Friday, February 13, 2009

hearts on fire…

I recently was able to re-visit the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant with a group of wonderful friends for a singles pre-Valentine’s day lunch. The structure that houses the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant had previously served the Prairie Avenue community as their neighborhood firehouse.

The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant is located at 1401 South Michigan Avenue.
The building was erected in 1905, designed by the then famous architect Charles Harmann. The firehouse was built to serve the Prairie Avenue Community and its surroundings.


The residents of Prairie Avenue consisted of many of the first families of Chicago at that time, such as the Marshall Fields, the McCormicks, the Palmers and the Glessners. Prairie Avenue from 17th to 20th Street was filled with many socialites of the day who had built homes following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It is believed that this unique firehouse, which is constructed of yellow brick and limestone (different from the standard red brick), had special attention placed on it in order to stay in keeping with the neighborhood and especially its residents.

The building stands in much of its same splendor today. However, some interesting changes have occurred. The stables, which used to house the horses for the fire wagons, has been replaced with a courtyard. The entire upstairs floor had been hay and grain storage for the fire horses was divided and transformed to a handball court and living quarters for the firefighters.

This is one of the space used in to film one of my favorite Ron Howard movies, “Backdraft”. Today this space houses the banquet space and banquet kitchen.

The spiral staircase that was access to the area, which in the wintertime prevented horses from climbing upstairs to the feed area, is now been relocated to the courtyard.

I saw that great efforts to preserve as much of the interior as possible, but still allow the operation to be functional as a restaurant. The tin ceiling, the glazed tile walls, the two fire poles located in the bar, and the Fire chief's wall that you pass when entering the bar, are all the original interior elements.

The Chicago Firehouse Engine Company #104 opened in 2000 and still serves the neighborhood today, but in a very different capacity.


My friends and I ordered our drinks while we perused the menu and enjoyed the ambiance of the vintage firehouse interior elements.


With our beverages, we were served fresh handmade creamery butter, herbs, and toasted stone ground wheat flatbread with black and white sesame seeds. The homemade butter was rival to the richness of any I have had in France...
I hope they decide to market this butter...or...maybe not...
However, it was a wonderful, rich decadent aperitif slathered on a warm just made flat-bread cracker with a bit of fresh herb.


Some of out appetizers included a seasonal field green salad the dressed with olive oil and lemon vinaigrette and a vegetable phyllo roll.


The vegetable phyllo roll contained asparagus, cremini mushrooms, red peppers, wrapped in Phyllo dough with a Balsamic reduction


Several of us opted for the fragrant and delicious onion soup gratinée that I am certain would rival any Parisian bistro’s offering of a French onion soup.
Yes...
it was that good…


The flavor of the soup was rich, brothy, and unctuous. The still crunchy croutons were topped with just enough brown bubbly melted Gruyère and Fontina cheeses to make for a beautiful presentation and a decadent dish.

For my entrée, I ordered grilled Hawaiian wild-caught shrimp, with blood orange segments, grilled tomatillos, organic baby spinach with a delicate fennel-seed-citrus-vinaigrette on the side. It was light, yet satisfying and filling. Chef Caesar Reyes tossed the shrimp in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic before grilling the prawns to perfection. The result was a rich and meaty taste of the sea with a hint of Mediterranean flavors.


Those of us that opted for some sweetness to end our meal chose to share the air-light tart Key Lime Custard cradled in a delicate orange graham cracker crust topped with whipped cream and plated with a swash of berry coulis.
It was rich and light at the same time…and I desperately wanted a bottle of the berry coulis for my very own…lol…
This dessert was the perfect sweet finish to this delightful and filling meal…

After a perfectly brewed cup of Intelligentsia Kurimi coffee, we felt satiated and glad to have had this warm and loving time to come together to celebrate this day of hearts afire. We felt warmed and embraced by this lovely welcoming place, the delicious food and each other’s love and laughter.

Happy St-Valentine's Day to all my wonderful readers...! ! !
X X X
bisous...

15 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

Sounds like a great meal! Happy Valentine's Day!

Dedene said...

What a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine's. Beautiful & scrumptious.

chez aurora said...

Your photography beautifully conveys the elegance of this old building, and the lunch that they served looks and sounds perfectly mouthwatering...a lovely pre-Valentine's Day feast for the heart and stomach!

Bisous xo
Barbara

jeanette mistress of longears said...

Can't believe I've never heard of this place! Sounds like a must try for my next visit! Gorgeous, gorgeous photos- they looked so good!

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois to you all for all these warm comments on this lovely day...!
I appreciate that you all have stopped by and taken the time to leave me a word on my writing and my images...bisous

Phil Lowe said...

'slathered on a warm just made flat-bread cracker with a bit of fresh herb.' and everything else that you described just makes me want to move the Chicago right now and eat the whole place right up! You certainly know how to tempt the senses with your descriptions Terrie.Plus your wonderful photos too.Merci mille fois!

Katherine said...

I just saw that the President and his wife dinned in Chicago on Valentines day. Was it a restaurant you've been too?

Also i wanted to ask you about a french dish we heard about that cost $1,000. Its pressed duck. Have you made this or eaten it. It looked interesting.

On one more note every time i leave your blog i'm starving! LOL
Your pictures are so perfect. They really show the coolness of the drink the juiciness of the meat and the divine taste you'll get from that scrumptious onion soup! yummmmmmm....

Culinary Cory said...

My former boss's wife is the sister of the owner of the Chicago Firehouse. She was such a lovely woman to dine with. She would spend all night sharing stories about her brother's restaurants.

Peter said...

Looks like a marvelous place! ... and for the menu (of course I don't know what else was offered, but), I believe I would have chosen axactly the same!

Mise En Place said...

That is such an awesome restaurant AND meal. :)

The photos are so great, makes me feel as if I were there too.

Camera Crazy said...

All of the dishes were photographed beautifully but I must say that a glass of iced tea never looked so good. I'm glad you had a beautiful celebration.

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Merci mille fois, Phil, Katherine, Cory, Peter, Lisa and Gail for all these wonderful, warm and insightful comments...
You all are the best...I am so grateful that you all take the time to read my words and view my images and take the time to give me feedback...

shizuokagourmet said...

Chere marie-Therese!
Bonjour de Shizuoka, Japaon!
You certainly lives in great place!
I've never been to the States, except for Anchorage Airport, but I heard that your town is a gastronomic adventure!
Talking of your half homeland in Lisieux, it is pretty famous in France! The tapestry,...
I'm from Bourgogne myself and have lived in Shizuoka for 32 years, but I regularly go back home!
looking forward to talking and visiting again!
make a point of buzzimg me when you post a new article!
A tres bientot et bien amicalement,
Robert-Gilles

shizuokagourmet said...

Chere Therese-Marie!
Greetings again!
Sorry for the mistake with your name as Marie-Therese is very common in France!
Hope you will forgive me!
Cheers,
Robert-Gilles

Olga said...

wonderful photos! I especially like the last one with the shadows.