By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Illuminated by dancing candlelight, Executive Chef at ACRE Kitchen William McCormick moves among the roughly 20 dinner guests filling their glasses with a 2019 Broken Dreams Chardonnay, a bold California wine with notes of oak, butter, and apple. A plate of beets roasted in red wine and vegetable stock topped with herbed goat cheese and a fresh thyme and parsley microgreen salad soon follows the wine to the table.
This is the first of six courses at ACRE’s off-season dinner series, Taste of Montana, which highlights various local farms throughout Montana used in their restaurant. The Fall Harvest dinner on Oct. 22 featured products from Amaltheia Dairy, an organic family-run farm nestled at the base of the Bridger Mountain range. Every item in the opening dish was sourced from Amaltheia.
The setting was intimate, adorned with harvest décor and the conversation was lively, filling the room with praise for the food and musings on the winter season ahead.
The second course featured a pairing that had everyone raving: sweet beet chips fried three times to scoop up an Asian tuna tartare topped with capers, chives, and toasted sesame oil. The salty capers and chives atop the fresh tuna perfectly balanced the sweetness of the crunchy beet chips. The wine paired with this course was a Grüner Veltliner, a dry white wine similar to that of a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a spicy and nutty kick.
After devouring the elk, I wasn’t sure if I would have room for the final course, dessert.
For the main course, McCormick served a medium rare elk tenderloin that melted in one’s mouth. Accompanying the tenderloin were a huckleberry gastrique, a smooth and buttery robuchon potato spread, and blistered soft baby carrots. The paired wine, a 2019 Casa Silva, was a powerful and spicy Chilean red wine, complementing the elk perfectly.
I was wrong. Willie’s bourbon caramel sauce was irresistible drizzled on a sticky toffee pudding with Nutella and fresh cream. The dessert course highlighted all of the best spices of fall. With full stomachs, patrons still managed to finish every last bite of the pudding, cutting through the sweet richness with a tart sparkling rosé.
The first Taste of Montana dinner drew Big Sky locals and was a success for the off-season according to Chef McCormick.
“We try to buy products as locally as possible,” McCormick said. “So when we started talking about doing some wine pairing dinners as a way for locals to get to know each other and have some special off-season events, the first thing that came to mind was to center the dinners around specific farms and providers.”
He hopes this will be a way to bring locals into ACRE to experience the farm-to-table fare in a more intimate way. ACRE plans to continue these experiences in the off-season, providing high-end dining to the locals when most restaurants are closed. ACRE plans to have at least five more of these events over the next month before ski season starts and the town is bustling once more.
On Friday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. ACRE Kitchen will host another Taste of Montana dinner, featuring local Montana-raised beef, pork, lamb, olive oil and honey from RegenMarket. Using regenerative agriculture practices, RegenMarket boasts the highest-level quality nutrients in their products. McCormick and his team are finalizing the menu for their next event which is sure to be just delicious as this one.