By Tim Behuniak EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – Dozens of resort guests and Montana locals attended Big Sky’s annual Guild of Sommelier dinner on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Summit Hotel’s Peaks Restaurant. The intimate evening included fine-dining paired with quality wines, prepared by Google Global Program Chef Scott Giambastiani, ProStart culinary interns, and Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher.
Vine and Dine, which began as a summer event several years ago through collaboration among Chef Giambastiani, Sommeliers Fred Dame and Jay Fletcher, and Big Sky’s Director of Beverage and Entertainment Steve Merlino, now carries into winter months under the guise of Guild of Sommelier Winter Dinner.
“Jay and I love to ski, so we wanted to see if we could come back in the winter and start the conversation earlier in the season when people are here who may not come in the summer,” Chef Giambastiani said. “The summer event is hundreds of people, whereas this is 30 or 40.”
Saturday night’s eats began with an array of hors d’oeuvres. A well-trained staff passed out a baby vegetable tartlet, then transitioned into a scrumptious deviled egg topped with domestic caviar as well as a “DLT,” or duck bacon, beet greens, tomato confit, foie gras mousse and brioche.
“I wanted the menu to showcase simple foods that highlighted what Montana has to offer, such as local game, while also mix-matching my plant-forward style,” Chef Giambastiani said. “Jay and I collaborated to match the food with the wine, and [Summit Hotel] Executive Chef Eric Holup sourced the ingredients.”
Sommelier Jay Fletcher carefully-selected wines from the Guild of Sommelier cellars, such as a 1998 Chateauneuf Du Pape and a 2004 Chateau Branaire. With each wine and food pairing, Sommelier Fletcher enthusiastically informed guests on the reasons for pairings and the history of each bottle.
Although the food and wine menu was delicious and world-class, community involvement is what made the 2019 Winter Guild Dinner unique. “A portion of the event’s proceeds were donated to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation to help aspiring professional Sommeliers travel and learn more of the craft,” said Somm Foundation administrator and Jay Fletcher’s wife, Lynn Fletcher.
Additionally, Chef Giambastiani mentored ProStart interns, who helped prepare the evening’s menu. ProStart is an advanced-culinary high school program which trains students in the classroom and experientially in the field. One student in the program who participated in a Vine and Dine event last year now works as a cook at Google’s office in San Francisco.
“My favorite part about this event is learning new things under Chef Giambastiani,” said ProStart intern Ayla Slate. “I learned how to make risotto and it was fun to throw things together quickly that turn out amazing.”
The event is positive for the locals, too. Although it’s a secluded event at the resort, the dinner brings new culture to a small mountain town. Further, “through Vine and Dine, Scott and the staff promote Big Sky, which is great for the community,” said Big Sky local resident and event attendee Veronica Markham.
“There are a lot of places in the world that would love to have us host food and wine events, but we have the ability and the luxury to be very selective of where we like to go,” Chef Giambastiani said. “We love to come to Big Sky because of the mountain’s size, great weather, quality snow, and the intimacy of friendship and the Montana spirit in the people.”
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