New Meals in Old Sac (The Firehouse - Sacramento, CA)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I did an interview with the new chef of the Firehouse, Deneb Williams, for an E.S. article about a year ago. It was a whirligig of an interview to be sure. The chef whizzed ahead of me giving me a crash course tour and history of the building, bobbing and weaving through ancient wine cellars and bulletproof vaults of old tyme 400 year old brandies, and into the kitchen where I had to nimbly dodge cooks and trays of salad courses all while trying to listen and retain every word he said.

By the time we reached the second dining room I had abandoned the notepad as it had become futile. Still, the article was completed and resoundingly so. I was quite proud. I brought a copy of it over to the chef as thanks. As we sat down he questioned me about when I would visit for a meal.

"Yeeeeah, probably not soon..." I was fearing this question. In fact at this moment I was mortified. The Firehouse is a high end place. My bank would probably hunt me down if I tried to use my debit card here. I had to admit to the chef that my chances of dining there were slim to none, as one course can run around $45 dollars, not including wine. A full on meal can run about $100 per person easily on the low side of things.

However, thanks to, a recent Wine & Dine event was held in which The Firehouse was taking part. A three course meal with a separate glass of wine pairing for each course. $45 per person.

I made the reservations that day.

I attended with Rob and friend Kaiti and Dan, two good friends who were more versed in wine than me. We were all sat in the posh and formal dining room, large Victorian paintings, velvet, dark lighting, very "classic up-there restaurant." You know the type.

The main goal of this venture was to one: be voyeuristic into Hyper-High class dining (except for Kaiti, her work holds luncheons there regularly, lucky punk); and two: to see if the place lived up to the hype. Plus I wanted to see the chef in action after a year.

We started with an asparagus bisque paired with a 2003 Ironstone Chardonnay. The bisque was pure, the asparagus slowly circling around your mouth and then flowing away leaving a faint memory of fresh springtime tastes. A slight nibble on the sides of your tongue brought on by some spring leeks helped give the whole soup a piquant flavor. The wine was light and airy, and enhanced the flavors of the bisque and vice versa, like a little dance. A prosciutto-Parmesan palmier danced in the soup with a an asparagus tip. Enough to keep it interesting and give a bit of play. A win.

A Wagyu beef sirloin with a mushroom sauce was to-die-for. Perfectly cooked, perfectly balanced. The meat melted in your mouth and mushrooms meaty flavors backed up creating layers of flavor. Served with some squash and garlic mashed potatoes which were like potato-y air or silk. It made me wonder why I had stopped making mashed potatoes in the past few years when they can be this good.

The 2003 Shanandoah zin that was served was... heavy. A bit bitter due to the sweetness of the meat. While Dan appreciated it, I did not, and Kaiti seemed to fall in the middle (Rob doesn't really drink much wine).

The final course was a chocolate torte, a heavy cake base followed by a chocolate bourbon mousse, and a fine ganache. Topped with cocoa swirls, cocoa powder, and a bit of raspberry coulis. I was hesitant about bourbon, chocolate and raspberry, but it all played well. The bourbon's natural dark tones paired enhanced the chocolate. The raspberry coulis gave enough tartness to cut through all the overpowering sweet. The chocolate covered coffee bean on top was unnecessary, but that's my only fault to point out.

At first I wasn't enjoying the dessert wine, a Renwood port, but once sipped after a bit of chocolate it perked the senses and came a alive with flavors of berry and cocoa.

We were full and happy. Portions were fair, the meal well done.

The Firehouse lives up to it's reputation as one of Sacramento's cornerstone restaurants. With the Sac Food scene booming like never before, it's easy to lose sight of these classics. They remain because of their tenure, skill, and ability to preform perfectly time and again. I know the lure of each hip, new locale can be tempting, but try to find a chance to get away and dine in Old Sac. You won't regret it.

The Firehouse

1112 Second Street
Old Sacramento, CA 95814


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