The popular dip-eat-repeat chain, The Melting Pot, offers up some waistline-friendly alternatives.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
No matter the occasion – a leisurely dinner with friends, romantic evening, birthday celebration – fondue tends to be synonymous with one thing: indulgence. The creamy sauces, the rich melted chocolate, the chunks of marbled steak sizzling in hot oil, all add up to a dieter’s nightmare.
But calorie counters no longer need to eschew an evening of cook-and-dip-your-own-food. The Melting Pot is aiming to change the impression that fondue requires abandoning any sense of restraint with its new Skinny Dipping food and drink menus. Diners can select from among four low-cal libations that range in calories from 92-158, and a three-course fondue dinner under 700 calories.
I recently covered the chain’s low-cal drinks for a piece I was writing about the growing trend of skinny cocktails, and a friend and I were invited to check out the waist-friendly sips and dishes in person at the Reston, Virginia location. All four cocktails are mixed with Voli Vodka, co-owned by rapper Pitbull and Black Eyed Pea singer Fergie. I will admit I neither gravitate towards drinks with vodka, nor those labeled “skinny”, but I like to keep an open mind, and can generally be persuaded to try any sip as long as it’s well-made and contains fresh ingredients.
Our hands-down liquid favorite was the Mango Coconut Marteenie (158 calories), with Voli Mango Coconut Vodka, white cranberry and freshly squeezed lemon, which was simple, refreshing and blessedly not too sweet. We also liked the Fresh Berry Fizz (92 calories), with Voli Lemon Vodka, blackberries, lemon and club soda. Cosmo lovers will like the Pretty in Pop (106 calories), with Voli Light Vodka, cranberry, muddled cucumber, lime and club soda. Least appealing to both of us though, was the Crisp Citrus Crush (105 calories), with Voli Orange Vanilla Vodka, muddled orange and mint, whose flavor reminded me of that of the chewable baby aspirins my mom used to give me as a kid to reduce my fever.
Of course, you can see that all four of these drinks contain a spirit that’s low in calories (relatively speaking) along with a little squeeze of fruit juice and (often) club soda. So calorie counters will note that it’s easy to recreate this formula in your home bar. Clear spirits have less calories than brown ones, and the less sweetener used, the fewer calories in the drink overall. Plus, the addition of fresh fruits, veggies and herbs can go a long way to add flavor to any drink, skinny or not. But I digress.
The Melting Pot’s three-course Skinny Dipping dinner menu starts with a choice of three salads: House (147 calories), California (149 calories) or Spinach Mushroom (113). Our server told us that the serving size (and the dressing portion) are the same as those on the regular menu; my House Salad was topped with a copious amount of the sweet and tangy dressing, so I found it a little hard to believe that that could be completely accurate.
All entrees include vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli and potatoes, and The Melting Pot’s signature sauces (including horseradish, curry, Teriyaki and green goddess). The Petite Seafood Trio (216 calories) includes wild caught Mahi Mahi, Pacific white shrimp and Atlantic salmon; the Filet and Chicken Duo (219 calories) has filet mignon and chicken breast. We both opted for the Shrimp and Sirloin (211 calories), where Pacific shrimp are joined with Teriyaki-marinated sirloin steak, and found the portion size to be adequate. By default, the Skinny Dipping menu includes Seasoned Court Bouillon to cook your protein and veggies. We upgraded to the Coq au Vin—which is also a lower-calorie choice, and the addition of red wine really ramps up flavor. If you aren’t opposed to springing for additional calories, you can also select from a few other cooking options, including traditional oil (always my favorite for getting that nice seared outside when cooking steak and potatoes.) No matter which you choose, your total calorie count will also vary depending on how much—and what kind—of the sauces you use to dip.
The Skinny Dipping meal ends with Dark Chocolate Fondue at 322 calories—almost half of the entire meal. To keep it “lighter”, it’s served with bananas, strawberries and pineapple chunks for dipping, but we added brownies, pound cake, red velvet cake and Rice Krispie treats for a decided splurge.
The Skinny Dipping and Skinny Sipping menu continues until March 31, 2013 at The Melting Pot locations. For more info and locations, check out their website.