1820 House restaurant overlooks Skaneateles Lake
Staff writer Jerry Rosen recently spoke with Rich Schreiner, owner of the c. 1820 House in Skaneateles about his business.
Describe your business:
Casual fine dining with outdoor seating overlooking Skaneateles Lake.
How long have you owned the c. 1820 House?
Since February 2004; we opened May 2004
Were you involved in the business or a similar one before owning it?
I have been working in kitchens for 21 years. Previous to buying the c. 1820 House, I was executive chef at a restaurant in Rye Beach, New Hampshire.
What led you to do this?
It's all I know.
Number of employees:
Describe a typical day for you:
First of all, there is no such thing as a typical day. But an average day would be doing paperwork, food orders, beverage orders, mowing the lawn, landscaping, etc.
Then around 1:00 p.m. entering the kitchen and starting prep for the evening. The restaurant opens at 4:30 p.m. and then it's cooking orders until 9:00 p.m. or so, clean up, and sleep.
What makes your business different from other similar operations? What is it best known for?
We offer exceptional food with outstanding service, breathtaking views and outdoor seating. We have a diverse menu with something for every palate.
What's your favorite part of running this business?
Doing what I love with the ability to make people happy.
What's the most challenging part?
Keeping up with the rising food costs and managing people.
What's the nicest thing a customer ever said to you?
Four out-of-town customers recently happened upon our restaurant. They later sent a beautiful orchid with a note attached that read, "We had the best time on Saturday and just wanted to say 'Thank you for great food, great service, and a great time.' We will see you in September."
How would you describe the business climate in the Skaneateles area?
We are in an interesting spot, being in Borodino. We have our neighbors, who've supported us throughout our first year (a very big thank you to all); the peoplke from Skaneateles and surrounding nareas; as well as the summer residents who have camps along the lake.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to appeal to everyone with our diverse menu.
Any advantages or disadvantages to running a business in the Skaneateles area that you have encountered?
Again, one of the advantages is the ability to cater to an ever-changing clientele. One of the obvious disadvantages would be the slower winter season.
Is there a person in business you admire?
Dave Gibson, chef/owner of the Old Erie Restaurant in Weedsport. He was the first chef I ever worked for and he taught me the meaning of perfectionism and respect.
What's the best piece of business advice you were given?
The last dish of the evening should be as exceptional as the first.
What advice would you give someone starting out in a business like yours?
Cut costs by doing as much as you can yourself. Labor is a considerable cost.
If someone else took over running the business for a day, how would you spend your free time?
I'd be worrying about if they were working to my standards.
In five years, what do you hope to be doing?
I'd like to be doing exactly the same thing, only more successful, of course.
"1820 House serves up splendid food"
July 29, 2004
By Yolanda Wright
The restaurant:The c. 1820 House, 1715 E. Lake Road (Route 41), Skaneatles. (315) 673-2778.
Credit cards? Yes.
Access to disabled? Yes.
Hours: Dining room open Wednesday through Sunday 5:30 p.m. until closing; tavern from 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Dinner for four, with three appetizers, entrees, coffee, desserts, two cocktails, two wines, tax and tip, was $238.56.
If celebrating summer with good food and service in a onetime farmhouse with a hilltop view of Skaneateles Lake sounds like a midsummer night's dream, The c.1820 House is making it a reality.
Weather permitting, guests can enjoy dinner under big umbrellas on an outdoor deck with a front seat for sunset over the lake.
But on a recent cool, rainy Friday evening, four of us were glad to be in one of the small indoor dining rooms.
The single-page a-la-carte dinner menu, printed daily, is not for the bargain-hunter. It offers nine soups, appetizers and salads ($3 to $7) and 11 entrees ($18 to $24). Two of us started with cocktails ($7 each), and during dinner We had a bottle of Spanish Damon Bilboa Rioja ($19) and a California Danzante pinot grigio ($18).
Appetizers were slow in coming but worth the wait. A generous house salad ($4), built on fresh baby greens with carefully composed vegetables on top and dressing on the side, got "an enthusiastic welcome". And a traditional Caesar salad ($5) got clean-the-plate approval. A basket of white dinner rolls was a nice addition.
A shared crab dip with crackers ($7) arrived warm and flavorful in a gratin dish and tasted like a resurrected vintage recipe. Combined with chopped spinach, cheese and real crab taste and texture, the colorful dip and its cracker partners could have served three easily.
Creative entrees were remarkably good and generous, with interesting "why-didn't-I-think-of-that" twists.
Baked haddock ($21) delivered a snowy, moist 8-ounce fillet with golden cracker-crumb stuffing gilded with lemon butter. The still-crunchy and buttery crumbs were perfect with the mild fish, and seasoned rice and colorful wilted fresh spinach were good partners here.
Five grilled lamb tenders ($21) took a clever turn with blueberry "ketchup" adding a new dimension to the flavorful meaty strips. Spinach again added contrast, and, even better, splendid mashed potatoes laced with roasted pancetta and green onions were super surprises.
Other veal piccata recipes pale compared to veal and lobster piccata ($22) here. Thin and tender veal, usually without any distinctive flavor, mates with chunks of assertive lobster, tomatoes and capers for a quicksaute in lemon-butter sauce, and the result is delicious. Served over angel-hair pasta with a side of spinach, the combo is memorable.
One of two entree specials, a pair of beef tenderloin medallions with small twin lobster tails ($26) were special from the first bite.
Grilled to a perfect medium rare, well-seasoned and tender, the steaks got even grander when eaten with the rich tails and accompanied by caramelized onions, grilled yellow and green summer squash and those potent pancetta-onion mashed potatoes.
Coffee ($1.50 each) panied four irresistible homemade desserts ($6 each), and we were too busy enjoying them to name a winner. An old-fashioned apple crisp, served with ice cream, was first-rate, and a Bourbon-banana bread pudding added a spirited touch to an old favorite.
Served warm with Kahlua ice cream and whipped cream, a rich, dense chocolate "mud" cake was easy to play with, and a warm rhubarb streusel tart with ice cream was a summer treat.
Service was friendly and attentive from a young waitress who offered coffee refills, removed used dishes promptly and was thoughtful to bring extra plates so that each of us could sample all four desserts.
Although the exterior of The c. 1820 House needs work, its kitchen is a welcome culinary addition to the area, and its dining rooms and barroom seem popular already.
Yolanda Wright's weekly "Dining Out" review is based on an unannounced, anonymous visit. An A-to-Z listing of many of the reviews is available at www.syracuse.com/dinlng/.