I have fond memories of the Firehouse. It was the first really nice place I went to after moving to Sacramento. I’ve enjoyed family dinners, and dinner with some great people (non-relatives, not that my family isn’t great!). It was where a complete stranger bought me a bottle of 1995 Merryvale Profile as a birthday gift. On this occasion, which wasn’t a real occasion, other than to experience some fabulous food, I enjoyed the January Chef’s Tasting Menu with paired wines.
Located on Second Street, between K and L, it’s easy to get to and has valet parking available for a relatively small amount. Otherwise there is metered parking along the street that is monitored until six, I believe.
If you’ve never been to the Firehouse, it has a very unique decor. It is heavy and dark, with super-sized prints decorating the walls. I liken it to the salon of a wealthy Victorian nobleman… but never fear, there are no heads, furs, or shotguns next to these prints. It’s velvet, mahogany, deep red and just the type of place to go for an amazing meal, service, and wine. The booths against the wall are half moon-shaped, and set comfortably apart, so you can easily enjoy your meal without having to worry about your neighbor pulling a Samwise Gamgee and eavesdropping. These are also very cushy, which is good, since you’ll want to settle in and enjoy this dining experience!
First came an amuse bouche of warm carrot and coconut soup garnished with parsley. It was sweet and perfect to prepare the mind and stomach!
Next up (not on the Tasting Menu) were half dozen oysters and sparkling wine, which was a delicious Brut from Argentina. My complaint with these was that they were a bit too large. In this case, bigger is definitely NOT better.
First course: Parsnip-apple bisque with calvados syrup and prosciutto-apple fritter paired with a 2007 Pio Cesare Moscato d’Asti. If you’ve never had this kind of wine, be sure to at some point. It is refreshing, light, and pairs excellently with intensely rich flavors. Its effervescence and acidity cut through the richness (insert: fat) of this bisque and brought umami to the fore.
Second course: Layer “cake” beet salad with roasted beets and chevre-shallot mousseline, candied pecans, watercress and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Paired with a 2010 Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara D.O.P. I loved this salad. The flavors and textures melded and mixed together perfectly, with the sweetness of the beets counterpointed by the tart pomegranate, and the crunchy pecans balanced by the creamy chevre. The wine, a tart sparkling red, worked surprisingly well. I’d never had a sparkling red like this, and I’m not sure I’d have it again, but it was excellent here.
Next came a palate-cleansing intermission of pomegranate sorbet. The serving size was a bit much and made me feel like I was already at dessert. It also cooled off my mouth a bit too much. But then again, who cares, it was delicious!
Third Course: Duck with huckleberries. Pan roasted duck breast with toasted coriander and fennel seed, yam gratinee with tarragon beurre rouge. Paired with a 2009 Bonneau Sangiacomo vineyard Pinot Noir from Carneros. Artfully presented, it was… well… ducky. But not the way I remembered duck. It wasn’t at all gamey, but was rich and fatty. It came complete with skin and fat, from which I completely stayed away, but I tried some of the meat, and the accoutrements were quite nice. This was probably my least favorite of the courses. The paired wine was a lovely deep red ruby, that started out complex, but ended up a wee bland at the end. However, it was one of those American wines that stands up well on its own. I would have liked to enjoy a glass of this by itself.
Fourth course: Chargrilled filet mignon with wild mushroom demi-glace, bacon leek bread pudding and brussel sprouts. Paired with a 2008 Edge Cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley.
My version was made with a gigantic and ridiculously delicious scallop. This was also fabulous. Since I’m such a big fan of mushrooms, I loved the demi-glacé and the brussel sprouts were also an excellent addition, giving it just a bit of crunch with the mushrooms. But what took the proverbial cake was the bacon-leek “bread pudding” that served as the foundation for this building of gastronomic delight. Perfect chunks of bacon (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!) were suspended in pillowy soft, savory bread. I ended up eating this for lunch the next day… and it was STILL delightful. If you go to the Firehouse and this is on the menu, I highly recommend it. The filet wasn’t quite as good, but the last time I had a bite of filet was at The Kitchen, so this may be a slightly unfair comparison! The paired wine was kind of meh; I think it was too young. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that they’d include a 2008 on this menu. I’d lay down a bottle like this for at least a couple more years.
Final course: Tres leches de chocolate. Chocolate three-milks’ cake with butter pecan crust, port fruit compote and a vanilla anglaise. Paired with a 1927 sherry from Pedro Ximenez Solera from Montilla-Moriles. This was one of the thickest, most flavorful sherries I’d ever tasted. The legs on this were longer than Cindy Crawford’s! It was viscous, and had the color of motor oil (a good thing!) and had an intense, but not unpleasant, black licorice flavor. With the dessert, it was brown sugar on my face. This cake was extremely rich, and for someone who isn’t the biggest chocolate fan, a bit much, even with the anglaise. However, if you are a choco-holic, this is most definitely the dessert for you! I had about half of it and called it a night.
To end the meal, as if you can stuff any more into your belly (no images of Mr. Creosote, please!), a pistachio orange blondie cookie. I very much enjoyed this little bit of crunchy neutrality as I cried “Uncle” for the evening.
The Firehouse is a perfect locale to mark an Anniversary, get engaged, or to celebrate just about anything. They have a lovely courtyard area that also serves as a wedding/reception venue and is a great place for lunch during the warmer months. Mario Ortiz, the wine director/sommelier, who I thought was retiring, but whose name is still on the menu, would be happy to show you the downstairs wine cellar and talk about wine until the cows come home. This is a restaurant with impeccable service, presentation, attention to detail, and a desire to make your meal a memorable one. They also have various events, such as special winemaker dinners and wine tastings. While it is not exactly cheap to eat there, they do participate in Sacramento Dine Downtown Week and they just started a weekly lunch deal that looks pretty killer. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, they communicate specials and events quite frequently.
Overall: 4.5 stars
Ambience: 5/5 (if you like old-world charm)