Fondue at The Melting Pot

Steph and I rarely go out for fancy dinners, given our general lack of appreciation for epicurean delicacies and the associated costs, so when we have the opportunity to try somewhere nice for a special occasion, we try to make it count.  I think the 4-course meal at The Melting Pot in San Mateo totally exceeded our expectations, scoring a perfect 10 overall for our first anniversary dinner.

Okay, at first, it almost turned into a disaster, as we could not even FIND the place.  We drove all the way down B street and decided to park in the Caltrain station parking lot since it was after business hours.  Then we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  As our reservation time approached and our teeth began to chatter in the chilly evening, I finally gave in and called the restaurant to ask for a hint.  It turned out they were located literally 30 feet from where I had parked, because they were a part of the train station complex.  Whoops.  (And for those of you who have visited the one in San Mateo, yes, I KNOW there is a HUGE SIGN in front of the restaurant.  I just didn’t see it, okay?)  We finally ran in the restaurant and were promptly ushered to the Lover’s Lane section of the restaurant, where we were seated in a cozy 2-person booth complete with a Happy Anniversary card.  Nice.  Without wasting a moment, our waiter started heating up the fondue pot.  Does anyone know if that is an induction stovetop?

Well, after looking through the entire menu to try to figure out the best deal, we decided to go all out and order The Melting Pot’s “Big Night Out” special 4-course fondue meal.  (Okay, that was also the only thing my “$20 Off” Entertainment Guide coupon was good for, apparently.)  We started off with a Mediterranean Cheese Fondue, composed of “Fontina and Grùyere cheeses blended with roasted garlic, dates, shallots, and a touch of white truffle oil.”  To dip, we had French, Rye, and Pumpernickel bread cubes, raw carrots, cauliflower, and celery bites, and Granny Smith apples.  We’re not sure, but we suspect it was the white truffle oil that had a really strong taste.  Maybe we should’ve asked the waiter for a small sample before agreeing to have him mix it in.  Anyway, this was our first cheese fondue experience ever, and my personal favorite was the cheese on apple combo.  It tastes better than it sounds.  =]

I think most customers must finish the appetizer course really fast, because the waiter came by at least 5 times while Steph and I were trying to savor the cheese experience.  He also brought us the salads.  Steph got the House Salad consisting of “crisp greens, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, and Emmenthaler Swiss cheese, served with their sweet and tangy House Dressing.” I got the Athenian Salad, which was “crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce, ham, pepperoni, roasted red pepper, Kalamata olives tossed in a light white balsamic vinaigrette, sprinkled with Feta cheese.”  (I’m quoting the “souvenir menu” from the restaurant, in case you were starting to wonder.)  By now, I think both of us were pretty full already.  Hmm…

Now that we were stuffed with cheese apples and Athenian salads, it was time for the main course.   We chose to have our fondue pot filled with the Court Bouillon seasoned vegetable broth with the additional flavors of fresh herbs, mushrooms, garlic, spices, and burgundy wine (the “Coq au Vin” option).  Our Fondue Fusion entrée selection included the following delectable delights: Lobster tail, filet mignon medallions, balsamic-marinated sirloin, garlic and herb chicken, citrus pork terderloin, white shrimp, wild mushroom ravioli, roasted red pepper rigatoni, and a plate of fresh mushrooms, potatoes, broccoli, and squash.  We were shocked by the huge plate of food and I was barely able to process anything the waiter said as he instructed us on how to engage in proper fondue etiquette.  (“Remember to cook the meat in the fondue pot for 2 minutes, and vegetables for at least 1.5 minutes.  And try not to cross-contaminate your utensils and give yourself food poisoning.”)  It’s time for some hotpot!

The waiter left us for a good long time with the main course, probably because he could tell it would take us a good long time to finish it.  Often at fancy restaurants, we’ve experienced the “quality over quantity” phenomenon, and in some places, maybe the “quantity but low quality” problem, but we had no need to worry about either issue tonight.  The filet mignon was really tender, the chicken was very well marinated, and the lobster tail was just about perfect.  They also supplied us with a bottle of their signature Garlic and Wine Seasoning, but we really didn’t need much of that.  However, the little cups of dipping sauces were fun and tasty.  Thumbs up for the teriyaki glaze, ginger plum sauce, and very flavorful yogurt curry.  And of course, after the main course comes dessert.  We had the Raspberry Dark Chocolate Fondue, with a hint of hazelnut.  We got so excited that we dug right into the strawberries, banana slices, rice krispies treats, pound cake, and graham cracker and Oreo-covered marshmallows before I had a chance to take a photo.  Even though at first the plate looked a bit smaller than we had expected, it was really just right, especially as we were already so stuffed from the previous three courses.

