By Kirsten Telander
If you ever want to pretend you have a private chef in your own villa, make a reservation at The Vine Fine Dining at Cameo Heights Mansion. But don’t worry about booking the Chef’s Table. Chef Nathan Carlson is front and center, and even served a couple of our courses to us when my husband and I dined there. And, if you’re a food geek like me, he seemed completely nonplussed when I stood and watched him cook, asking him what certain ingredients were. You won’t see him screaming on a reality show any time soon – Chef Carlson goes about his business in such a relaxed manner that you wouldn’t expect the attention to detail and exceptional level of food he cranks out.
Alan and Deanne Fielding didn’t mess around when they made a mansion out of a bunch of molehills. The once barren land is now lush with apples, cherries, and grape vines. Cameo Heights (named after Deanne’s favorite apple varietal) sits cheerily perched above the orchards, with stunning views of the Walla Walla River Valley.
The owners of TERO Estates and Flying Trout Wines announced that they would be the first winery to partner with The Vine as part of a featured winery of the month program in April, we learned that you don’t need to stay at Cameo Heights in order to dine there! As a restaurant stalker, I’m not sure what molehill I’ve been in. Keep in mind, though, that seating is by reservation only, Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 to 8 pm.
The multi-course menu is $69, or $99 including chef-selected wine pairing on four courses. This is what we dined on, which also included an amuse bouche and intermezzo dish: Soy crepe with crab, mango, wild salad, topped with sweet ginger lemongrass sauce with peanuts. It was paired with the Flying Trout 2011 Torrontes, the tropical notes melding beautifully with the touch of mango.
Papardelle pasta with nettles, house made Ricotta and pumpkin seeds paired with the TERO 2009 Estate Cabernet Franc, the hint of smoke a lovely companion to the nettles, and the mouth feel perfect with the creaminess of the Ricotta.
Cider-balsamic pork shoulder with cucumber, Asian pear, and wild watercress paired with the TERO 2009 Estate “Windrow” Field Blend, the earthiness and spice lifting the marinade on the pork.
The prix fixe menu is as equally beguiling, and equally as reasonable: seven courses for $59, an additional $20 if paired with wine. A la carte options are available. Chef Carlson changes up the menu every couple of weeks, and this gives you of sense of his creative offerings:
As a starter, prawn & sea scallop ceviche with avocado-jalapeno mousse, corn cracker, organic greens, Blue Cheese, beets, extra virgin olive oil, and 18 year old balsamic vinegar.
A couple of the main dishes: Mishimi Ranch Wagyu beef Teres Major, smoked asparagus, prosciutto, garlic cheese, radishes, bone sauce; Alaskan day boat Halibut, Hoppin’ John, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, mustard butter.
One of the desserts: crème fraîche panna cotta, cherries, rhubarb, red wine, cheese – nibbles of a variety of cheeses, walnuts, and apple.
The menu includes a couple of small dishes to start, and an intermezzo, and finishes with fig, almond, and chocolate.
You can also order bottles of wine should you wish to forgo the selected pairings. Be prepared to find some of the area’s most prestigious producers on the extensive list, and vintages long gone from tasting rooms (some 2004, 2005).
The level of hospitality at Cameo Heights is of a bygone era. Alan and Deanne go above and beyond in making sure your experience is unforgettable. They even have a money-back (they phrase it more nicely) guarantee and they mean it.