Beast Feast: Gut Check Dines on Squirrel and Raccoon in Style

       Stone Hill's Chardonel. | Nancy Stiles

On a cold evening in Hermann, the snow came down in large, fluffy flakes and coated everything in town from Save-A-Lot to the grapevines of Stone Hill Winery. Several prominent Hermannites (and some out-of-towners) gathered in the winery's restaurant for a feast -- an unusual one at that. It was the 26th annual Beast Feast.

See also: Beast Feast Benefits Cancer Research with Wild Game Dinner at Stone Hill Winery

       Bacon and beef tongue meatballs, pheasant and black bean enchiladas. | Nancy Stiles

The night begin with wine, appetizers and a silent auction. We didn't know the exact menu beforehand -- every year, it depends on what the local hunters donate -- so we were really hoping for raccoon.

We started off with venison chili, bacon and beef tongue meatballs (so good), fried catfish, smoked trout, venison raw hack (kind of a tartar), and pheasant and black bean enchiladas. We sampled award-winning Vignoles white wine, as well as the Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling white that's more drinkable than Champagne.

       Behold! | Nancy Stiles

After the silent auction, we headed into the restaurant, seated in old horse stalls for dinner and the live auction. We read the menu with glee. There it was: squirrel and raccoon goulash. It turned out to be one of our favorite dishes that night. Another favorite was the pineapple braised, maple brined wild boar.

The live auction featured donated items like a pheasant hunt, paintings, unreleased Stone Hill vintages, and more sentimental items like the Cajun hat, a ridiculous topper that guests graciously bid for every year simply to donate.

       Brandied sweet potatoes with apples, squirrel and raccoon goulash, and turkey pumpkin risotto. | Nancy Stiles

There were some emotional speeches -- the Helds are a tight-knit family and their work for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society really touches people. The children's five-year survival rate for lymphoma is now 97.1 percent -- and the money raised every year at Stone Hill goes directly to research for the Gateway Chapter of LLS.

Check out more photos of the feast below and learn more about Gateway LLS here.

       Christmas touches. | Nancy Stiles

       Pumpkin cheesecake bar with bourbon caramel sauce. | Nancy Stiles

       Venison chili. | Nancy Stiles

       Ready to eat. | Nancy Stiles

       So festive! | Nancy Stiles

       Appropriate decor. | Nancy Stiles

       The bubbly Blanc de Blancs. | Nancy Stiles

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