Song pairing: Que Sera, Sera by Doris Day
I feel sorry for fondue.
Yeah, fondue is Swiss and that’s kind of cool and exotic. Sure, it’s enjoyed some fame, having a big moment in the late 60s and then a brief resurgence in popularity after it popped up in Mad Men a few times, but, unlike queso, fondue has never really achieved the fame and ubiquity of queso.
Queso is just easier, you can use a stove, a microwave, even a campfire to make it.
You just need a bowl and some cheese, no special equipment or long skinny forks like you do for fondue. No one really drizzles “fondue” on scrambled eggs. No one returns home to Texas after a week or so away and says, “First thing I’m going to do when I get home is grab a dry Riesling and some fondue.”
No. It’s “I need queso, let’s grab a margarita.”
To be fair, fondue is the inspiration for two restaurant chains, The Melting Pot and Simply Fondue, and I’ve never heard of someone opening a “Quesoteria,” although someone should, and give me credit for the name.
In honor of National Queso Day (Sept. 20), here are a few places to get your fix or, if you’re a DIYer, a queso recipe from Cheese Maker-Extraordinaire, Paula Lambert.
But first, a few queso do’s and don’ts:
DON’T call it cheese dip, don’t even call it queso dip
DON’T fall for the lie that queso was invented in Arkansas
DON’T lick the cheese off your chip and then dip again
DON’T cross-contaminate the queso by dipping your chip in salsa first, then in the queso
DO not feel bad about using Velveeta processed cheese food product in your recipe
DO judge a restaurant by its queso
DO embrace Frito’s as an acceptable receptacle for queso
DO eat queso with a spoon, like soup. It’s ok.
Try out the queso at these great local restaurants and, tell us in the comments your favorite queso place.
TNT/Tacos & Tequila
2800 Routh St.
From the creator of Blue Mesa Grill, TNT offers traditional queso to which you can add ground beef, chorizo or veggies. I love ordering queso here because the chip options are more interesting than most places, offering fried sweet potato chips, white corn tortillas, and blue corn tortillas.
4931 W. Lovers Lane
This is not Tex Mex queso. All dishes at this west Lover’s Lane restaurant are modern Guadalajaran, including Chef Anastasia Quiñones’ version of queso fundido, which literally translates to Molton cheese. Queso fundido is usually spread on tortillas thicker versus less viscous dippable cheese found in Tex Mex queso. This ode to cheese consists of melted Oaxaca, Chihuahua and Monterrey cheeses with poblano rajas and it’s served with warm tortillas, not chips.
Liberty Burger Bar
All 5 Dallas Locations
Sometimes queso is the dress, and sometimes it’s the necklace. At Liberty Burger, they offer two delicious burgers, each with queso starring in a supporting role. The Baby Bella Burger is a patty with sautéed baby bella mushrooms, a big O onion ring, basil garlic aioli, and queso blanco. On the Chillerno Burger, queso oozes over a patty topped with flame-roasted poblano pepper, and chipotle BBQ sauce.
Paula Lambert’s Gourmet Queso
- 1 small onion, unpeeled and quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 3 fresh Anaheim chiles
- 3 fresh jalapeño chiles
- 3 plum or Roma tomatoes
- 8 ounces Caciotta or Monterey Jack, shredded (2 cups)
- 8 ounces Cheddar or Longhorn, shredded (2 cups)
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon pure ground chile powder
- 1 dried Arbol chile
- Fritos corn chips, tortilla chips, or vegetables, for serving
Preheat the broiler.
Place the onion, garlic, Anaheim chiles, jalapeños, and tomatoes on a flat broiler pan. Broil them 3 inches under the broiler, turning with tongs as necessary, until their skins are blackened on all sides. Remove from the broiler, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam until cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the blackened skins and seeds and discard. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and juice and discard. Place the onions, garlic, Anaheim chiles, jalapeños, and tomatoes in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop. There will be about 1 1/2 cups of chopped vegetables. Set aside.
Mix the shredded cheeses with the cornstarch and then sprinkle the salt over cheese. Heat the cream in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the cumin and chile powder and stir to blend. When warm, gradually stir in the shredded cheese, handful by handful. Wait for each handful of cheese to melt before adding the next. When all of the cheese is melted, gradually stir in the chopped vegetables.
Serve the queso in a chafing dish or fondue pot to keep it warm and liquid. Float the chile arbol whole on top, as a garnish. Serve with Frito corn chips, tortilla chips, or vegetables.
Makes 4 cups