Des Moines’s fa­vorite cheese­mon­ger has made fondue a must-have again. Although, was dip­ping bread in melted cheese ever not a good idea?

Midwest Living - - Contents - WRITER Hali Ram­dene PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Blaine Moats GET TO KNOW CJ BIENERT Runs biz with wife, Kari. Ma­jor fan of Wis­con­sin’s Pleas­ant Ridge Re­serve cheese. Al­ways picks fondue on his birth­day.

CJ Bienert grew up think­ing all cheese tasted alike.

But af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the sharp, tangy com­plex­ity of sheep’s milk cheese more than a decade ago, his per­spec­tive changed—a lot. To­day, he of­fers more than 100 va­ri­eties at The Cheese Shop of Des Moines. And his restau­rant, Cheese Bar, serves elab­o­rate boards, toasts, sand­wiches and baked mac­a­roni. But the star is a lus­cious fondue. (If you or­der it, pre­pare for en­vi­ous stares from down the com­mu­nal ta­ble.)

CJ’S se­cret, nat­u­rally, is in the cheese. “Gruyère, Em­men­taler and Ap­pen­zeller is a clas­sic mix for Swiss-style fondue,” he says. “Each cheese brings its own per­son­al­ity to the pot.” Gruyère is the most fa­mil­iar, with fla­vors of nuts and sweet cream. Em­men­taler is milky and grassy. And Ap­pen­zeller is more earthy and funky. The trio of pricey cheese makes fondue a splurge in ev­ery sense. But, says CJ, it’s also “guar­an­teed bliss.”

psst! If you have one, by all means dust off that fondue pot. But you can also get your dip on with a slow cooker.

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