With a focus on outstanding service and high-quality ingredients, True Kitchen + Bar has carved out a niche in Roseburg’s growing fine-dining scene.
Story by Jenny Wood, RDN, LD, Photos by Robin Loznak
As a registered dietitian and self-certified foodie I am always on the lookout for restaurants that are decadent and delicious, with a healthful twist. When I dine out and look at my plate I hope to see balance and variety, and I especially like to see vegetables.
What a delight it is to dine at True Kitchen + Bar. I have always been satisfied with my plates at True. The food is comfortable yet unique, with options on the menu that are familiar yet each with its own panache. I was excited to meet the woman responsible for bringing True to the downtown Roseburg restaurant scene.
Owner Lisa Cavens smiles big and greets me with a hug. “I’m just a hugging type of person,” she explains. She is immediately familiar, like reconnecting with a long-lost friend, and, unsurprisingly, the ambience of her restaurant is equally welcoming. The lighting is perfectly dimmed and pillows adorn plush booths in the bar space. A gas fireplace in the main dining area offers an earthy feel, while candles gently light wooden tabletops framed by the large windows looking out onto Main Street.
Chef Rodney Wesson joins us in the True banquet room through a door leading from the kitchen. Cavens shows me how the kitchen is easily accessible from the main dining area, the bar and the banquet space.
“It’s in the center,” she explains, “because it’s the heart of this place.”
Cavens and Wesson are longtime colleagues whose days together go back 12 years to the now-shuttered Mark V in downtown Roseburg. When Mark V closed, Cavens started thinking about putting her years of experience in the service industry to work in a restaurant venture of her own. She knew that Wesson was the chef who could help bring her vision to life.
As Cavens and Wesson migrated to work at Dino’s Ristorante, also downtown, the duo began planning their own restaurant. They found a building, then undertook the significant job of transforming a former title company space into a fine-dining establishment.
By November 2014 the building was renovated, the dishes washed, the staff trained, the recipes written and True’s doors opened. “The response from the community was overwhelming,” Cavens remembers.
It’s easy to see why. True’s eclectic menu was designed to “bridge the gap between meat-and-potatoes types and foodies,” says Cavens, calling the fare “elevated comfort American cuisine.”
Menu items like grilled salmon, center-cut pork chop and pan-seared duck breast might not seem like envelope pushers but when you plate salmon with sautéed prawns, savory saffron broth, zesty corn relish and fluffy quinoa pilaf you have a game changer.
The center-cut pork chop is deliciously brined in pineapple soy, served with luscious mango barbecue sauce, crisp pineapple slaw and garlic fried rice. Wesson tops True’s duck breast with a blackberry-balsamic reduction to give it a completely new flavor.
True’s kitchen has sought creative and delicious ways of incorporating vegetables into every dish. Here the vegetable is integral, not a steamed afterthought. “A lot of times, people eat their vegetables first,” Cavens says. “I think that is testament to preparing them right.”
Vegetable options can even be featured entrees like the roasted cauliflower steak, adorned with blistered tomatoes and toasted pine nuts over a bed of scrumptious polenta (or over quinoa for a vegan option). The vegetarian pistachio pasta primavera is mouth-watering with wide pappardelle noodles tossed with al dente vegetables including broccolini, carrots, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, sweet onion and red peppers.
Omnivores will appreciate the Mediterranean chicken with its lemon basil marinade, tossed in orzo pasta with spinach, capers and artichoke hearts.
Even the cocktails are graced with green, like the cucumber basil gin fizz or the rosemary cucumber gimlet. Fruit lovers can opt for the blood orange margarita or a ruby red grapefruit martini. For those who don’t love a cocktail, Oregon microbrews are available on tap, and Umpqua region wines are available.
The availability of vegan and vegetarian menu options has earned True accolades from sources beyond happy customers. The restaurant is acknowledged by the Umpqua Community Veg Education Group (UC-VEG) Dine-Up Program, which promotes local restaurants with vegan offerings. True has also been selected as a Blue Zones Project restaurant for the healthful properties of the menu and the focus on Mediterranean-style fare.
Wesson earned his chops working in a four-star Irish restaurant in downtown Sacramento. “I was the sous chef, and because of turnaround in the kitchen, I learned something new from every new executive chef that came in,” he says.“They all had different techniques and styles.”
Culinary arts were more exploratory when he started too. He points to his smartphone and says, “I couldn’t just look up an ingredient to find out what to do with it, I had to experiment to find out what flavors work together.”
