It’s my third time attending the annual Wine Media Conference, but my first time participating in a pre-Conference excursion. Today began my adventure to the Umpqua Valley. A fantastic group of fellow wine writers, podcasters, and bloggers (all of us with huge personalities) met up at the Hampton Inn in Roseburg, Oregon this afternoon. Tonight was the welcome dinner, an informal get together at one of the city’s finest restaurants: True Kitchen + Bar.
We were driven to the restaurant in a private van owned by Swing from the Vines, and welcomed with open arms by owners (and guides) Dawn and Rudy. Their company handles all the wine tourism needs that visitors may have, where you can enjoy the wine and not worry about the driving! Learn more about Swing from the Vines here.
True Kitchen + Bar knocked my socks off the second we arrived. The interior is dimly lit with wall-hung candles, and elegant yet casual. It’s an inviting vibe that takes a lot of skill to balance so well. Our group was shown to a private back room that was so chic and comfortable.
The menu at the restaurant was very eclectic, with unusual combinations of ingredients. I was drawn to the Southwest Salad and the Miso-Ginger Halibut, so I ordered both. One thing I loved a lot about the menu is that the dishes were presented exactly as described. No missing ingredients, no surprise ingredients. Kudos to the kitchen staff for this.
The Southwest Salad ($12) was a knockout. Chopped romaine with a tangy white cheddar cheese, crispy and smoky bacon pieces, a sweet corn salsa, cherry tomatoes, and spicy pepitas made for a magic culinary combination. On top was a large, ripe avocado half as well as crispy onion straws. The dressing was a poblano vinaigrette, and it was so good. I loved this salad.
My Halibut dinner was one of the more interesting dishes I’ve had in a long, long time. My fish was cooked perfectly, so flaky and delicate. It could’ve used a touch more salt, but the miso-giner buerre blanc and black bean garlic peanut sauce made up for a lack of basic seasoning. It sounds like those sauces wouldn’t mesh well, but they went together perfectly. So unusual, but so, so tasty. The top of the fish had a small garnish of zucchini noodles (I could’ve eaten an entire bowl of those, they were so good). Not watery at all. The snap peas tasted like they were blistered in the garlic sauce, and they were a lovely combination when paired with the jasmine rice. The rice had been “pan fried,” with crunchy, crispy bits. Such a joy to eat. The best treat were the two small shrimp wontons that filled the bowl. All of the flavors and textures came together in an interesting, delicious way. This is a dish I can’t wait to eat again, and I would highly recommend it to adventurous foodies.
I am a big eater, and I found the portion sizes to be quite large. It was welcome after a long day of driving through the Oregon wilderness (and having nothing to eat but snacks from my cooler: cheese and nuts). The prices are in line with the portion sizes.
Over the course of the evening, seven different wines were poured, both whites and reds. Some of the highlights were the Spangler Vineyards Sangiovese, The Anonymous red, 35th Leaf Edition Baco Noir (my first time ever trying the varietal, and I think I’m in love), Oregon Territory Pinot Noir, Brandborg Sauvignon Blanc (after a slight mix-up with a corked bottle, this wine showed beautifully when a new one was popped), Cooper Ridge Cuvee, and the overwhelming favorite of the group: the Abacela Albarino (also from Oregon). The wines were most impressive, and I was thrilled to be able to revisit the Abacela with my meal, which proved to be the perfect seafood pairing.
If this was the first night of the pre-Conference, I can’t wait to see what’s in store. This year is starting on the highest of the high notes for sure.