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Rochester dining: fondue, food challenges, and pastry chefs

Dish 2014 

Food is an adventure we share with others. We invite friends into our homes to cook for them. We bake dishes for every celebration. We share big ideas over coffee or make small talk over alcohol — until people loosen up, then it's on to the philosophical discussions again. How many times have you been to a fantastic, or abysmal, restaurant and brought it up to your co-workers the next day?

Food allows us to be daring and lets us bond with one another in a way not much else can. And for the chef, the one often tying everyone together, making food is an art that allows them to share their passion.

Each of the three features in our annual dining guide explores food's social charm in some way. Laura Rebecca Kenyon takes a look at the re-emerging fondue trend, a simple culinary outlet that centers on a communal pot. Parties form around fondue, and its basic preparation allows the hosts to put their own spin on the center of attention.

Some diners will do a lot to get their photo on the wall, as writer Dave Budgar discovered. Chefs and restaurant owners break up the routine and keep food exciting by creating challenges with their menus, so Dave put himself — and his appetite — to the test with three food challenges at different local restaurants.

Finally, Eric Rezsnyak dug in to learn more about the enthusiasm that pastry chefs have for desserts. Passion has driven them to take classes, start businesses, and move halfway across the country. -- Jake Clapp

In This Guide...

    Fondue for you, by you

    Past its heyday in the late 60's to mid-70's, Americans haven't regarded fondue with much familiarity or respect. Beyond the confines of a great aunt's holiday gathering, a chain restaurant charging an arm and a leg for melted government-grade cheese, or a party with an ironic menu (and PBR as the beer of choice), maybe you've haven't had, let alone made, fondue.

    Chew, swallow, and repeat

    Three area food challenges
    As I prepared to encounter the first of three food challenges at three different Rochester area restaurants, it occurred to me: I love food and I love to eat, but for me, eating is more about frequency rather than amplitude. Even though the goal was to simply savor the experiences — this would be merely an exhibition, not a competition — intimidation set in.

    The sweet life

    Four local pastry chefs/bakers discuss why they put desserts first
    For many restaurant diners, dessert is an extra — something to indulge in only when you're feeling particularly decadent. But for some chefs, dessert is a passion, a calling, an artform.

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