A SPLENDID FEAST: All the Glitters in Gold West Country

A SPLENDID FEAST: All the Glitters in Gold West Country

December 23, 2012  |  Do, Eat, Events, history, Story, Towns

Last Saturday, I attended “A Splendid Feast” at the Elling House in Virginia City. Held in the sprawling Gothic Revival home originally occupied by John & Mary Elling and their ten children, the event is an annual fundraiser for the nonprofit Elling House Arts & Humanities Center. The home and its expansive yard, now owned by Toni James (who also owns Rank’s Mercantile), sit on 26 city lots.

“It’s a multiuse house at this point,” laughs James, who bought the house in 1995 and now lives upstairs in the former maids quarters. In addition to A Splendid Feast, the Center hosts a Chautauqua the third Saturday of each month January through April, monthly Literary Events & Art Shows May through September, and one of Montana’s best Haunted Houses in October. It’s also an Inn too (one room so far, and I’m proud to say I was the first registered guest last August; more on this in a forthcoming post).

A Splendid Table was first held five years ago, before Toni had an adequate kitchen stove. Chef Amy Kelley—a VC resident who with her husband Scott owns The Gravel Bar and Banditos in Ennis—volunteers her time for this event and had to cook food off-premises until last year.  “I feel spoiled now!” laughs Kelley, who somehow churns out gourmet cuisine in the house’s still-dated kitchen.  “I just love this house, the history, the charm, and this event embodies the whole spirit of Christmas. It’s 100% put on by small-town volunteers, and it just amazes me how so few people can pull together such a spectacular evening.”

Held the third Friday and Saturday each December, the event kicks off around 5:30 when guests park in the back lot and are lead to the house by dozens of glowing ice luminaries.  Bundled in heavy coats and snow boots and carrying bottles of wine, attendees walk up the steps of the twinkling porch and through the door where coats are taken.  Bottles of wine are whisked away and tagged as guests are escorted into the glowing parlor and offered a glass of their wine or a cup of wassail. A fire crackles in the fireplace, the rooms—decorated by Debbie Rogers and Chris Stadler—positively glow with golden light, sparkling evergreen swags, shiny glass ornaments and holiday cheer.

After a good long while, it’s time to sit down for dinner.  Board President Judy King—dressed festively as Mary Elling, who entertained guests in the very ballroom where we sat—welcomed us with a Charles Dickens quote and a toast before Stacy Gatewood gave us a rundown on the menu.  Our $50 tickets entitled us to Wassail and a 4-course meal of Wild Mushroom Bisque; salad with Butter Lettuce, Pears, Pomegranate Seeds, Red Onion, Blue Cheese and a Citrus Vinaigrette; Cornish Game Hen with Huckleberry Port Glaze, and dessert of either Rum Cake or Lemon Pear Gingerbread.


A Splendid Feast, Holiday, Christmas, Virginia City, MT, Gold West Country, Mining Town, Christmas, Cuisine, Dining, Dinner, Food, celebration, event, Elling House, Elling House Arts & Humanities Center, Festive, Montana, Montana Travel, Lynn Donaldson, Lynn Donaldson Photography, December, lights, Winter, solstice, feast




The food was exceptional! Conversation hummed, glasses clinked, wait staff buzzed back and forth filling wine glasses and baskets of freshly baked bread. Coffee was served and guests lingered before once again piling on winter layers and heading out into the brisk night air. As each of us approached the door, we were given a handmade ornament made of decoupage sheet music tied with a red ribbon: the perfect memento from a perfect evening.


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  3. Montana’s Bale Trail
  4. Circle: A Great Place To Be Around

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