Fancy-Up Your Game

Pairing fall's harvest.

Cooking and eating should be a celebration of life here in our beautiful valley—and to that end, nothing is better than wild game. But pairing side dishes and wines with game can be tough, and we often end up with simplistic flavors. Here’s how to fancy-up your game.

When the leaves start to turn, my thoughts turn to game birds. They’re delicious roasted whole and served with butternut squash drizzled with sage-infused brown butter. Throw in some charred broccolini with garlic and chili pepper flakes, and accompany the meal with the lean minerality of a Nebbiolo. Yum.

Once antelope becomes available—quickly followed by venison and elk—we’re cooking with gas! Retrieve the backstrap by cutting through the bone, and down the sides of the spine, keeping the rib bones attached. Once the backstrap and ribs are removed, trim and French the ribs. I leave mine whole, then decide at the time of preparation whether to present the entire bone-in roast, or quick-grill for steaks.

Fruit is my go-to accompaniment for these meats. For antelope steaks, peaches halved and dusted with hot, madras curry, then grilled and finished with French lavender oil pairs incredibly well with green beans almandine and a nice Cotes du Rhone. I’m a sucker for drinking a Super Tuscan with medium-rare venison served on a bed of roasted kale and topped with thyme-stewed Flathead cherries. For elk, grab a meaty, earthy Vacqueyras. Dust the elk with coco and espresso powders and top with plums; oven-roast it with a bay leaf alongside a caramelized platter of roasted beets, carrots, and potatoes with walnuts.

Here are a few pairing rules to help you select the best wines to go with your food.
1. Serve a dry rosé with hors d’oeuvres.
2. Serve un-oaked white with anything you can squeeze a lemon or lime on.
3. Pair low-alcohol wines with spicy foods.
4. Match rich red meats with tannic reds.
5. With lighter meats, pair the wine with the sauce.
6. Choose earthy wines with earthy foods.
7. Old World wines and Old World food are great together.

Colleen Helm is an avid chef and wine expert with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Italy. She owns Vino per Tutti, in downtown Bozeman.