Brunch: 10am-2pm Sunday
Executive Chef: Erling Wu-Bower / Chef de Cuisine: Perry Hendrix. Mediterranean and Midwestern influenced shared plates – Opened October 2003 – James Beard awards: Nominated for Outstanding Restaurant Graphics in 2005 / Awarded Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2005. 2 Star Green Restaurant certified DRINKS
1871 Yogurt – ginger hazelnut granola / orange blossom honey / fresh fruit – $7 – A nice light starter to any brunch. The fresh oranges and blueberries add body and juiciness that balances well with the crunchy puffed wheat and granola. The hazelnuts and fennel seed give the bowl more depth and make this bowl of yogurt and granola something unique.
Coddled Eggs – charred broccoli / taleggio fonduta / bitter greens / garlic crostini – $11 – The vegetable in this dish changes week to week depending on what they get at the farmer’s market. You could see charred eggplant, spring peas, or in my case charred broccoli. I really liked this dish though. The eggs are cooked in a shallow clay dish and play on the consistency line of runny and custard. I was nervous with the charred broccoli but there were only 2 small florets and they were soft, not quite charred though. The bitter greens are difficult to cut with a spoon which is the utensil that comes with the dish. My advice is to spoon some egg and bitter greens onto a crostini (Italian for “little toasts”). The taleggio fonduta is amazing. It’s creamy and tangy and goes great with the crunchy/chewy crostini and eggs. If you like broccoli and cheese you will also like this dish. Fonduta is a preparation of melted cheese usually with milk, butter, egg yolks, and white truffles
Werp Farm Greens – fingerling potato / green beans / cucumber / mint / black olive / tzatziki vinaigrette – $14 – Another menu item that changes week to week. Other variations have included seed cracker, fennel, radish, mint and yogurt-meyer lemon vinaigrette or kohlrabi, radish, green bean, blueberry, dill and sunflower seed dukkha. I really enjoyed this salad. The freshly ground pepper and salt sets everything off. What looks like shaved cheese is actually mandolined raw potato and what looks like raisins are dried olives. I love olives so I really enjoyed the dried version of them. The tzatziki vinaigrette is rich like a caesar dressing but stays light like a vinaigrette and is a great dressing given the salad ingredients.
Baked Eggs – roasted peppers / chickpeas / guanciale / goat cheese / breadcrumbs – $10 – The dish has a strong resemblance to stew with chickpeas. The yolk is hard on outside but softer like custard on the inside. If you eat from the perimeter, it will eat like a stew. If you eat from the center, it eats like a delicious bread-y egg dish. The breadcrumbs are chewy but bigger pieces give a nice crunch. The roasted peppers are more on the sweet side keeping the dish neutral in spiciness. If you wait for the dish to cool, the eggs will cook themselves. Eggs transform right before your eyes. The goat cheese is a light crumble on top with the breadcrumbs. If you are eating here in the winter and like stew, this is a must order. And don’t forget to utilize the bread to soak up the sauce. If you are worried about eating pork jowl, you can’t even tell you’re eating it since there are so many masking flavors. Guanciale [gwahn-CHAY-lay] gets its name from the Italian word guancia meaning “cheek,” since the meat comes from pork jowl. Typically, the meat is cured for a month in salt, pepper, chili powder and sometimes sugar, then hung and aged for another month. Often used as a substitute for pancetta.
Poached Eggs – olive bread / ‘nduja / preserved lemon hollandaise – $12 – This was amazing. If you like eggs, sausage and toast in the morning you will thoroughly enjoy this. Presented like an open faced breakfast sandwich, the bread is toasted to perfection with a generous layer of ‘nduja on top. ‘Nduja is a spreadable Calabrian sausage typically made with pig parts like shoulder, belly & jowl, roasted peppers and spices. After eating this, I am a big fan of ‘Nduja. It was so flavorful and was portioned great with the toast and eggs. The hollandaise adds an amazing creaminess to this whole thing. It can get messy if you eat it with your hands but a better experience in my opinion.
