $100 for fondue is a lot, but that’s less than marriage counseling and a whole lot tastier.

Blogrolling in Our Time
You’d think Chow, Baby scans the local foodie blogs to steal ideas, but in fact it’s just looking to see if its name is mentioned (as in, “As the brilliant Chow, Baby brilliantly pointed out…”). That actually has never happened, for some reason. In the meantime, here’s an idea Chow, Baby stole from Fort Worth Hole in the Wall: Visit upscale Fuego (6333 Camp Bowie Blvd.) at lunch and get chef Efrain Benitez’ continental-Mediterranean creations for a lot less than you’d pay at dinner. Chow, Baby ran right over, and it’s true: Fuego’s lunch entrées average about $13, much less than the dinner menu’s mid-$20s. Score!
Of course, it’s human nature that when items are on sale you buy more of them. Chow, Baby’s two appetizers, tuna carpaccio ($10) and monster shrimp tempura ($9), were fantastic, each served with appropriate greens and respectively perfect sauces. Perfectly grilled beef medallions ($13) were stacked on polenta cakes and smothered in porcini mushroom sauce. Pretty good, but the star of Chow, Baby’s huge-lunch show was the shrimp scampi ($14), three triple-biters in a garlic-paprika-butter sauce atop sautéed spinach. Everything was fantastically delicious, the portions were large (Chow, Baby ended up with an army of little black go-boxes), and so Chow, Baby will go first: Brilliant idea, FWHITW, simply brilliant.
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