I sometimes imagine myself schussing down an Alp in a snazzy Moncler fit. Then I snap out of it and satisfy my romantic visions of physical speed and icy snow tickling my face by streaming, for the umpteenth time, “Downhill Racer” (1969), starring a young Robert Redford at his most delicious best slaloming through the great mountains of Europe.
Speaking of delicious – what I can imagine – more than skiing, is stopping at a ski hütte – an elegant or rustic lodge situated somewhere mid-mountain. My next move would be to find a seat outside, facing the sun, cover myself with a tartan throw then place an order for a cheesy, boozy fondue, a glass of sauternes, grappa, or calvados to help guide the warm fondue down to the depths of my belly.
If all of this seems, in reality, as undoable to you as it does to me – I have a suggestion. Bimi’s Canteen. Starting on December 7th bimiscanteen.com in Chatham New York will add fondue to their dinner offerings. Bimi’s Canteen’s owners Ellen Wagget and Chris Landy opened their restaurant in early summer of this year. It’s connected through a doorway (and its own entrance) from their established Bimi’s Cheese Shop .
I was happy to be invited to attend a tasting of the Canteen’s new menu item, fondue, made with Ellen’s quasi-secret recipe. She conceded that she uses four different types of cheese to make it: Raclette, Gruyere, Challerhocker and Ur-Eiche (all available from the cheese shop), and a splash or two of Kirsch – which adds a kind of fruity flavor and inviting smell to the dish. The method, and other ingredients were left unsaid. You’ll have to do your own sleuthing.
We sat down to perfectly set tables with a background track of chansonniere Jacques Brel’s unique voice letting us know that we were somewhere we never thought we’d be.
Each guest was served their own pot of bubbling fondue and a bowl of Mediterranean-style bread chunks. The table shared a generous, and beautifully arranged platter of roasted and steamed vegetables, sliced apples, cornichons, crispy potatoes smashed with even more cheese, meat balls, merguez sausage, and sliced beefsteak. All of these items were stabbed, one by one, with a long, double-tined fork then added to the fondue to be coated with hot cheese before turning the fork around to aim at your open mouth.
At our lunchtime tasting we were offered hot cider, beer or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to accompany our meal. Bimi’s Canteen has an extraordinary list of other beverages: from sweet, and fortified wines; Cognac/Eau de Vie; beer; and still and sparkling wine that might suit your palate. The next time I crave an apres-ski type of adventure at Bimi’s Canteen I’ll order a glass of organic Lambrusco because its semisweet, slightly citrusy and slightly floral style along with its tiny bubbles could be just right with the bubbly fondue.
You can choose a small order of fondue as your dinner – or you can order a larger version for the table to share as an appetizer. I’d opt for it as an appetizer so you can move on to the dinner selections created by chef Jesse Curtin. Curtin uses seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to put together irresistible entrees. Make sure that you save room for one of Claire Raposo’s knockout desserts – like her signature Lost Lamb Patisserie (the name of her bakery) Macaron, a decadent French cookie sandwich filled with pistachio cream and jam.
Who needs the ski huts of Gstaad or St. Moritz when you have Bimi’s Canteen so close to home.