We made it!  It’s so rare that Steph and I so thoroughly enjoy a meal like this, so this was simply perfect for an anniversary dinner.  Highly recommended.  Check out for more details.  And click the “Club Fondue” link to get your own free Dessert Fondue during your next visit (purchase required for free product)!

What’s your favorite dining experience?  (Winning entries may be eligible to convince Kenneth to take Steph on an all-expenses paid trip to your restaurant of choice.)  =]

Christmas Party 2007

The 4th Annual Baylight Christmas Party and White Elephant Gift Exchange was a blast!  Here are some highlights:

Each LTG contributed fun desserts and snacks from various countries of the world.  Our group lovingly chose Canada, an often under-represented entity, especially considering that it is the world’s second largest country.  Sinc and Christine put it upon themselves to make some nanaimo bars, which consist of a chocolate fudge top, a vanilla custard center, and graham cracker crumb and walnut bottom.  With no baking skills whatsoever, I made myself useful by making all of the cute little flags.

The Otts rented some patio heat lamps for the occasion.  Amazingly, it made the outdoors actually warmer than the entryway back into the house, or at least some (who stood very close to the patio heat lamps) claimed.  Some may feel that I went a little overboard with the exposure, to the effect that the house appears to… have a VERY hearty flame in the fireplace.

The snacks that celebrated the nation of Israel included fried latkes, applesauce, and of course, donuts.  (Three plates of it, in case you were inclined to miss one of them.)

Coca Cola from Mexico.  Apparently, this is the “good stuff,” meaning that they use real sugar in the mix.  The last time I had Coke from a bottle was when I was six.  One day mom and I came back from grocery shopping and every single Coke bottle in the trunk had broken and spilled its contents.  So this was a treat!

I tried really hard to get a photo of Natalie smiling.  I think this blank stare was about as much as this little princess would give me.

Here’s my rendition of the tree in all its splendor.

The meatballs created quite a stir in the kitchen.  Soooo good!

Oh no, which one is the real Eric?

At some point, I realized all the kids disappeared.  Ah, the digital babysitter, at your service.

Hanah gave a dramatic wave to declare the beginning of the white elephant gift exchange.  Let the games begin!

Not far into the game, Dong shamelessly wrenches away the 3-pack of dynamo LED flashlights from an innocent man holding a baby.  After a valient struggle, the flashlights were relinquished by John.  The baby was unharmed in the conflict.

Dorothy uncovers the Best. Gift. Ever.  You can see from all the shocked reactions that every onlooker was jealous.  Except Adoniah, who remained unimpressed .

Eddie shows Hanah the new piece of paper with a picture of IKEA furniture that he won.  See how she is overcome by emotion.  Clearly, this is the piece of paper that Hanah has dreamed about all these years.

Yes, much better than an empty carseat shell, Adoniah uncovers the Complete Book of Massage.  Bet he’s never had such instructional bedtime stories before.

Well, that’s all for now.  If you want to see the full collection of my photos from the evening, check out my gallery!  And remember, if you didn’t care for your gift, you only need to wait until next year to “regift” it.

What’s the best or worst white elephant gift you have ever received … or given?  =]

Gingerbread House Contest

Here are some pics from the Gingerbread House Design Contest with friends at Bible study a little over a week ago.  The teams were supposed to be Boys vs. Girls, but with 6 gingerbread house kits between us and a sense of “too many architects on the construction site”, Steph and I defected and formed our own team.  The candy was plentiful, the frosting was seriously like half-dried yet sticky cement, and the little sugar people were soooo cute.  I got pretty obsessed with making sure the roof was blanketed with snow, and that miserable little snowman in the front year kept slowly melting like a Calvin and Hobbes creation.  The competition was fierce, with a gingerbread mansion and a gingerbread madhouse of gummy bear mutations also vying for the honor of 1st Place.  Somehow, Steph and I got voted to the top, and we got to take home the Starbucks CD.  The slideshow features one of my favorite tunes off the CD — one of the most interesting versions of Carol of the Bells that I have heard in a long time.  (And I’m still trying to get that version out of my head.  Arg.)  Click the center of the slideshow to play!  Photos courtesy of Jason Kuo Photography. RSS/Facebook readers can check out the slideshow here.

Here are a handful of favorite pics from the evening, for those of you who don’t like Flash-based slideshows.  =]

Tell me about your holiday happenings!  (And let me know if you have any issues with the slideshow so I can fix it.)