One can tell Wesson has honed his skills through the years creating the vibrant flavors and nuanced layers in each dish. Every day at noon, he comes into work to start scratch-made batches of stock. He creates fresh sauces and dressings, slow cooks short ribs and marinates meats. The quality that comes from slow simmering broth all day or emulsifying fresh herbs and shallots into a dressing trumps anything prepared from a box or bag.
In the True kitchen, Wesson has room to be creative. He tests new recipes as featured specials and insists the staff take part in the “quality control.” Workers in the restaurant are encouraged to try new items, testing the acceptability of the product and helping them describe dishes to hungry customers.
Cavens and Wesson are always searching for the utmost quality when purchasing food items. “We try to keep our food local, within 400 miles at least,” Wesson says. “We receive fresh seafood every day, and when availability allows we source produce from local farms.”
Cavens and Wesson look forward to a day when they can use Umpqua region growers for the majority of their menu items. “Our kitchen staff has become really competent these past two years and there is more room for me to venture out and find those producers who can supply our demand,” Wesson says.
That means adding more fresh, local, seasonal produce to an already robust menu, which is music to this dietitian’s ears.
Recipes Inspired by Spring Provided by True Kitchen + Bar
Grilled Rosemary Paloma
• 2 oz favorite tequila or Mezcal for extra smokiness
• 2 oz grilled grapefruit juice
• 1 oz grilled lime juice
• ½ oz rosemary simple syrup orto taste
Combine above ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a lowball glass. Garnish with slice of grilled lime and rosemary sprig, sip and enjoy!
It’s springtime, so fire up your grill!
Halve two ruby red grapefruits and two limes. Place cut side down on the grill. Leave on grill until char marks are apparent. Remove citrus fruits from heat and juice grapefruits and limes into separate containers.
To prepare rosemary simple syrup combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water and ¼ cup rosemary in a saucepan. Heat to a simmer for 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Strain into a sterile jar.
Goat Cheese & Asparagus Tart w/ Roasted Tomato & Arugula Salad
• 4 sheets puff pastry
• 4 Tbsp goat cheese
• 10 sticks asparagus, steamed
• 2 cups arugula
• 1 Tbsp favorite vinaigrette
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• 2 Tbsp balsamic reductionServes two
For the tart: Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut puff pastry into 4-by-6-inch rectangles and lay on parchment-lined sheet pan. Brush squares with egg wash. Bake for 12 minutes or until even tan color. Remove from oven and let cool.
Cut rectangle 2 layers deep from pastry top, with about 1-inch border. Remove two layers of this inner rectangle. Fill this pocket with 2 Tbsp goat cheese. Sprinkle fresh thyme, salt and pepper on top of goat cheese. Trim 5 asparagus stalks to fit in interior rectangle on top of goat cheese. Return tray to preheated oven for 5-7 minutes.
For the arugula salad: Toss halved cherry tomatoes with ½ Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in oven-safe dish and roast for 5 minutes. Toss arugula and roasted tomatoes in favorite vinaigrette. Drizzle reduced balsamic over salad.
Serve tart with generous portion of salad for a light yet decadent meal.
Seared Scallops with Basil Orzo, Artichoke & Spring Vegetables
• ¾ cup orzo
• 1 shallot, diced
• ½ Tbsp olive oil
• ¼ cup white wine
• 4 oz basil, torn into small pieces
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes
• 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
• ½ cup snap peas, julienned
• 1 whole artichoke, steamed, cut into quarters and grilled
• 6 large scallops
• 1 lemon, quartered
• ½ Tbsp butter
For orzo: Cook orzo according to package directions. Transfer orzo from pot to bowl and set aside. In same pot saute diced shallots in olive oil until transparent; pour white wine, into pot, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to low. Toss cooked orzo and fresh basil in pot, mixing all ingredients well. Cover and set aside.
For vegetables: Place saute pan over
medium-high heat with drizzle of olive oil. Add cherry tomatoes to hot pan, cooking until skin blisters and chars. Remove tomatoes from hot pan and set aside. Toss julienned carrots and snap peas in hot pan until just cooked, or al dente. Remove from pan and set aside.
For scallops: Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat ½ Tbsp olive oil with ½ Tbsp butter in pan on high heat. Place scallops on pan, taking care to keep separate. Cook scallops 1½-2 minutes on each side.
Prepare two plates with ½ cup orzo, ½ cup charred tomatoes, ½ cup julienne vegetables and two quarters of grilled artichoke. Top orzo with 3 scallops. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and enjoy!