I have a fear of fondue. It’s not that I fret about the fact that a pot of cheese fondue is essentially a vessel of artery-constricting fat. Nor that the crusty bread cubes for dipping would have a carbo-loathing Dr. Atkins spinning in his grave. No, it’s the fire I fear. There’s something about those little napalm-filled canisters used to heat fondue pots at the dinner table that just seems dangerous and weirdly unnatural to me. Cooking is meant to be done in kitchens.
That’s why I prefer to leave fondue to professionals. If I set my napkin on fire while trying to retrieve a submerged piece of broccoli from a pot of molten Gruyere, at least someone else’s insurance can cover the expense of burning down the house. Like freebasing and operating automatic firearms, eating fondue is just something I’d prefer to do at your place, not mine.
Safety issues aside, it just makes sense to do fondue at a venue with a plentiful assortment of cheese. Which is why the Juhl Haus Market & Deli’s new fondue evenings make so much sense. If there’s one thing the Juhl Haus has plenty of, it’s cheese—some 200 to 300 different varieties, depending upon the season.
Last month, owner Anna Juhl and her staff began hosting weekly fondue and wine pairing evenings on Saturdays. Each Saturday beginning at 5 p.m., the Juhl Haus staff equips the small bistro-style tables at the front of the store with fondue pots and turns the place into a Swiss fondue emporium for the evening. It’s a lot of fun and a tremendous bang for the buck, priced at only $15 per person. For that price you get a nice green salad, along with cheese fondue, bread and veggies for dipping that include broccoli, carrots and red peppers. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, or wine are extra. Yes, I said wine. More about that later.
Along with owners Anna and John Juhl, the rest of the family—even Anna’s mother—is involved in operating the Juhl Haus. Anna’s daughters Leah and Rachel have become self-educated cheese experts and help out with selecting hard-to-find cheeses for customers. They’re especially proud to have recently obtained the much-in-demand artisanal cheeses from northern California’s Cowgirl Creamery and are constantly on the prowl for any cheese that is new, different and delicious.
On the evening I indulged in Juhl Haus’ fondue, it was a classic concoction of white wine with Swiss Gruyere and a splash of kirsch for good measure. Served with crusty chunks of fresh bread and bite-sized veggies, the fondue at Juhl Haus is as good as I’ve had anywhere. According to Anna Juhl, the type of fondue served on Saturdays will change with the seasons. In summer, you might find a broth-based fondue served with meats, for example. For now though, it’s wintertime, and cheese fondue fits the bill perfectly.
Yet fondue isn’t the only thing that’s new at Juhl Haus. Because along with fondue and executive chef Gretchen O’Connor’s other gourmet specialties, Juhl Haus customers can now enjoy beer and wine. The Juhl Haus recently obtained a beer and wine license, which means that now you can sip wine while indulging in the deli’s fabulous sandwiches, soups, cheeses and a thousand other items. Best of all, having a glass of wine with lunch or dinner at Juhl Haus won’t blow your budget. Wine expert and general manager Vicky Martinez selects wines which vary from month to month and are very reasonably priced. For example, Vicky recently highlighted the wines of Tortoise Creek (see this week’s Grapevine), from the Languedoc region of southern France, priced at a mere $4 per glass or $20 per bottle.
What makes Juhl Haus so attractive to so many customers is that it’s so not like Utah. Patterned after places like New York’s Dean & DeLuca, Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli and Seattle’s The Spanish Table, Juhl Haus is a very appealing European-style deli with cafÃ© seating, soothing lighting and an impressive array of cheeses, breads, specialty meats, artisanal chocolates and a treasure trove of other gourmet food items—everything from pÃ¢tÃ©s and caviar to imported myriad spices, teas and kitchen tools, including fondue sets.
The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting; the type of place where you wouldn’t feel silly ordering a quiche and a glass of Viognier and sitting down to peruse Le Monde, Le Figaro, or maybe the Deseret Morning News. And you wouldn’t feel out of place at Juhl Haus reading Sartre while sipping an espresso either, minus the Gitanes, of course. It’s the sort of place that makes you want to buy a fresh-baked baguette, a wedge of Reblochon, some cornichons and hunker down to a serious snack.
As reasonably priced as they are, I suspect Juhl Haus’ Saturday fondue dinners are going to become very popular very fast. If that does happen, Anna Juhl has spoken of perhaps offering those special dinners on Friday nights as well. In any case, if you love fondue like I do—and don’t have enough fire insurance—I strongly suggest putting in a call to the Juhl Haus ASAP for a fondue dinner reservation. And don’t forget the most important rule of fondue etiquette: If you lose your food morsel in the fondue pot, custom says that you have to buy a round of drinks or kiss the person on your left. What could be more fun?
JUHL HAUS MARKET & DELI, 1336 Foothill Drive, (Foothill Village), 582-7758, Open Monday-Saturday, From 7:30 a.m.