Chorizo-stuffed Medjool Dates – bacon / piquillo pepper-tomato sauce – $14 or half order for $7 – One of the most famous dished at Avec and one of the few items they will make a half order of. Full order comes with 4 dates and a half with 2 and you get the same sized piece of bread with either. Once I took a bite of these balls of glory I knew why it was so popular. They are so good you will be depressed when they’re gone. Use a knife to cut into the bacon since it’s so thick. The under side isn’t as cooked as the outer which gives you a mixture of textures and tastes. The outer part of the bacon is crispy and crunchy while the inner is fatty and chewy resembling pork belly. About the 3rd chew in, you’re hit with the sweet and chewy date which really compliments the spiciness. There is plenty of dipping sauce for the soft and crunchy ciabatta bun so be generous.
Sweet Cherries – straciatella cheese / fava beans / mint / aleppo pepper – $14 – The kind of fruit used in this salad will change week to week. It could include plums instead of sweet cherries for example The cherries are plump and ripe but not overly sweet which makes this more a savory salad. The straciatella cheese which makes the base of the salad and resembles creamy string cheese pudding. Hard to explain. The fava beans add some bulk and protein and reminded me of cashews given they are dense but soft. Fava beans are 35% protein and contain 9g of fiber in just 110 calories. The aleppo pepper is a fruity, mild pepper with undertones of cumin. It adds almost a raisin like flavor. I enjoyed exploring all the different flavors in this salad.
Roasted Salmon – sumac / frisee / radish / roasted beet-walnut muhammara – $16 – I love Salmon and this dish definitely raised the bar. The fish which contains no skin is covered in a sweet glaze. The muhammara is nutty and sweet, the fresh frisee gives a bitter sweet crunch, thinly sliced onion and radish with mint provide a fresh garden element. Cutting through the crispy outside of the salmon, the knife slides through the meat like butter. So tender. The roasted beet-walnut muhammara shines in this dish and could be served on its own with a spoon it’s so good. Muhammar is typically made with fresh or dried peppers, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs and olive oil. Avec adds beets which give it a touch of sweetness. I know beets and salmon go well together but dang. Sumac is a spice often used in Middle Eastern cooking to give lemon zest to a salad or meat. Frisee is green, narrow, curly endive
Butcher’s Steak – berbere spice / sungold tomato / cucumber / chickpea hummus – $18 – A beautiful dish full of flavor. The mint, cucumber, and hummus with the steak reminded me of the times I had lamb with a mint yogurt dip. The tomato and parsley add freshness to the meat which is the star of the dish. Cooked medium-rare like all great cuts of meat should be, the flesh is red but not bloody and the tender outer crust, which has a simple salt and pepper seasoning, can be cut with a fork. I really enjoyed dipping the steak into the berbers spiced hummus.
Wood Oven Baked French Toast- fresh cheese / summer fruit compote / mint / almonds – $14 or $7 for half order – I’m a sucker for french toast and was really excited when I saw they had this on the menu. Especially when I saw that they bake it in their wood oven instead of frying it in butter. I got a half order which came with two squares instead of four. The bread was different than a challah or brioche. The exterior was crispy and slightly burnt which reminded me of angel food cook. When my mom used to make angel food cake, I used to love picking the crunchy stuff that would stick to the pan so I really liked this aspect of the french toast. The blueberry compote and moisture of the bread leaves little need for syrup. The toasted slivered almonds bring in a crunchiness that contrasts with the cream-like cheese. With sweet compote and cheese covering the plate, the bread acts like a sponge cake and soaks it all up. Only add syrup if you’re an addict. All in all this dish is a perfect blend of sweet and tart. If blueberry pie and angel food had a baby, this would be it. I don’t condone eating babies but you get the idea.
