When we think of taking our beloved out for the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner, we conjure up images of filet mignon, a bottle of bubbly, a gooey chocolate dessert and, next morning, a negative bank balance. If a splurge is what you need, by all means, go for it! We all need to pamper ourselves once in a while.

However, if you’re looking to do something different this year, maybe something a bit more low-key, we’d like to suggest that there’s nothing sexier or more fun than a DIY dinner starring cheese fondue. And – bonus – our menu won’t break the bank.

The food

Let’s talk practicality first. Fondue has four ingredients – cheese, flour, garlic, and wine or beer – plus the bread, veggies and/or fruit that you dip, so it’s one of the easiest dishes in the world to make. Depending on which cheeses you buy, this part may cost you a bit, but the other ingredients are cheap as chips, and you only need cooking wine or inexpensive beer.

Fondue also takes no time to make, so if you have other plans during the day or at the start of the evening, don’t worry, you won’t be spending hours in the kitchen. You can easily whip up a fondue in about 20 minutes from start to finish (and that includes taking some time for sips and kisses). It’s easy to clean up, too, which means you can either take care of the dishes at the end of the night without any fuss, or not feel bad if you want to leave them soaking until morning.

Lastly, a fondue pot is an essential to every household. They don’t cost much (you can get a decent machine for around $50 or a great one for $200), and they’re a wonderful choice for a cozy gathering around the dinner table when you have family or friends in town.

Is fondue sexy? They say the best part of sex is when you can laugh, and fondue is definitely a dish where you’ll be sharing some giggles with your cheese-loving dinner partner. From handling the awkward, long forks, to losing your bread in the lake of cheese, to those dangly bits of cheese hanging off your chin, fondue is a great way to have fun at the dinner table. And when that dangly bit of cheese does hang off one's chin, it’s the perfect opportunity to lean over and gently remove it from your lover’s face.

The wine

Fondue is also a versatile dish for wine pairing. Whether you want to celebrate the night with some bubbly, ease in with a glass of white, go straight for the red or try all three, fondue is a dish you can pair with whatever you love the most.

A glass of chilled cava (Rimarts Brut Cava for about $18 is one of my favorites) will cut right through the fat in the cheese and provide a refreshing zing on your palate. You’ll want to stay away from full-bodied whites and opt instead for a dry Riesling (Trader Joe’s has a divine option, the Emma Reinhart, for all of $5!) or a crisp sauvignon blanc. If you’re in the mood for red, again, avoid anything too heavy or aged, as it may overwhelm the flavors in the cheeses. Instead choose a pinot noir, grenache (or garnacha, if you’re looking at Spanish wines) or Valpolicella. Not as well known for its pinots as for sauvignon blanc, New Zealand produces some absolutely stunning pinot noirs. If you can find it and have a few extra dollars to spare, try something by Tom Block.

The music

And, for the crowning glory, the soundtrack to your special night! You could just search for “Love Songs” on Pandora; however, if you want something a bit more eclectic, head over to a very special hourlong soundtrack we created just for you. We’ve included music from a variety of genres to get you in the mood, everything from jazz to classical, tango to opera, blues to bluegrass. Enjoy!

Kala Maxym is a Los Angeles–based operatic soprano and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Five Senses Tastings, a special experience company that composes full-sensory events that purposefully and artistically pair music, wine and food.

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