My associate, Rose Mary Swart, invited me to lunch at The Firehouse Restaurant in Old Sacramento. That's Rose Mary, on the left. I don't know who she is sitting next to. OK, it's me. Rose Mary says she loves to celebrate the beginning of fall by doing lunch in the tree-canopied courtyard of the Firehouse Restaurant, and this may very well become a tradition with me, too.
Out of all the dining areas at The Firehouse, the courtyard is my favorite. The biggest problem during autumn is keeping the little tiny seeds that fall from the trees off your table. But the temperature was perfect, in the low 80s, and dining outdoors without having to endure bus fumes and whatnot is delightful.
For those of you who have not experienced The Firehouse, here's a little background. It actually WAS a firehouse in 1853. It has the distinction of being the first historical building to be restored in Old Sacramento, situated on Second Street between K and L and a block from the Sacramento River. It opened in 1960, and retains its original antiques and artwork today. The Firehouse has won a ton of awards for excellence in food and wine, and when Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he held both inaugural dinners at the restaurant.
The choice for an appetizer was tough. Should we order the Camembert served with golden brown baguette crostinis or should we try the grilled peach gazpacho? Even though I had my eye on the steak for an entrée, I surrendered to the drunken balsamic steak shown above. It was pan roasted and glazed with a white balsamic-bourbon glaze, served with an onion-thyme marmalade and oven-warmed heirloom tomato confit with crumbled Valbreso feta.
The courtyard's center feature is this water fountain, topped with a bowl of fall flowers. The floor and walls are old clay-fired brick. All of Old Sacramento is a good ten feet lower than the rest of Sacramento, so if you feel like the city is above you, it's because it is. Old Sacramento was originally a waterfront commercial area during the Gold Rush days. Many of the original buildings constructed back then remain today and have been restored. It has horse-drawn carriages, wooden sidewalks and a true nostalgic feel. You'll find lots of restaurants, old-fashioned candy and ice cream shops and shopping, alongside historic museums. For a small fee, you can hop the train and ride in an open car along the river.
Rose Mary chose the Scottish King salmon. It was chargrilled with a fresh herb beurre monté, accompanied by sautéed asparagus and pine nut-sun-dried tomato-kalamata olive fregola. I love salmon but have it so often, I decided to pass on a fish selection.
My toughest decision was whether to have the blackened ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach or go for the sirloin. I love spinach. I think I wanted to be Popeye when I grew up. I'd eat it right out of the can, that's how much I loved spinach. Fresh, frozen, canned, I don't care. I'm a spinach nut. So I really considered it. But as you can see by the photo, I selected the top sirloin.
Another vegetable weakness of mine is mushrooms. It was the wild mushroom chasseur that made me order the top sirloin, which was served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots and green beans.
As if all that food wasn't enough, we decided to splurge on dessert. Should we share a dessert or be truly decadent and order each our own? Well, by now you probably know the answer to that. We both opted for the Chocolate Decadence, made from a bittersweet chocolate cake with silken ganache raspberry coulis and crème anglaise.
After that lovely two-hour lunch, it was back to work to conduct a final walk-through of a home in Natomas and pick up keys from a listing in College Greens. A nap would have been nice, but work comes first. It's not often that I am able to treat myself to a long lunch of delectables nor enjoy the company of my colleagues in such a relaxed and charming atmosphere. If that opportunity presents itself to you, jump on it!