Wood Oven Pizza – pancetta / eggs / roasted potato / pippara peppers – $16 – I thought this was a great brunch pizza, taking all the essential breakfast items like breakfast potatoes, eggs, and bacon and throwing it on top of a za. But instead of breakfast potatoes, avec roasts their potatoes to a perfect soft consistency, not crunchy. For eggs they throw on two of them and the consistency can very since a few seconds different in their over can be the difference from a soft or hard yolk. Most pizzas with egg that I’ve had in the past tend to have a runny yolk so I enjoyed changing it up with the hard yolk this time and it worked with the soft egg whites. Yes, the white you see in the picture is the egg white and not cheese like one wood think. The bacon on the pizza is pancetta which is essentially the Italian version of our bacon made of pork belly meat. It’s a lot thinner and tends to be on the chewier side vs crisp bacon that I usually enjoy. Giving the pizza some spice are the pippara peppers which are mild flavored with a slightly sweet overtone. They are long green peppers from the Basque Country of Spain and are harvested when they are green and canned in a salt brine. The top of the pizza is then covered in parsley. Honestly, I think they use way too much parsley. They could probably use half as much of it in my opinion. Minus the excessive parsley I loved this pizza. I highly recommend if you are in the mood for pizza, since it’s the only pizza they offer on the menu. But when you do a pizza this good, there is no reason to make another one.
Breakfast Paella – eggs / shrimp / morcilla sausage / artichokes / almond aioli – $26 or $13 for a half order – My picture is of the half order. The full order is $26 because it’s freakin’ huge. It comes in a huge “paella” [pi-AY-yuh] which is latin for pan. But not just any pan. A special, two handled pan that is wide, shallow and about 13-14 inches in diameter. Paella is Spain’s national dish. No offense to Spain but I’m usually not a huge paella fan and normally don’t order it so when I say this is the best paella I’ve ever had take it with a grain of himalayan pink salt. So congrats Avec on making me a paella fan, at least the breakfast version which includes 2 eggs. Now the dish is so hot that if you delay cutting into the eggs right away., they will slowly cook themselves, going from runny to hard. The morcilla sausage, aka blood sausage for its inclusion of pig’s blood, has a crunchy outer casing resembling a bratwurst consistency. The shrimp is fresh, maybe a little too fresh. It’s best taken with a bite of artichoke to cut some of the ocean taste. I was pleasantly surprised to find slivered fennel bulb in the dish. Paired with the sausage and eggs very well. The bottom of the pan is coated with what tastes like a spicy Mexican rice. I highly recommend going through the extra work to scrape this caramelized crust of rice at the bottom and eat it. Not only is it delicious, but also a highly prized part of Spain’s national dish called socarrat. All well-made paella have it.
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder – piri piri broth / cracked wheat / snow peas / smoked yogurt / clams – $26 – Another large dish that unfortunately doesn’t come in a half order but that’s ok because although it was large, I enjoyed every spoonful. I love spicy pork dishes and with nose running heat stemming from the piri piri (smoked spice) broth, this dish delivered. Thrown in at the end, freshly shaved snow peas keep their crunch and provide a refreshing layer to the meat heavy pot. Speaking of heavy, the pork shoulder is huge, like this pig was doing overhead presses while all the other pigs were pigging out at the trough. Given the size and thickness of the shoulder, I recommend ripping it open since it’s so tender and easy to do, turning it into pulled pork. This way there is a lot more surface area exposed to the spicy juices of the broth, allowing the meat to soak it all up and giving it a ton more flavor. Before doing this, stir in the smoked yogurt with the spoon which thickens and cream-a-fy’s the broth. Not sold on the clams here. The pig is the star of the show and the clam is like the opening act that is trying to perform at the same time; it gets lost. I suggest eating them as the opener by plucking them out and skimming across the smoked yogurt. Pro Tip: If you’re a pulled pork sandwich fan and smart like me 😉 ask your waiter for a ciabatta roll that they will happily bring out for you. Spoon some pork on it or dip into the creamy, spicy stew and soak up any remaining sauce. Thank me later.