Mega Update, September Edition

Welcome to another Mega Update!  A little something for everyone…

Steph and I went seakayaking at the beginning of the month in Monterey, in search of sea otters, baby seals, and other marine critters.  And boy did we find them!  I don’t know if it was the time of day or the tasty otter snacks we brought with us (okay, we didn’t really bring any), but the water was just TEEMING with life!

Otters lazily floated on their backs as they shucked shellfish, and playful seals swam right up to the kayak!  The kayak rental guy warned us not to allow the seals to climb aboard, and I was pretty skeptical at first about the possibility of such a ridiculous thing.  But I must admit I had a somewhat nasty scare the first time I heard the distinctive snort of a seal getting REALLY close to us, and I definitely started beating the side of the kayak in unexpected panic!  Overall, it was a fun and eventful trip that made Steph say, “Why have I never done this in my life until now?!”  I think it helped that this time we didn’t capsize nor did she get all woozy and seasick.  Highly recommended.  =]

This pic is totally old now, but I did want to mention what a cool little device the Magic Bullet (TM) personal blender has been for me and Steph.  Thanks, Kim!  Jeremy came over to E’ville a while ago so that we could have Smoothies and Pirate Movies Night.  The nice thing about the personal blender concept is that you don’t have to feel as bad about wasting ingredients if your concoction of Absolut Vanilla, Bailey’s, Kahlua, and Trader Joe’s OJ concentrate doesn’t work out so well, since the portions are just a lot smaller.  Apparently, you can also just give it to me and I’ll drink it anyway.

The other day, I was having lunch with Minho in Manzanita Dining, and I don’t really know why, but I felt compelled to add some bacon bits to my spinach and pasta salad.   Sadly, the cap was a little too loose on the bacon bits container, and before I knew it, my lunch resembled the bottom of a tropical fish tank.  (You can see how I know absolutely nothing about fish tanks.)  My heart broke for those little artificial bacon bits, and I would’ve ate them all if I could’ve, but in the end it really was just too much and my teeth hurt terribly from all of the crunching.  Seriously, it was just tiring, and I’m sad to report that I did not finish all of the bacon bits.  Sorry, guys.

We went to visit Brian at his office and somehow he managed to convince both me and Steph to play NBA Live 07 on the Playstation 3.  To understand the sheer irony of this, you have to understand that I hardly ever play sports games, and don’t actually think I have EVER played a basketball video game.  This totally also applies to Steph, who pretty much doesn’t play video games at all with maybe the exception of Karaoke Revolution.  (It was nearly like pulling teeth to get her to play Katamari Damacy the first time.)  I was pretty enamored by the awesome 1080p graphics, and I think once we all figured out (some of) the buttons, everyone got into it.  I had a good time dominating in the drills mini-games, but then Steph and Brian teamed up and creamed me during an actual game.  In summary, Brian has a cool workplace.

My 8-year-old $100 bike from Target finally died about two weeks ago.  After faithfully serving me on Stanford campus for the past 8 years, it finally bit the dust.  Or more precisely, I think someone ran their golf cart into my back wheel while the bike was parked.  Lame.  Anyway, I got myself a new bike after sorta-secretly hoping for the past, oh, 3 years that someone would steal or mess up my already junky, beat-up, rusted-over $100 bike from Target so I would have an excuse to get a new bike.  This time, I got myself a $140 Target bike, the 26″ Schwinn Ranger.  Maybe I’ll get this one to last me 40% longer.  Okay, fine, but what’s any of this got to do with the photo?  I dunno.  There are just a whopping number of bikes on campus.  It’s totally a jungle in there.  And it reminded me that I too have a new bike.  =]

Ah, another wedding!  Steph and I went to Belinda and Mark’s wedding last weekend.  They had not one, not two, but FIVE (or was it six?) flower girls in the processional.  The last one in line was this little baby girl, who just took her sweet time wandering down the aisle with big, curious eyes.

This was right after the baby girl suddenly ran toward one of the pews, pointed at the Asian man with the camera, and shouted with delight, “DADDY!”  Everyone thought it was the cutest and funniest thing ever.  Eventually, the real daddy had to wave her little blankie up at the front to get her attention so she could finish the walk.  Good job!

Amazingly random connection of the day: If you can figure out how Steph and I, Lisa and Justin, and Belinda and Mark connect, I’ll give you a prize!  (No fair spoiling the challenge, Justin, Lisa, and Steph!)

And finally, here’s the Home of Christ crowd.  Some of the kids I remember from 8-10 years ago have really grown up!

Anyway, that’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!  Please feel free to leave a comment so I know that I haven’t lost you on account of that miserable last post… (Heck, feel free to give me your best theory on why that decidedly did NOT work, hehe.)