You’ll be surprised when you find yourself in a totally European setting just by driving south of the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on Hwy 213 into the Oregon countryside. Take a side trip on Criteser Road and look up in the hills. Across a country road from a horse farm, you’ll find the beautiful Villa Catalana Cellars.
The Villa Catalana property was the setting for yet another Chef Pascal Chureau’s Field & Vine Dinners in the Field. On the hillside and pasture below are a rare plant research facility and gardens, the owner’s amazing villa, vineyards and a small boutique winery.
Owners, Burl and Cindy Mostul have created a Mediterranean oasis in the middle of farm land between Oregon City and Molalla. Their passion for exotic plants has led them to collect fascinating plants from around the world, including cacti and tropical plants, for their gardens and to propagate at their Rare Plant Research facility. The amazing villa was made of local stone and was inspired by Santa Maria and San Clemente de Tahull, 12th Century Romanesque churches in Catalonia, Spain.
The winery is only open Saturday afternoons so guests at this dinner in the field were mostly first timers to the property. That is the beauty of Chef Pascal’s events… you’ll explore the area and discover such hidden finds as Villa Catalana. And, of course, you’ll be treated to excellent locally sourced cuisine.
Guests parked in the field, admired the grapes in the vineyard, and walked up to the gardens to be greeted by Chef Pascal’s staff. The tables, decorated with local dahlias and colorful mason jars made for a festive, casual atmosphere. We were to dine under canopies, yet the dining area was open to the beauty of the lily pond, the villa and the valley below. The clouds parted after a stormy weekend and guests enjoyed sipping wine, snapping photos and strolling the grounds without jackets.
The seven-course dinner with wine pairings from Villa Catalana’s cellar, provided us with inspiration for preparing our own August meal with locally grown produce and Carlton Farms pork. Unlike many chef-directed dinners, Oregon’s bounty was the focus of the dishes, not the over-the-top, edgy creativity of a chef. Anyone would have enjoyed the food, even the meat and potatoes type or vegetarian. And the meal, served family style, was ample for even the heartiest appetite.
As the courses came from the outdoor kitchen, we raved about the use of local figs, in the Confit Port Flatbread with pulled pork and goat cheese and then vowed to try to make the Local Heirloom Tomato salad at home. The chefs had prepared the tomatoes with mint pesto and peaches. These courses were followed by a WildArugula and Fennel salad and an amazing Israeli Couscous with warm dates, pistachio and roasted heirloom baby carrots.
The protein course was the Grilled Carlton Farms Pork Chop smothered in sweet corn cream and topped with hazelnuts. I have to say the succulent lean pork chop was huge! When the Grilled Asparagus course came, diners took smaller portions but certainly left room for the Blackberry Buckle Cake with sweet cream.
There was little time between courses and the wine was flowing so guests stayed at the table, chatted and laughed the evening away.
Those surrounding me at my table all planned to return to taste Villa Catalana’s wines and look more closely at the plants and gardens. Villa Catalana puts on wine dinners and is a wedding and special event venue. I feel privileged to have spent a beautiful Sunday evening soaking in the beauty of their Spanish villa and gardens and enjoying the excellent cuisine provided by Chef Pascal and his team.
Chef Pascal’s Dinners in the Field continue through early December. How about a dinner at an Elk Farm or sampling of Oregon ciders? While you may have fun exploring many places in the Oregon countryside with this dinner series, you’ll know that the high quality of the locally sourced meals will remain consistent throughout your culinary adventures.
Field & Vine Dinners in the Field
Villa Catalana Cellars
11900 S. Criteser Rd., Oregon City, Oregon 97045
Open Sundays 1p.m. – 4p.m. (tasting fee $10)
Rare Plant Research at Villa Catalana
Oregon Farm Loop
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.