“Deluxe” Focaccia – taleggio cheese / ricotta / truffle oil / fresh herbs – $18 – Another very popular item on the menu and now I know why. It looks so plain but boy is it delicious. It’s like eating a salted cracker sandwich with sweet, creamy cheese in the middle. The crust is golden brown and very light but strong enough to not bend when pinched on the edges. It’s cut into little bite size squares which was a great way to eat it. : A secret among the regulars is to order it with honey which I highly recommend. Drizzle the honey over the salty bread and you have an amazing salty/sweet treat. The cheeses combine to make a sort of fluffy cream cheese which is whipped in the kitchen. The fresh herbs used was chives. It is a very subtle undertone along with the truffle oil that gives the focaccia depth and complexity, leaving you to savor every bite. Pro Tip Focaccia [foh-KAH-chyah] is derived from the Roman words “panis” meaning bread and “focacius” meaning fireplace. The latin word “focus” is what you call a hearth which is the floor of a brick or stone-lined fireplace. In Roman times, focaccia was cooked in the ashes of the fireplace so the translation seems accurate. Taleggio [tahl-EH-zhee-oh] cheese holds PDO status coming from Val Taleggio, an Alpine valley in Italy’s Lombardy region. The creamy texture can be credited to the fact that Taleggio cheese uses whole cow’s milk. And given the richness of the cheese in the Focaccia, I’m guessing this is an older cheese. Taleggio’s flavor can range from mild, sweet and nutty to rich and mushroomy, depending on it’s age. Ricotta [rih-KAHT-tuh] is thought to have been invented to solve the whey dilemma produced by Italy’s cheesemaking industry. To handle all this excess whey that was causing environmental problems, the whey was reheated (ricotta comes from the Latin word recocta meaning “recooked”). The reheating caused the protein to rise to the surface where it was skimmed off and placed in perforated molds to drain. This resulted in a rich, fresh and grainy cheese but smoother than cottage cheese. Also interesting to know that ricotta technically isn’t a cheese but rather a “dairy product” since neither starter nor regnant are used in making it.
Papas Bravas – garlic aioli – $5 – mmmm potatoes. As a side dish, I had to pair these with the butcher’s steak to give the midwestern meat and potatoes staple a Mediterranean touch. Boy was I glad I did; a fantastic combo. To let these two dishes play off each other, I suggest cooling off the spicy potatoes with a bite of the cucumber, mint and hummus from the butcher’s steak. The round potatoes are crushed and lightly salted. The spiciness in the papas bravas comes from the tomato-based red sauce that includes vinegar, red peppers and other spices that it give it a little zing. The crunchy, roasted parts of the potato skin soften up with the sauce. The thick aoili with a yogurt consistency balances well with the spicy red sauce that is thinner like a tomato sauce. The garlic taste slowly creeps in as you chew. The combination of the sauces creates a consistency that’s thick enough to stick to the potatoes with no dripping. If you like your fries smothered in sauce, you’ll enjoy this. Reminded me of a mildly spicy version of garlic mashed potatoes. Don’t order the butcher’s steak without these. Heck, order them with anything, they are only $5 and worth every penny.
Sumac Glazed Pork Belly – $7 – Side dish of the century! Ok, maybe a little over dramatic but if you’re a bacon fan you HAVE to order this. It’s like steak and bacon had a baby or in this case twins. It will go with anything but if I may suggest, order it with the coddled eggs as it’s the only egg dish that doesn’t have a meat product in it. It’ll even go great with the papas braves because who doesn’t like potatoes and bacon? We all know the power in salty/sweet… ie. Bacon donuts (pause to wipe drool). Avec puts this combo to work coating the pork belly with a sumac glaze. Sumac are fruits that are ground into a reddish-purple powder. It’s turned into a Middle Eastern spice that’s used to add a lemony zest to salad or in this case, pork belly. Sprinkled with chives, this dish is everything you could ask for in a thick slab of pig belly.
