Let me start by saying: I don’t like bleu cheese. I’ve never been a big fan. Something about the aged green/blue moldiness of it just feels wrong. It’s very strong and tangy — and I just prefer a good sharp cheddar or a jack. A gouda or a brie.
Fast forward to 2011, 2012? I’m not entirely sure. But nearly a decade ago Lianne Farbes, who gave me my very first shot at this blogging thing when she had The Makeup Girl, invited a group of bloggers and freelancers to grab cocktails and dinner at The Smith in the East Village during Fashion Week. Back then, The Smith EV was one of just two locations. She and some of the other girls in our group said we needed to order their Blue Cheese Chips and the bartender left our corner to put the order in.
When they arrived, I was apprehensive. I don’t like bleu cheese. At all. But with a little encouragement, I dove in and my life hasn’t been the same since. The fondue on the chips was mild, creamy and not the moldy taste I wasn’t a fan of. The chips tasted house-made, doused in truffle oil, and garnished with what tasted like ground rosemary.
I think we ordered a second helping.
Over the years, especially when I lived in the city, The Smith was and still is my go-to restaurant to take anyone, especially anyone visiting from out of town. The food is always consistently good, the service is always good and it’s a good spot to people watch. My dad and I dined there after Superstorm Sandy when he was working on catastrophe duty in Queens, my mom and I have been for every meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner — during moves, off-Broadway performances I was in and more. Her sisters, my aunts, dined here for her 60th birthday celebration. My best friends and I shared a large round table in Midtown when I turned 30. My friends and I have enjoyed brunches, celebrations, drinks, mini desserts, brick-pressed chicken and these chips more times than I probably even remember. I don’t take dates to The Smith because I don’t want a sour experience with a guy to ruin all the incredible memories I’ve had there over the last almost decade. If I ever find the guy, we can go. Maybe.
Anyway, bleu cheese fondue chips are the staple anytime I’ve brought a guest. People always scan the list of starters and I always say, “I know what we’re getting to munch on before our meal!” They’re admittedly a little messy, but always a hit.
Which brings me to today, July 4th. You might be having a little gathering. We are not, as I lounge post-shower in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ home in Longmeadow. In a few hours, we’ll debate dinner and probably wind up with some seafood on the grill since I brought home fresh zucchini, summer squash and corn on the cob.
But if you are having a gathering — these bleu cheese fondue chips are stupidly easy to make. I can’t even explain the ease. My suggestion amid COVID-19 is that if you make these for a gathering, you serve each person an individual portion in their own bowl, so there’s no reaching into the same bowl by multiple people. Even allowing people to add their own fondue to a serving of chips could cross-contaminate if anyone is sick — so ask who’s interested in having some and serve them directly.
Bleu Cheese Fondue Chips
(Makes four individual servings)
- Trader Joe’s Organic White Truffle Potato Chips (or see note under recipe to make your own truffle chips!)
- 1/4 lb. favorite bleu cheese (I used Trader Joe’s Cave-Aged)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp Marscapone cheese
- 1 tbsp ground rosemary
- salt & pepper to taste
- Add all ingredients to a heavy saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk until all ingredients are melted and combined.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then drop heat to simmer until fondue begins to thicken. When mixture becomes thick enough that you can see stirring lines from your whisk, you’re done! Remove from heat.
- Arrange a layer of chips in bowl, then spoon a tablespoon or so of fondue over chips — if it doesn’t look like a lot, it will settle. Add another layer of chips and repeat until bowl is full, and slightly heaping.
- Garnish with additional bleu cheese crumbles or rosemary sprig if desired, and serve immediately while warm.
MAKE YOUR OWN TRUFFLE CHIPS: If you don’t have the chips I purchased on hand, because Trader Joe’s is closed today or you don’t have one nearby, you can make your own truffle chips. Head to the store and grab a sturdier chip, like original Kettle Chips or (I LOVE) Cape Cod Potato Chips and some truffle oil. Sturdier chips are key, because the fondue does make them a little soggy after some time. The sturdier the chip, the crunchier they’ll stay longer!
BAKE ‘EM: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then line baking sheet with parchment paper. Dump chips onto baking sheet and drizzle with truffle oil (you don’t need a lot!) Once oven is preheated, bake chips for 5-10 minutes until oil is fragrant and chips are sizzling, then remove and cool. Prepare fondue according to recipe.
These aren’t exactly The Smith’s version — I never could entice my server into telling me how they make their fondue (or their brick-pressed chicken, for that matter, which is my next culinary adventure) — but it’s pretty damn close and will tide me over until life in the city resumes and I can take a trip downstate and enjoy my favorite spot again soon.
In the meantime, if you’re celebrating Independence Day please celebrate responsibly. Wear a mask, social distance if possible and be safe with fireworks and adult beverages. Make these bleu cheese fondue chips and serve them in individual bowls for everyone to “ooh” and “ahh” over.
Where is your favorite restaurant and what’s your favorite item on the menu? Sound off in the comments and let me know where I should visit where you live!