Veranda On Highland pairs culinary delights with enchanting ambience.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Miller Mobley
Veranda on Highland’s historic building is a beautifully renovated Southern home, which dates back to the 1920s. The ambience of this enchanting restaurant alone attracts many diners. Yet it is the cuisine of executive chef Tom Robey that keeps them coming back for more.
Fireplaces and stained glass windows provide an elegant and comforting backdrop for a white tablecloth, candle lit dinner or brunch at Veranda on Highland. The restaurant boasts nine separate dining rooms, a wine cellar for private dining, a patio, a second story veranda with a view of Red Mountain, and a bar—Papa’s Bar and Lounge, where a bust of Hemingway is the pièce de résistance.
Dining room manager, Stanley Reynolds came to Veranda on Highland from Commander’s Palace. Tonight Reynolds seats us at a table in the bar area—my favorite room in the house.
Veranda does not just have a wine list. They have a wine collection. And tonight I enjoy pouring over this Wine Spectator Award of Excellence wine menu. A favorite of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is selected and arrives with hot bread and cold butter. Service at Veranda is attentive and professional. Our server’s precision on the pour of each glass of wine quietly displays his level of training.
From the Appetizers and Salads portion of the menu, we select Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Corn Beignet and Poached Shrimp. The hot round, golden beignets arrive with a pickled okra and tartar sauce, adding a touch of acidity and a heap of creaminess. Crab and corn have an affinity for each other as products with complementary flavors and textures in this Southern fried dish. Layers of other flavors including cayenne-dusted coconut, crunchy roasted apples and pumpkin seeds with a curry vinaigrette enhance the Poached Shrimp. And everything at Veranda is made from scratch, including this phenomenal vinaigrette.
For entrees we select a Double Cut Pork Chop and Iron Seared Jumbo Scallops. The grill marked, two-inch thick Fudge Family Farms pork chop is the prettiest pork I have ever seen. It arrives steaming with aromas of black pepper, herbs, citrus, brown sugar, bourbon and honey. One cut proves the chop to be juicy and tender to the bone. One bite proves it to be as good as it looks—full of white pork meat enhanced by the bourbon and honey glaze. They marinate the chop overnight. This tenderizes it and gives it color. Then it is grilled, without letting it char, and glazed with a reduced bourbon, black pepper and honey glaze before it was finished in the oven. The chop is served on a bed of bacon, rosemary braised apples, and “petite cabbage” (Brussels sprouts halved). This mixture adds layers of complexity and texture—as well as eye appeal to this delicious dish. In the other entrée three Iron Seared Jumbo Scallops float on a bed of—melt in my mouth—fresh warm spinach bursting with flavor, along with cherry tomatoes, caramelized red onions in an aged, sherry, bacon vinaigrette and topped with shaved fennel and asparagus.
Dessert at Veranda is not an option but a must. Each is masterpiece. We opt for the Carrot Cake and Chocolate Terrine. General Manager, Tommy Findley gets the credit for this Carrot Cake’s recipe, as it comes from an old family recipe. The moist cake is full of flavorful textures including dried cherries, candied ginger and carrots, of course. The cake painted with sweetened condensed milk while it is still warm, which makes base for the outer layer of cream cheese icing. The Chocolate Terrine is a silky, frozen mousse atop a white chocolate, pistachio bark with a raspberry coulis and served with a Grand Mariner cookie. It provides a light, creamy and chocolaty end to the evening.
Veranda On Highland has it all: an enchanting ambience, phenomenal service, outstanding wine list, excellent cuisine, and a staff who bring it all together into the total package.