Sunday Morning Pastry – Vol Au Vent with orange cream cheese, black raspberry and lemon zest – $7 – Another item that changes with the seasons. I went in the summer and got this black raspberry version that was delicious. The cream cheese under the berries had an amazing flavor of sweet citrus. If you’re skipping the french toast definitely get this. I’ve never had a Vol Au Vent before so let me welcome myself to the fan club. Vol Au Vent is a french pastry meaning “windblown” which describes the lightness of the pastry and the fact that the center is hollowed out to be filled with cream and berries. Once again the french come through in the pastry department.
Nutter Butters – $4 – These little bite sized squares are delicious. A signature item here at Avec, not to be confused with the Nabisco Nutter Butters that are shaped like a peanut. If I had to compare them to any childhood cookie it would be Little Debbie’s Nutty Bars. They have crunchy and smooth base which comes from the use of peanut butter and cacao nibs. The milk chocolate caramel top layer is cold and hard but slowly melts in your mouth. I was a big whatchamacallit fan as a kid and these brought me back to those days.
Affogato with Pistachio Zaletti – $7 – This was my first time trying Affogato and Avec has now set the bar pretty high. With just two ingredients of gelato and expresso, the combo is an amazing play on temperature and texture. The two perfectly round scoops of gelato sit in the cup and they bring out a shot of expresso with it. Once the plate is set down in front of you, the waiter takes the hot, bitter expresso and drowns the gelato. Oh weird, is the Italian word for “drowned.” Affogato . At first you marvel as the expresso melts the gelato and creates a creamed coffee pool on the bottom. Then you worry the expresso is going to melt the gelato and turn it into a soup. But the gelato is so thick that the hot liquid can’t stop the gelato from keeping its shape. This due in large part to the fact gelato contains just 25-30% air compared to 50% in ice cream. The expresso melts the gelato just enough to make a little cream pool at the bottom, but then the gelatoin turn cools the expresso turning the liquid at the bottom into a creamy expresso latte. The bitter expresso goes wonderfully with the sweet gelato. The Italians created a brilliant dessert here, I applaud them. From my experience living in Italy, I knew the Italians loved drinking expresso after their meals, but I can’t help to think they were influenced by America on this creation. At some point there was an American at the dinner table refusing to drink expresso after dinner unless it came with ice cream and cookies. The Italians compromised giving them gelato and biscotti, their versions of ice cream and cookies. Fun fact is typically made with flour, sugar, eggs, pine nuts and almonds. The medieval Latin word biscotus means “twice-baked.” The term was used to define oven-baked goods that were baked twice so the’d became very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. Zaletti is essentially a cornmeal biscotti with raisins and it went great with the gelato. The gritty cornmeal in the zaletti was a great contrast to the smooth gelato. Hard and crunchy meets soft and creamy. Spoon some gelato on the zaletti for an Italian ice cream sandwich or dip the zaletti into the expresso on the bottom as the slightly sweet cookie is also a great partner to the bitter expresso that is now gelato infused. If you’ve never had Affogato before I highly recommend ordering this for dessert. Biscotti
Sadly, the brunch has come to an end and I must move on. This was an amazing experience. Everything from the service to the food to the ambience was great. I can’t say anything bad about this place. Just know the space is small and gets fairly crowded for brunch. If you don’t like eating too close to strangers or get claustrophobic easily, this might not be the restaurant for you. If you go during the brunch rush (11am-1pm) you need to anticipate waiting for both your table and food. I’m very impressed with how quickly they do serve you given the space they have to work with. If you eat at the bar, hopefully you get Duron to wait on you; He’s great. Kelly is good too. They function in a very tight space and have a lot of people to wait on so be patient with them. I suggest going at 10am when they open to avoid as much of the crowd as possible. I’ve been there from 10-3pm so I’ve seen the entire brunch unfold in real time. They close the kitchen at 2pm so just make sure you get your last order in before then and you can eat and drink until 3pm. Just know they start seating people for dinner at 3:30pm.