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Cameo Heights Mansion

Fine dining in the hills

Nothing else is nearby, you turn on a small road, go over a cattle guard, onto an unpaved road, curving around until you're in front of a beautiful view home with lovely landscaping, and parking spaces with names like "French" and "Dubai." Where are you?

Cameo Heights Mansion is officially in the city of Touchet, about 20 minutes outside of Walla Walla, on 400 working acres of orchards and vineyards. Alan and Deanne Fielding have turned what was going to be a family home into a luxury B & B and added a fine dining dinner component. "Dinner here is still a secret in Walla Walla," says Alan. "People don't realize you don't have to stay here to come for dinner."

Dinner wasn't part of the original plan when they opened in December 2007. Deanne and Alan are Mormon and don't drink alcohol. It became apparent within a month that being as far out as they were, no one would stay if dinner wasn't available. And people coming to Walla Walla are probably here for wine. Deanne became the cook and Alan educated himself and put together a wine list. "We say Alan knows everything about wine but how it tastes," laughs Deanne. This non-drinker has put together a list that is thought of as one of the best in Walla Walla. "People come to see the cellar."

Wanting to take dinner to a new level and get Deanne out of the kitchen, they found Chef Nathan Carlson working at the Surftides in Lincoln City, Oregon. He'd created a company in Klamath Falls with a partner over six years: sushi restaurant, bar and grill, catering, fine dining Italian. "There was a partnership implosion," says Nathan. "That and the economy failing took it down. I went to Lincoln City and found a job that was easy, and I liked being at the beach. Cameo Heights drew me for several reasons. I like the area; there's a young dining scene with room to grow. And I touch every plate, literally-I take the plates to the tables. I also like that the dining room is connected to a beautiful inn." He started work in February of 2014. "People from Klamath Falls are still following him," says Deanne.

At first, he familiarized himself with what Deanne was doing. A short time later, he turned dinner into a seven-course prix fixe meal with wine pairings additional. "We print the menu nearly every day because there's always something fresh we want to use or add, and so many great wines to pair. The first, second, fourth and seventh courses are set, and guests choose from a selection on the third, fifth and sixth courses." As examples, a summer course was garden tomatoes with avocado, burrata, pesto, EV olive oil, balsamic reduction and pine nuts. A fall/winter item was fennel dusted lamb chops with saffron farro, grilled vegetables, and red pepper coulis. Not your average out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere cuisine. "I'd like people to understand that the menu is in constant evolution," explains Nathan. "I never want to stop learning; I want to play with things and incorporate food science."

Like most B & Bs, breakfast in included. Dinner is not, but the current price for seven courses is very reasonable. In the morning, an optional 8 a.m. wake up call will bring you a tray outside your door with your beverage of choice (coffee, tea, milk, juice, etc.) and a Danish. Breakfast starts at 9 a.m. in the dining room, where each suite has a reserved table. Breakfast can be delivered to your room for a service charge. Menus change daily and there are several items to choose from, or you can simply choose eggs and bacon. There is structure here, but guests should ask for whatever they want/need.

All seven suites are amazingly detailed; their website shows this as well as the lengthy list of room amenities. "We were farmers for 37 years with no hospitality experience," says Alan. "We had a wonderful contractor who created a showcase, and we discovered that Deanne has decorating talents she didn't even know about! It had to be high-end, or why would people come all the way out here? About 53% of our guests come from within 50 miles. Most B & Bs shut down from November to March; we wanted to offer year-round accommodations. People love to come for special occasions, but we also want to be a place you can simply come to take a breath and relax."

They feel part of their success is being good listeners. They ask guests for feedback and listen to responses. They read every evaluation sheet (left in each suite). They want to know what would make the experience perfect, but most guests seem to feel it's already there. In the beginning, they did everything: cook, clean, wait tables, while finishing the house and gardens. They now have 13 employees and a smooth-running operation that has garnered a lot of awards, Top Ten B & Bs in the Northwest, in the U.S., Top Ten in the World Most Romantic B & B, mainly based on guest reviews. They live on site and are available to ensure guests' needs are met.

You can come for an intimate getaway or engage with other guests. Their many amenities allow both: theatre room; library, waterfall pool (closed November to April), built-in hot tub (open all year, 24 hours a day, fire pit (roast marshmallows they provide); ping pong, tetherball, horseshoes, driving range; orchard and vineyard hikes; spa services (on site). If you never left your room, you'd probably be quite content as well.

If you're looking for a unique experience, want to forget the world for a few days, and enjoy fine food and wine, Cameo Heights is waiting for you.

 

Cameo Heights Mansion
The Vine Restaurant
1072 Oasis Road
Touchet, WA 99360
509-302-0211

cameoheightsmansion.com

Photos courtesy of Cameo Heights (with exception of morning coffee)

April 2018


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