The Menus of Madison County: Seven Stone Steps

The Menus of Madison County: Seven Stone Steps

Jen Lauro

Now that the nearest dry cleaner is in Cazenovia, winter travel has become, in recent weeks, obligatory. This grooming necessity compelled a friend and me to make the journey north on a particularly wet, windy and slushy Friday. You know the type of day: recent snow accumulations beginning to drip, ooze and mix into the ground, forming a muddy paste while the perpetual shower of fat, wet flakes blur your vision. We decided to make the most of this trip outside of Hamilton and sought refuge in a cozy grotto, Seven Stone Steps, for lunch (79 Albany Street, Cazenovia, NY 13035).

After dropping off interview gear for laundering (second semester senior year: time to become a real person), we found Seven Steps. Located in the Lincklaen House, down, literally, seven stone steps, the cave-like bar area reminded me of a fallout shelter in the best possible way. Shaking the snow from our hair and stomping the slush off our boots, we made our way through the cavernous taproom into the dining area. Like a shining beacon of light, a server seated us at a table in front of the stately brick fireplace, complete with roaring fire. We settled into our wooden seats, aglow with this new-found warmth and basking in the soft green walls and wood paneling. Our server brought us menus and we began to take stock.

Seven Stone Steps has a large menu that will satisfy many different palates, including some very respectable vegetarian dishes. I was nearly overwhelmed by the number of options offered, including burgers, salads, sandwiches and seafood, as well as some unexpected items (baked escargot? Sushi rolls?). We were able to regain our thoughts when our waitress blessed our table with a healthy order of warm popovers. Immediately enticed by the smell of fresh baked goods, we tore into these rolls. With a crispy brown crust that quickly revealed the tender, light interior, these popovers were exceptional. Served with a sweet butter that tasted vaguely of apples, this was a welcome start to our lunch.

Now that Seven Steps proved to be a secret den of popover mastery, we were as anxious as ever for our meals to arrive (though perhaps a tad less hungry).

My dining companion decided on one of the daily lunch specials, which on this particular day was grilled haddock served with homemade mac and cheese. Mostly enticed by the mac, she was not disappointed. A creamy, tangy sauce lusciously coated tender tri-color pasta spirals. The fish seemed like an afterthought next to this luxurious mac: it was a bit bland and, well, it was haddock in central New York. No harm, though, as the cheesy pasta more than compensated for the lackluster seafood included in the meal.

I chose the grilled chicken panini, which featured tender grilled chicken breast, creamy pesto and lightly wilted spinach with cheese. Perfectly grilled, crispy bread gave way to creamy melted cheese and an initial hit of garlic and basil from the pesto sauce. This sandwich was a satisfying meal, and it thoroughly nourished me for the inclement weather that awaited only seven steps away.

We paid our bill and lingered for an extra few minutes in front of the cozy fire. Reluctantly leaving our table, we climbed back up the seven stone steps to find the door slightly frozen shut. How fitting. Luckily, the fireplace and food kept us warm as we trudged through the slush, back to a car covered in snow.