Smoked Pheasant Artichoke Hearts
Our Anniversary celebration at The Firehouse Restaurant
I seem to have this knack for finding and the obsessing over the most obscure things. For instance, on Valentine's Day 2001, my sweetheart treated me to a night at the Amber House Bed & Breakfast in Sacramento and a fabulous dinner at The Firehouse Restaurant in Old Town Sacramento.
We enjoyed a decadent evening of fine dining with the feeling of what it must be like to be treated as royalty. Being more casual diners, I recall feeling grossly underdressed and more than a little intimidated by The Firehouse Dinner Menu, which included more than a few French terms that were unfamiliar to me. The staff appeared not to notice our jeans and tennis shoes and treated us with sophisticated style and panache.
Since that night I have raved many times about their Steak Diane, which I found to be absolutely divine. So, when my spouse mentioned celebrating our 7th Anniversary at The Firehouse, my mouth immediately began watering at the thought of once again dining on Steak Diane. I was utterly crushed when we were seated, the menus presented and Steak Diane was nowhere to be found on the menu. Though I tried my best not to show my disappointment, Shawn spent the first half of the evening apologizing. I need not have worried, the staff was up to a challenge and more than exceeded my expectations.
Determined not to spoil our rare evening out alone, we discussed our options and ended up trusting our waiter (Dale) to help us decide. We began our adventure with the Trio Sampler; an incredible Dungeness crab cake, pancetta-wrapped prawn and a succulent smoked pheasant artichoke heart ($18). The portions were surprisingly small, something I would be thankful for as the evening wore on.
The Dungeness Crab Cake was the best I've ever tasted anywhere. It was flaky and moist with a delicate flavor that was not over-done. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to find the Executive Chef, Deneb Williams, Crab Cake Recipe on The Firehouse website, so I can try my hand at making them.
The Trio Sampler was such a tease. As an intense crab cake fan I found myself wishing I had ordered a full order of Crab Cakes - in fact I'm still craving more - but then I would have missed out on the Pancetta-Wrapped Prawns and the prawn was excellent. I went shopping last night to pick up the necessary ingredients to make my own. While I'm hopeful they will be good, I have no expectations of whipping up crab cakes nearly as delicious as the one Dale served.
Which brings me to the Smoked Pheasant Artichoke Heart. Shawn was absolutely in heaven and it showed on his face as he consumed each bite. I must confess that I am no fan of artichoke heart but watching him eat gave me courage to sample his treat. I was not disappointed, the Pheasant was done to perfection, combined with artichoke the dish was a titillating blend of satisfying flavors and aroma's.
We both agonized over selecting a second course and opted instead to go right to the third course; Shawn ordered the Yellowfin Tuna; Thai curry-lobster nage and mango-ginger salsa wild rice yam fritter and fried plantains ($34) and I selected the Firehouse Steak Delmonico; a flavor-filled, center-cut rib eye grilled with foie gras-shallot butter, balsamic cipollini onions and wild mushroom chasseur ($45).
The Yellowfin Tuna was enjoyed down the last tempting morsel. Shawn was not fond of the wild rice yam fritter, which wasn't surprising since he isn't fond of either dish, but I found the flavor appealing to my palate and nibbled on several bites. The delectable Thai curry-lobster nage and mango-ginger salsa was scrumptious and quickly devoured along with the Yellowfin Tuna.
The Firehouse Steak Delmonico was a heavenly blend of tantalizing flavors, which left me agonizing between finishing the steak and sampling the next course — desert, a course I was determined not to pass up. Shawn found my balsamic cipollini onions gratifying. He even commented that he would have never thought of soaking onions in vinegar. He's mentioned those onions several times, since the meal, so they must have made a huge impression on him. I'm the one who normally obsesses over food. I was too engrossed in enjoying the Delmonico, to even consider trying the marinated cipollini onions.
My Delmonico steak while not Steak Diane, it was everything I've come to expect from the Chef's at the Firehouse. The generous steak was cooked to order (medium-well) and impeccably seasoned. My need for dessert finally won out and I gave up trying to finish my steak but the memory of this dish still lingers.
The ambiance, service and cuisine were exquisite in every way. The staff magically appeared when needed as if on cue, while never seeming to hover — something that I find unappealing in most fine dining establishments. Dale, our server, was gracious and helpful — despite our arriving for a 10 p.m. reservation and remaining after closing. He never made us feel rushed or as though we were a bother to him. Our glasses were never allowed to run dry.
Meyer Lemon Semifreddo
A semi-frozen lemon mousse with chantilly cream
vanilla tuile and exotic fruit coulis
Dale recommended we try the Grand Marnier Soufflé to top off our anniversary celebration, much to my disappointment they were sold out. Instead he recommended the Meyer Lemon Semifreddo; semi-frozen lemon mousse with chantilly cream vanilla tuile and exotic fruit coulis ($8.50). Shawn ordered the Artisan Cheese Plate; four AOC and local cheeses crostini, poached pears and honeycomb ($18).
I was briefly disappointed about missing out on the Soufflé, but the Meyer Lemon Semifreddo was out of this world. It was so beautifully presented that it took a few moments to work up the nerve to attack it with my fork but it was no-holds barred once I started in on it. It was creamy, light and fluffy — everything a dessert should be and the fruit was fresh and yummy.
The Artisan Cheese Plate wasn't exactly a hit. The cheeses were, I suspect, an acquired taste, but the honeycomb was delightful. Shawn and I each sampled the cheeses and took the leftovers home, our son tried them, as did other family members. It's always nice to try new things, we've discovered many new dishes in our samplings over the years.
We couldn't stop talking about how much we enjoyed our evening. So, I decided I wanted to share our experience. So at 4:00 a.m., I sent off an eMail to the Director of Operations, Megan Skylar requesting permission to stop in and take a few pictures of the dishes we had ordered for an article. The entire staff was very accommodating and made us feel welcome, despite our interruption of their normal duties.
I couldn't seem to stop mentioning the Steak Diane that I had been deprived of - I just couldn't help it. Much to my pleasure, Megan informed me that Steak Diane would be on the Thanksgiving Menu*. While we don't normally splurge in this manner more than once a year, we might just make an exception this year, though if we do, we could have some upset relatives. It might be worth the risk. I'm certainly looking forward to our next visit and I hope we don't have to wait another six-years.
The Firehouse Restaurant
1112 Second Street
Old Sacramento, CA
Phone: (916) 442-4772
* Reservations Required.