It was one of those days where you are TCOB-ing (that is Taking Care Of Business) hardcore and then all of the sudden you realize it is one of your highly coveted days off, you worked worked worked in the house, you have made no plans to hang out with anyone, and you are starving. I decided tomake the most of it and make it a date with myself, yummy food, and the current book I am reading.
The food snob in me sat at my computer looking at urban spoon for inspiration on what I wanted to eat. If I spend my money somewhere I want it to be glorious. I remembered that the restaurant Firehouse which is situated near my home had a really nice happy hour menu. It was decided – Firehouse it is.
Firehouse is located in the NE Portland neighborhood called Woodlawn. 3 years ago when I moved into NE Portland there wasn’t too much in this neighborhood. Younger families have been moving in, established empty-nesters are still there, and then there is just the slight hint of thug that keeps it real. Now this tiny neighborhood is jam packed with families of all ages, a coffee shop, bottle shop, gorgeous apartments way out of my price range, home to one of my favorite local breweries Breakside Brewery – and Firehouse.
Firehouse is as you can imagine taking its residence in an old fire house from 1911. The location of the building is in a small angular “island” of a plot in the center of a large intersection. I am sure this made accessibility great for the trucks back in the day but it also allows this beautiful restaurant to shine like a beacon in a busy intersection.
Down to business. The draw of happy hour besides the damn tasty food at more enticing prices, is that you can usually get seated at hard to get into restaurants fairly quickly. As a single diner wanting to read while I ate I am so very happy at the “bar”. This is the spot where I usually get to watch service happen, see into the kitchen, and be at peace with my space. Firehouse cooks their food in a beautiful wood fired oven. Some dishes start out on the stove top and get moved to the oven. I took my spot at the end of the bar. The sun was shining in through a little window that hangs over the bar. A small mason jar vase had some wildflowers in it with a note from a child to their mom. The menu reflects gorgeous in season produce and sensible staples such as pizza. I thought I knew what I wanted when I sat down but when I glanced at the menu I noticed a couple other things popped out at me. Wanting to keep this self date out of the stratosphere price range I opted for a slight change to my dinner plan and allowed a starter. But then the couple next to me ordered the most glorious looking dessert which I normally can avoid no problem except that this dessert looked like something I would put on my menu someday… so I had to know what its components were.
- A glass of house red
- Bruschetta with chicken liver mousse, strawberry vinaigrette dressed watercress, and pecans
- Romaine salad with lemon anchovy vinaigrette
- Wood fired mussels with drawn butter (add another glass of red wine)
- Almond and olive oil poundcake with strawberry rhubarb sauce, fresh whipped cream, and fennel and brown sugar ice cream.
The bruschetta was amazing. A large slice of peasant bread, smeared with a thin layer of chicken liver mousse. The strawberry vinaigrette on the peppery watercress was divine and the pecans added the best taste of nutiness.
The salad is always a go at Firehouse. Not a thick, attack your mouth with garlic caesar dressing but light and tangy with a slight hint of caesar remembrance.
The mussels were the best. I had never had mussels with drawn butter. Typically I have them or make them by cooking them in wine or beer with sausage and some veg.
These were straight out of the oven, shells hot, served on a cast iron skillet plate and a large wooden block and a ramekin of pure clarified butter. I am sure there are many dignified ways to eat mussels but I just went for it-with my fingers – no excuses – no regrets.
The dessert was just as amazing as it had looked. The taste of almond was very light. The olive oil presence just perfect, it was moist but not gooey. The fresh made whip cream was shaped in the perfect quenelle on top. The strawberry rhubarb sauce was a delicious tart under the cake. But the ice cream – oh my. It didn’t taste too sweet like the brown sugar might imply and it didn’t taste like anise like the fennel would imply. It was delightfully hinted with a savory flavor and a hint of sugar that reminded you it was dessert. Bliss.