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Fondue in Iqaluit

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 17, 2008

IQALUIT - Residents and visitors to Iqaluit will be able to fondue with the best of them by the end January if Jeff Lem has his way.

Owner of the Northern Lights Cafe, Lem has applied for a liquor licence in hopes of opening a late-night fondue station at his busy downtown restaurant.

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Northern Lights Cafe owner Jeff Lem demonstrates the art of eating fondue in his Iqaluit cafe. He hopes to have a fondue station open by the end of January. - Karen Mackenzie/NNSL photo

The territory's liquor licensing board will meet in Rankin Inlet in January, and if Lem gets positive word on his plans, he will move right away to put them in place.

"At first I thought it was going to be a sushi house, but it was going to be harder to get the Japanese stuff in," said Lem, who took over the restaurant from his brother Douglas in 2005 after opening several restaurants in Montreal. "And then to teach people to do sushi would take too much time."

He said fondue was more attractive given the relative ease of running it and its popularity down south.

Customers will be able to cook raw vegetables, meat and fish in a heat pot full of meat or seafood broth.

"Then out comes 25 different kinds of sauces," said Lem. "The waiter will come out and explain all the sauces and put them on your plate at your request."

The sauces will include garlic and sweet and sour.

"It gives people the chance to have a long, casual dinner that doesn't take long to make," he said.

No one else in the hamlet offers up fondue, said Lem.

"That's why I'm doing it," he said.

Eventually, the fondue station will be a reservations-only destination.

Sherry Shorthouse, head chef at the cafe, said she thought it was a great idea when Lem brought it to her attention several months ago.

"That kind of thing is extremely popular in Ontario right now," she said. "But up here we can give it a Northern twist, like little slivers of caribou. There could be some fish in it, too. Char. Chunks of turbot. Even muskox if we can get it."

Shorthouse said Iqaluit can't afford to fall behind in terms of offering what's currently popular in haute cuisine.

"Iqaluit is really becoming a hub now, with different cultures passing through, for business mostly," she said. "We have a new hotel in town and it's bringing a lot of new people into town. They're very savvy and they know what they want to eat."

The fondue station isn't the only change in store for the cafe, which recently expanded its hours to 10 p.m. from 5 p.m.

Lem said he wants to put in a fenced-in upper patio at the front of his building.

"I need to expand this place because I am so crowded here at lunchtime," he said.