The Menus of Madison County: Michael’s Fine Food and Spirits

The Menus of Madison County: Michael's Fine Food and Spirits

Jen Lauro

Upon coming down with some serious cabin fever on yet another snow day in Hamilton, I grabbed two similarly fidgety friends for a culinary adventure. It appeared as if the snow had let up and, after defrosting the ice from my car, we set off to Michael’s Fine Food and Spirits (7672 State Route 20, Sangerfield, NY, at the corner of Routes 20 and 12).

We were perhaps a bit too optimistic about the weather improving; for once we left the Hamilton village limits, we were again caught in a wintry snow globe. Nevertheless, we were past the point of no return – our hearts and stomachs were already set on Michael’s. After a white-knuckled drive along Route 12, we came across Michael’s, twinkling like a beacon.

As soon as we entered, we were greeted by exceptionally cheerful servers and were immediately brought to a sturdy wooden table in a pistachio green dining room. A distinctive brick fireplace was the focal point of the dining room, which was bustling with families and adults escaping the snow. Our table hosted a small placard promoting the kickoff of cooking classes at the restaurant on February 22, entitled “Naughty Soul Food.”

Meanwhile, our waitress arrived with the menus, and we didn’t know where to begin. The Italian-inspired menu at Michael’s is broken up into sections of steak, fish, classic pasta dishes, poultry (including my beloved duck) and even veal. Slightly overwhelmed, we first settled on an appetizer to share among the three of us: sun-dried tomato and cheese s’mores. I admit we were mostly allured by the name, which is still a little misleading because this appetizer is essentially a sun-dried tomato, pesto and mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich. That said, the flavors were tasty on this appetizer, but the table agreed that the somewhat greasy bread, which claimed to be focaccia, more closely resembled plain white bread than the doughy Italian staple.

Undeterred, we maintained high hopes for our main dishes. We watched as the family next to us received their food – plates of chicken Parmesan, lasagna and chicken riggies swooping down. It smelled like Grandma’s good old Italian kitchen.

When our food arrived, our table went silent. My dining companions ordered two different salmon dishes – the first being one of the nightly specials. This salmon sported a pesto crust and was served baked over tomatoes with rice and a kind of light cream sauce. The second salmon, a regular on the menu, was artichoke crusted with accents of Dijon mustard and thyme. Seared first for a crispy skin and then finished in the oven, and served over roasted garlic red skinned mashed potatoes and a red wine demi-glace, this dish was one of the better and more interesting salmon entrees I’ve sampled as of late.

Unlike my dining companions, I decided to satisfy my meat craving (even at the sacrifice of a very tempting duck entrée) with the peppercorn and coriander-crusted lamb chops. The massive French cut chops were charbroiled to medium-rare perfection and served with sautéed asparagus and the same delightful garlic mashed potatoes that accompanied the pesto salmon.

Fed and happy, we couldn’t even contemplate dessert and so were forced back into the snowy tundra. Although the next time I visit Michael’s I will wait for more agreeable weather (probably mid-April with the way things look now), this trip did offer a liberating break from the Colgate snow globe.