Rehearsal Dinner Booked!

When Michael’s dad was in town we took him to the few places we were considering for the rehearsal dinner. The first one, Firehouse, was one Michael and I had discovered recently. I wrote about it and share pictures of their amazing rental space here. I met Michael and his dad on a recent Friday night after my yoga class was over with.

We started with an appetizer and shared it: the potato croquettes. It came with a really spicy vinegar dipping sauce that was pretty overpowering. So much so that my mouth was still “stinging” a few minutes after eating it. I did not like the sauce at all. The croquettes themselves were okay though.

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Next up, Michael and I both got salads. I got the salad with Humboldt Fog goat cheese, currants, hazelnuts and a red wine vinaigrette dressing. LOVED it! Just like the first time, their salads are amazing. Michael got the Caesar salad, same as last time as well.

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For the main courses Michael ordered the pizza with sopressatta and fresh mozzarella cheese. The first time we ate at Firehouse we both loved the flavor of the pizza–the smokiness and richness–but once again it was kind of soggy in the middle. That was disappointing. Michael’s dad got the steak salad and raved about it. He said it was fantastic and I’m glad he enjoyed it! My entree was the handmade cavatelli pasta with baby carrots, fresh basil and pesto and topped with ricotta cheese.

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I loved my pasta! Handmade pasta is fabulous and I don’t usually order a pasta dish in restaurants (the carbs, the calories, etc) but this was something special. The real show stopper, like before, was the dessert. The owner kindly comped us our dessert, which was very nice. We ordered the pot de creme. It was really thick chocolate mousse with caramel swirled inside it, topped with a light dusting of salt, toasted hazelnuts and whipped cream on top. It was heavenly!! The salt really balanced out the rich sweetness of the dessert.

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The three of us shared the dessert. It was so amazing but too rich for one person to eat.

What was wrong with our meal? Nothing really but once again the food was pretty salty. We felt that way about the food the first time we were there but I thought maybe it was a fluke. Going back again and really tasting how heavy handed they were with the salt was disappointing. Despite that, we all left the restaurant feeling pretty good about it all and Michael’s dad also loved the rental space upstairs. He said it seemed very “us.” I was about 90% sure we were going to book it for the rehearsal but had one other place for Michael’s dad to check out first.

The next evening we went to Casa del Matador on East Burnside. I would describe it as an upscale, yuppy Mexican restaurant but don’t let that keep you from checking it out. The prices are actually pretty reasonable.

They have a big room in the back for party space. While it wasn’t as secluded and charming as the rental space at Firehouse, it was still a cool spot. It was fairly private, there were big, heavy red curtains than can close off the room from the rest of the restaurant. There was also a “Garage Door” style wall that was open, which was nice because it was so warm and sunny outside, but there were a bunch of tables outside so if we did have those doors open during the event I wouldn’t really want strangers sitting at the few tables right next to us outside… 😛


The manager sat us in that room so we could get a feel for the place. I liked it a lot. The boys ordered beer (that wasn’t the kind I like) and I ordered a Ninkasi Total Domination. I love that beer but was disappointed they didn’t have my favorite (Boneyard) on tap like they did the last time I was there. Oh well! Ninkasi is still good. 🙂 After I ordered my beer I remembered that I had wanted to try their Bloody Mary’s–they are supposed to be outstanding. Damn! Next time.


We shared an appetizer while we enjoyed our beers: the jalapeno poppers! I remember years ago when Michael and I were first dating we went to the Casa del Matador over in NW Portland and got the jalapeno poppers. I remember them being SO spicy my face was burning long after the meal was over. I was a little reticent due to that memory but was pleasantly surprised. Yes, these babies were still spicy, but they weren’t overly spicy.


The jalapeno poppers were stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon. It came with a cabbage slaw and a little ranch dressing, topped with green onion. Everything about it was fantastic! Loved it. Michael and his dad both ordered the fajitas. I got the tacos–one carnitas and one carne asada. Came with rice and beans.


We ended up booking Casa del Matador for the rehearsal dinner right on the spot! We all agreed that the food was amazing. Since Michael and I have both been here at least a dozen times and it’s been consistently good every time, we loved the space and it would be a lot easier to get to from the wedding venue after the rehearsal (Firehouse was in NE Portland would have been a longer drive for people). In the end it came down to the food. Firehouse is good but the over salting of it was just too much in the end. I think Matador is a good choice and they even have options for vegetarians. We are working with them now to plan our menu. I cannot wait!!

Rehearsal Dinner

My fairly easy going Saturday turned out to be really busy! I got up a little early for the gym and got in a great workout. I hit the weights pretty hard–I feel like I’ve been slacking in that department lately what with traveling and training for the 5k. The scales have tipped towards cardio and while I’m still getting strength training in, it’s definitely not enough or as much as I did over the winter.

