You wouldn’t necessarily stumble on Verve, as it’s a bit hidden just off Ferdinand and adjacent to its own parking lot, though in the heart of Columbia City. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time on Capitol Hill, but I experienced a stab of joy when I realized that there was an actual parking lot available to patrons of Verve. And that’s after I parked a half block away in the big public lot that charges one glorious dollar for two hours of parking.
The fabulous Picnic in Phinney first introduced me to the idea of great food served in and amongst an excellent selection of retail wine, and Verve does this concept proud. The interior is simple and bright, featuring lots of blond wood and big, rectangular light fixtures that make great use of fine wire mesh. A low, curving wall of seating separates the dining area from the bar and racks of wine, creating a well-defined space for each.
Brunch is a new endeavor for Verve, and I’ll say right now that the two things we tried were so good we can’t wait to come back for more. First was (Chef) Garrett’s Bacon and Eggs with pork belly, two eggs any style, hashbrowns and salad, and the photo you saw at the top of the post. That’s the pork belly peeking out from under the eggs, an offering that seems to be on menus all over town and in my opinion done quite well at restaurant siblings Spur and Tavern Law. This version was braised and grilled, the right preparation for breakfast as pork belly is incredibly rich and could easily overwhelm the rest of the flavors on the plate. The salad significantly notched up the “brunch” quotient of the meal and was the perfect light counterpoint to the pork and buttery, crisp-on-the-outside hashbrowns.
This gorgeous number is the Polenta Cake and Eggs, though the polenta and Andouille sausage, as well as hashbrowns, are hiding under the two soft-fried eggs. The slightly spicy roasted tomato sauce was perfect for the polenta and sausage, and that sauce along with the cherry tomatoes made for a visually delicious meal. The only question I had was why the three cubes of mozzarella cheese atop the eggs, which didn’t add much to the flavor profile of the dish. With or without, this is one of the best meals I’ve had at brunch, hands downs.
That “more” I mentioned earlier, the items for which we would gladly return? Here are three: Duck 2-Ways Benedict (duck confit, poached duck eggs, Meyer lemon-tarragon hollandaise), Prawns and Grits (mascarpone grits, grilled Alaska spot prawns, roasted shallot gravy, poached egg) and the Brie Croque Monsieur (grilled thinly-sliced ham, organic brie and tart Granny Smith apple dipped in French toast batter, garlic aioli). Also, I hear that the bright interior also translates well into the evening hours, when the menu turns to smaller plates like Grilled Baby Artichokes and Sardinian Flatbread and Olives, and larger plates like Lobster Risotto with Fennel and Muscovy Duck Breast.
This fabulousness at Verve is all good and well, but where was I when Columbia City was busy getting interesting? Sure, I’ve been here before and had great food at Kallaloo, Geraldine’s Counter, Columbia City Bakery and La Medusa. On this last visit to the neighborhood I even managed to tear myself away from food for long enough to swing by Gather Consignment and score a cool new ring. But all of the sudden it seems like everywhere I turn there are all sorts of places I want to check out. Stay tuned, because future trips (and future posts) will likely involve Full Tilt for ice cream that rivals Molly Moon’s, I’m told, Wabi Sabi for sushi and Lottie’s Lounge for their revamped menu with all kinds of good stuff. CC, here I come…