They led us out of the rustic, elegant lobby, through the refined dining room, past the bustling bar and into the… kitchen. No, this wasn’t a joke, nor was it a behind-the-scenes tour. It was a special surprise dinner on the second evening of a group FAM I had the pleasure of attending at Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont this October.
The key to creating a vibe in an otherwise industrial space was candles—and lots of them. One observant woman counted more than 100 in one room alone. Simple topiaries and wood slices served as accents on a clothless table set for 12.
As we settled into our seats, not knowing what we were in for, the kitchen staff wheeled in a wine wagon, and Scott Cochran, director of food and beverage, poured our first glass of vino to kick off the night. This interactive experience was made all the more interesting when we found out each course, prepared by Executive Sous Chef Jackie Cochran (Scott’s wife), would be selected by a roll of the die. Two homemade wooden dice tossed on a butcher’s table in another room started us out with Parmesan gougeres. We then moved on to maple butternut squash soup with jalapeno doughnuts; a dish created with fresh-caught cod, potatoes and tomatoes; and a scallop entree accented with sweet corn and leek puree, each complemented (or not) by wine pairings selected at random from a bucket on the wagon.
But the husband-and-wife team wasn’t done there. For dessert, they enlisted our help to throw toppings (whipped cream, caramel sauce, vanilla cream, sprinkles, crushed Oreos and more) onto a table, and then doused a giant baked Alaska with bourbon in the middle and lit it on fire. Talk about a delicious grand finale!
This experience was a fitting segue as we began putting together our inaugural Dine, Design & Decor Issue. No matter how good your education lineup, how famous your keynote speaker or how high your attendance at your events, it’s the food and fellowship people will remember most. It’s important to take time to incorporate experiences, as the team at Stowe did, into the meals, design and decor of your events. Beyond evoking a sense of thrill and delight, they ultimately help people connect with one another: a goal we’re all working toward. Inside these pages, we hope you’ll find ideas you can eat up and incorporate into your events—no flames required. —Kelsey Ogletree