I met up with my friend Erika for lunch at Laughing Planet (I got a beef and black bean bowl) and we hung out there for a few hours chatting and catching up. I ran a few errands, went home and worked in the yard for about an hour talking to Michael about the rehearsal dinner planning and then we decided, why not go out and try one of the places we were thinking about?

We went to Firehouse Restaurant over in NE Portland. It’s a restaurant I’ve heard a lot about for several years and had wanted to check it out but never really make it to that side of town much. If we go out for dinner in NE Portland it’s usually somewhere on Alberta. Im glad we decided to check out this place. It was such a charming space, built in an old firehouse, and is the front runner for the rehearsal dinner.

The building it a two story brick building with a glass garage door that opens up and makes it an open air restaurant. The interior walls were brick and they had charming old black and white photographs of what the building looked like before and the firemen who worked there. There was a humongous brick pizza oven in the corner and while the place looked small and crowded, there was actually a lot of seating available. There was the main area then a back room as well.

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Before dinner we checked out the space for large parties upstairs. You walk up an old, narrow staircase to the second floor and the area was large. There was a lounge area with a few couches, a bar, and a bathroom. Then there was the main dining room that could fit a lot of people standing for a cocktail hour or about 34 people seated. There were three large tables that fit 12 at two and 10 at one. It would be family style dining.

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The space was really cool and large enough for our rehearsal dinner. I totally fell in love with the space. It was very unique and “Portland.” It wasn’t just another banquet room in a restaurant. The exposed brick walls and windows overlooking the yard decorated with Christmas lights was very romantic.

Now, time to test the food. I had a taste of their wine selection and ended up picking the Montepulciano red wine that was really tasty. The Primitivo was way too sweet for me.  

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They had a three course meal option for not very much money. For $29 I could pick an appetizer, salad and entree. I went with that option and Michael did the $25 appetizer, salad, pizza selection. We picked several different things to get a taste of all we could get. The first was the arancini–fried cheese balls.

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They were piping hot and crispy and while they were good, they needed a dipping sauce. That would have made them fantastic. The other appetizer was the seasonal bruschetta. It was goat cheese, grilled asparagus in a lemon vinaigrette and shredded cheese on top. It came out on a large hunk of crusty bread. I liked this dish a lot but it would have been better had it been on smaller slices of bread. It was kind of difficult to eat. The flavor was great, though, very unique!

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We got a complimentary dish courtesy of the manager–it was the fried cauliflower. Michael remarked that it was like a play on calamari. The dishes were very playful in their interpretations. The fried cauliflower was so fascinating! It wasn’t breaded and it had a crunch to it that was delightful. It came with a lemon dipping sauce that was slightly overpowering. I think a garlic aioli sauce would have been better. The lemon was just the dominant flavor tasted. Still, loved the fried cauliflower!

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Next up was the salads. Michael got the romaine hearts which were basically a Caesar salad. It was tasty and had a nice presentation. He thought the salad was a little too salty. I had a few bites and it didn’t seem like it to me, but maybe it was.

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My salad was greens with dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts and goat cheese. I won the salad competition! Mine was fabulous!

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By the time our main dishes arrived I was pretty full. I don’t normally eat several courses when we go out to eat dinner. Sometimes we’ll split an appetizer and then get entrees, but rarely do we get all of it! I ordered the meatballs with kale. I’m glad it didn’t come with pasta because that would have been just too much food. Loved the braised kale and the meatballs were perfectly soft and crispy on the outside. I ate two meatballs and took the rest home for lunch the next day.

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Michael got the Zoe’s Pizza –soprasetta and mozzarella cheese. It was small but big enough for two people to share for a meal. The crust was PERFECT. It was chewy and smoky from the wood burning pizza oven. It was also very, very spicy. Surprisingly so. Michael’s only complaint was that it was a little on the greasy side which made the pizza slightly soggy in the middle. If they could fix that it would be perfect.

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With everything we had we enjoyed the food and it tasted great. Some of the things I criticize in this post are mild alterations that would make the food absolutely perfect. Just small tweaks it would be magical.

Even though we didn’t have room for more food, we wanted to get dessert to give it a try. The manager comped it for us, which was very nice. We ordered the ice cream sandwich. Holy moly! This dessert was AMAZING! The “sandwich” part was on the inside of the ice cream as opposed to the outside. It was topped with whipped cream and dark chocolate almond bark.

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If this is where we have the rehearsal dinner, that’s the dessert I want. It was so amazing! We left so full and happy with our experience. The “cons” didn’t make us rule this place out. I think everyone would have a wonderful meal here if this is where we had the party. The logistics of everyone getting from our wedding venue in Beaverton to NE Portland are kind of a pain and parking is all street parking but those are minor things.

We have one other place to check out but if it were up entirely to me, I’d pick The Firehouse. This is Michael and his dad’s choice though. Time will tell!