Cheese is always a crowd-pleaser at gatherings.
Fromagination in downtown Madison is putting a modern twist on fondue by offering Raclette lunches during the winter months at the communal table.
"Raclette is an Alpine-style cheese and actually is a peasant lunch they would make after the evening milking," said Ken Monteleone, owner of Fromagination. "They would take the Raclette back to the house let it warm by open fire, and then scrape the Raclette over roasted potatoes."
This cheesy dish has ties to the past, but its popularity is quickly spreading, and Raclette is appearing at more gatherings.
"Traditionally, Raclette and fondue are served in the cold months and especially in the European regions of Switzerland in France," Monteleone said. "It's like you're coming in from skiing and from the cold outdoors and just nice, warm, ooey gooey cheese is a great way to warm up!"
Although traditionally warmed by the fire, Raclette is now warmed on modern machines that melt the cheese to perfection; but, it takes a skilled hand.
"The first one takes a lot longer, and we want it far away from the heat so that underneath layers get hot before the top crisps, but otherwise if we've been heating for awhile, it's gonna heat very quickly, and we can scrape very easily," said Shannon Berry, cheesemonger at Fromagination.
With any Wisconsin specialty cheese, there is an art to making it shine in the perfect dish.
"I'm going to say there's definitely an art to scraping the cheese off," Berry said. "It's pressure; you don't want to push too hard, you don't want to not push hard enough. So that's part of it, and then to get it on the potatoes and on the plate. Sometimes the cheese wants to go where it wants to go and you kind of have to force it right onto the potatoes."