By Renae Counter Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – Outside children run barefoot in the lawn above the Gallatin River. Inside, parties of guests are being treated to appetizers and drinks. The dining room fills with couples and families enjoying fine dining in Montana.

Summer is in session, and Rainer Cherries have made it to The Restaurant at Rainbow Ranch Lodge.

The logistics of sending fresh fruit to 50 states nationwide caused a delay in the cherry shipment, which arrived at Rainbow Ranch on July 6 instead of July 1, setting back the feature date. But now the bushel is in and ripe for the picking.

June 10 marked the cherry feature kick off, with Executive Chef Mattew Fritz’s appetizer Duck Confit with Rainier Cherry Marmalade, Grilled Radicchio with Balsamic Glaze.

Chef Fritz created the dish out of a previous autumn entrée that featured apples.

“Poultry and fruit work well together,” Fritz said. “The cherries make the dish fresh and great for summer time.”

The wild breed duck is slow cooked over a course of days, giving it a rich flavor. Paired with the sweetness of Rainer Cherries and tartness of grilled radicchio, this dish captures the entire taste palate.

Rainer cherries are known for their light color and tart taste. Atop the duck, they come in perfect sized marmalade chunks, filling the dish with unique fruit flavor.

Though succulent, the Duck Confit is just a starter to Rainbow Ranch’s other delicious summer options. Cuts of wild game from elk and bison have been favorites this summer. The trout, which comes from the hatchery in Ennis, is stuffed with crab and served to look like sushi rolls.

With enough cherries to supply the month, Chef Fritz and his staff are planning to prepare other cherry dishes, as well.

“The idea is to offer a new dish every week,” Fritz said. “We can use the new cherry dish as a way to entice people to come down once a week and sample it.”

Sweet treats such as cherry pastries and a cherry sorbet are currently being tested in the kitchen.

“Events like this are really fun for the kitchen because its keeps us inspired and creating,” Fritz said.