Showing up in time for dinner service not knowing what to expect. I had made arrangements to meet with Executive Chef Alexander Remer to ask some questions and take some pictures. Little did I know what culinary delights would be awaiting me in the kitchen. I mean, I knew that the food at Fireside was amazing from previous visits, but this time I was treated to a behind the scenes tour. It was a delicious education, one that I am very excited to share with you!
Starting with a tour of the kitchen I watched the cooks put last minute sauces together and arrange their mise en place for the coming service. I encountered a massive pot, nearly 200 quarts large, of beef bones simmering away to be turned into broth, while learning about the radiant broiler that can heat up to 1200 degrees, and I was able to see the room where all the butchering is done. Fireside handles the butchering of all their own steaks and chops from USDA prime 103’s (which are basically cuts of the entire beef rib and all surrounding meat). It was a sight to behold. Chef showed me how the side of beef is broken down into all the cuts that are served in the restaurant. I have never been that up close and personal with so much prime beef before! The stunning marbling and color was so clear, it’s obvious why the flavor of prime is superior.
The kitchen had such a gorgeous rhythm to it. Everyone knew their place, and waited for Chef’s orders. When speaking with me, Chef Alexander was a smiley guy, but when a ticket came in, it was all business – “pan para dos” Chef boomed out. What does that mean, I asked after the 6th time hearing it. “Bread for 2” in Spanish he explained. Every time a ticket comes in, that is the first order. Every table gets freshly baked croissants with a house made marinara dipping sauce when they are seated. All the members of the Fireside team, both front of the house and back, know to pay attention and be available. It is truly teamwork at its finest.There were three line cooks at the stoves, known as chefs de partie, the garde manger manning the cold station, Fireside’s production cook manning the pizza station, two dishwashers, and a cadre of waiters and bussers/runners, who picked up the orders from Chef at the pass and brought the dishes to the patrons in the dining room, all of them working together to ensure that service ran smoothly. (P.S. Be nice to your waiters, they are working very hard to make sure that your food is brought out when you are ready for it.)
Now onto the food! Isn’t that why you are reading this anyway? Chef Alexander saw that I was thirsty from all the walking around the kitchen and naturally offered me a Double Chocolate Chip and Coffee Milkshake spiked with Vodka, I mean that was clearly what I needed at that moment (and always)! After that incredibly delicious and refreshing concoction, Chef gave me a bowl of velvety, meaty deliciousness, except it wasn’t made from meat at all! It was a bowl of Mushroom Puree, topped with crispy shallots and green herb oil. Chef uses the ultimate blend of roasted mushrooms, onion jus, and veggie stock to yield a soup that has amazing depth of flavor.This soup is vegan, but you would never know!
Next up, was the Parisian Gnocchi appetizer with veal and lamb confit, edamame, Norwegian charred leeks, and arugula with a blood orange pan jus, topped with tempura abalone mushrooms. This was my first time having abalone mushrooms; they taste like meat with a slightly oceanic flavor, after all, these mushrooms are named after the abalone shellfish. Parisian Gnocchi are flour based, versus the traditional potato and are made from a traditional pate a choux dough. I say this in the best way possible; the dish tasted like the most flavorful thanksgiving I have ever had. Close your eyes and think about what that means. Perfectly balanced herbal bouquets, creamy gravy with hints of citrus, hearty flavor infused stuffing – now imagine it even better! That is how incredible this dish was. The richness of the meats combined with soft , dumpling like gnocchi, dancing together with the perfectly cooked vegetables kept me digging in.
Now at this point I was pretty stuffed, but Chef Alexander wouldn’t hear it! Luckily the waiters, runners, Chef and I all shared the next few courses. I felt honored to be part of their “family meal take 2”.
A mistake among many restaurant goers is that “specials” are the extra food that restaurants want to get rid of. In truth, at Fireside, it’s the Chef wanting to introduce potential new menu items and see the responses they provoke, especially when seasonal changes are coming.
The menu is about to get made over for spring; the proteins will stay the same but the accompaniments will switch to spring vegetables like asparagus. Chef Alex brought out a salad that will be on the new menu, with house cured beef bacon, red grapes, pea shoots, avocado, sprouts, and spinach dressed in a soy vinaigrette. The crunch of the pea shoots and sprouts adds great texture, along with the smokiness of the bacon, and umami filled dressing, really makes this salad eat like a main. This is the perfect salad to order if you want something hearty and light at the same time
What I was served next was the most absolutely epic duo imaginable. Meat Pizza and Gravy Fries, Chef’s riff on the Montreal classic, Poutine!! Technically these do not need an explanation, as they are in fact how they sound, but I must go into detail to explain just how out of this world these flavors were! The French fries were piled high and smothered (there is no other word worthy) in gravy and garlic aioli and topped with house cured smoked beef bits for an umami crunch. . (Remember how a bit ago I said there was a pot of beef bones simmering on the stove for stock, well that is the base of this heavenly gravy.) The garlic helped cut the richness just a smidge of this incredibly decadent dish. Then Chef brought out the new for spring Meat Pizza, thin crust option, layered with marinara, roasted mushroom ragu, sautéed onions, house made sausage of lamb, beef and veal, and drizzled with caramelized garlic aioli. It was love at first bite!
If for some reason you cannot try everything on the Fireside menu, you absolutely must get the Meat Pizza! You know that feeling when you bite into something and it just takes over your whole body? This Pizza will do that to you! Come the Spring, this Pizza will be available in both thin crust and deep dish, I’d recommend getting both.
Now finally it was time for dessert. Chef Alexander wanted me to taste a little of everything, but frankly I just couldn’t. Although he was able to convince me with the mention of bourbon and chocolate, ok I admit it, I am weak #notproud! I first tasted the Blueberry Citrus Ice Cream with Blueberry Red Wine Sauce and then the Chocolate Marshmallow Lava Cake. The ice cream was so refreshing and the sauce was divine! Chef makes his own pure vanilla extract, by infusing vanilla beans in bourbon (but don’t worry the alcohol burns off during cooking). The ice cream is a combination of the vanilla extract with homemade blueberry jam and a soy cream base, it was then served to me with that same blueberry sauce drizzled over it. The lava cake was very delicious and the ultimate ooey gooey dessert, topped with roasted marshmallow and maple ice cream. After a big meal at Fireside, it is the perfect dessert to split with your dinner date.
Wow, after writing all this I’m getting hungry and my mouth is watering as I am remembering all the delicious dishes that I enjoyed at Fireside with the restaurant’s Chef and crew. I know things are busy now with Pesach coming and all, but I would definitely recommend treating yourself or have someone treat you to a night out at Fireside. Dinner is served Sunday 4:30- 10:30 and Monday through Thursday from 5:30-10:30. Their menu can be seen on www.firesidekosher.com . When you go, because I know you will,be sure to tell your waiter to give a hello to Chef Alexander Remer who is looking forward to feeding you!